9 Subtle Signs Someone Will Waste Your Time & Energy
Life’s too short to spend it with the wrong people.
Connecting with the wrong people is like buying a juicy chocolate-chip cookie that turns into a dried-out oatmeal-raisin one when you bite into it.
In the best case, pouring your heart and soul into a connection that didn’t deserve them leaves you frustrated, drained, and with an important lesson. In the worst, you’re left with a bunch of unpaid debt, the feeling of being cheated on, and the nagging question of how you could be so wrong about someone. We all know it’s not a nice place to be in.
However, if you know what to look for, you can sort out the rotten apples before they spoil the bunch. Through meeting thousands of people all over the world, I learned the subtle clues and red flags you need to avoid so you don’t waste your time and energy.
Their “My Shit Versus Your Shit” Ratio Is Off
Everyone’s caught up in their own shit, but the people who can step out of it are the ones worth bonding with.
Sometimes, life hits you with a thunderstorm and crashes your ship on a cliff. It’s in these moments that you realize the value of having someone who listens and cares about you. The last thing you want is to pour out your soul only to have your friend hit you with an “oh, that’s crazy” before they go back to telling you about their Chihuahua’s birthday cake.
If someone always circles back to their shit without listening to yours, chances are you’ll be shoveling yours alone when it counts, too.
They Take More Than They Give
There are two types of people. The ones who focus on what they can get and the ones who focus on what they can give. I know this because for years, I held my hand out and expected others to fill it.
If someone didn’t have a high enough social status, I avoided talking to them. If there was no reward, I was reluctant to help. If I got my friends a round of beers, I compulsively did the math in the back of my head to see if I was in the red for the night. I always tried to get the bigger piece of the pie, not just when it came to food.
Not only am I disgusted by some of my past behavior, but it also made me a shitty friend. Genuine human connection isn’t an accounting ledger where you balance positives and negatives. It’s about giving and receiving for the sake of it.
If someone’s always focused on their gain, they’re not in it for the connection — and as soon as your potential value fades, so will they.
They Choose Problems Over Solutions
The reason why some people seem to always carry a big black cloud of drama with them is that they choose it.
You don’t get to decide how life treats you. You can get fired from your job, win the lottery, then lose your money in a divorce, your house in a storm, and poop yourself while sleeping under a bridge. Shit happens, literally, but that doesn’t mean you have to bathe in it.
Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl lost his father, mother, wife, and brother in concentration camps. He was bossed around, beaten, and battered. Yet he said:
“The last of human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Some people choose drama. They decide to focus on the problems rather than the solutions. With that choice, they bring negative energy to anyone who connects with them as well. They turn minor inconveniences into major obstacles, spoil the sunny Sunday morning mood by bringing up shit from the past, and latch onto gloomy narratives like a leech onto a juicy vein.
The only way to deal with problems is to look for solutions. The only way to deal with drama is to avoid it like a fat kid a treadmill.
They Aren’t As Committed as You Are
You can only create a strong bond if both sides hold on to the ends tightly.
No matter how hard you clasp yours, if the other person doesn’t hold on, their end of the ribbon comes loose, making you stumble and fall flat on your ass. You can see this play out in people’s dating life and romantic relationships. One is more committed than the other, pulling their end of the string so hard they yank it from their partner’s grip, then wondering why they didn’t hold on.
Save yourself time and energy. If someone isn’t willing to commit, there is nothing you can do. They have to hold their end.
If they don’t, you’re better off letting go as well.
They Don’t Treat Service Staff Well (Because That’s How They’ll Eventually Treat You)
This one can show you a person’s true face in about three seconds flat.
I’ve worked with bottles, glasses, and coffee cups for years, serving anyone from crying 4-year-olds over passed-out alcoholics to lovely grandmas with yappy dogs. Nothing screams “I’m an asshole with self-esteem issues” like being condescending to service staff.
“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
In any relationship, at one point the other will hold more power, whether because you need something or owe them a favor, just like the service staff needs the customer to be happy. If you want to know how someone will treat you, observe how they treat the ones carrying the trays.
Please, thank you, and basic respect aren’t just courtesy but should also be a requirement to join your circle of friends.
They Spill More Tea Than An Englishman With Parkinson’s
The first rule of gossip is the people who talk to you about others will also talk to others about you.
There’s a fine line between sharing your opinion and badmouthing someone to feel better about yourself. A good rule of thumb is to ask: “Could or would they also say these things to the other person’s face?” If the answer is no, you’ll waste your time and energy for the following reasons:
- Their own life isn’t interesting enough or so miserable they have to poke their nose into others’.
When you aren’t happy with your life, you have two options: Do something about it or distract yourself. People who gossip choose the latter. This addresses the symptom instead of solving the problem, often harming others. Do you want to be part of that?
- They aren’t courageous and authentic enough to address the issues they have with others.
What do you think will happen when they disagree with you? They’ll play the same game, but with different players and reversed roles. This does nothing to solve your problems and everything to portray you in a bad light.
“One who gossips usually carries boredom in one hand and bitterness in the other.”
― Suzy Kassem
They Trade Responsibility For Blame
One of the hardest yet most fundamental truths to accept in life is the following: You are responsible.
Get hit by a car? You’re responsible for deciding if you call the police, curse the driver, or be grateful you didn’t break your leg.
Win a million dollars? You’re responsible for what you do with the cash.
Your partner cheats on you? You’re responsible for leaving their lying ass, diving into the pain so you can cry your heart out, and picking yourself up once the grieving period is over.
There’s no point blaming others. You interact with your surroundings and they interact with you. It’s called life.
However, some people choose the easy way and try to evade responsibility. They blame being late on traffic instead of not leaving on time. They justify their offhand remark with a bad day instead of admitting a lack of self-control. They carry on about how they would’ve made it if it weren’t for the economy, their incompetent coworker, or “the system” keeping them down. Nothing ever is their fault.
One of my ex-girlfriends was like that — and it drained and tired me. Instead of trying to improve the situation, all her energy went into blame. Instead of admitting mistakes, someone else always was at fault. At one point, it got too much, so I took responsibility and left.
Blaming externals feels good in the moment but does nothing to improve your life — so avoid people who don’t take responsibility for theirs.
They’re Allergic to C-Nuts
If you can’t offer constructive criticism in a friendship, it isn’t worth having.
Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes, people do and say stupid things. It’s not nice, but it happens. The important part is to learn from your mistakes and move on. Unfortunately, not everybody is open to that kind of feedback.
But what’s a friendship worth if you can’t be open and honest with each other? Sometimes, you have to talk about the bad and the ugly to get back to the good, just like you have to clean your bathroom if you want to feel comfy taking a shower.
Criticism doesn’t feel good, but it’s a necessary evil — if someone can’t take it, you’re wasting your time and energy.
They Give You That Special Feeling
You can’t always tell a person’s true face by observing their actions.
Some people have played the social game for long enough to know what they have to say and do to come across as sympathetic — but there’s a clue that’s hard to fake.
Observe how you feel after the interaction.
Do you feel energized, happy, and better than before? Or do you feel drained, down, and worse off?
There are two reasons why this can be a telltale sign.
- First, there’s plenty of neuroscience that explains why your gut feeling can be a great indicator of what’s good for you.
You can’t process everything you observe on a conscious level, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Your gut feeling brings the seemingly insignificant cues to your attention.
- Second, life’s too short to spend it with people who don’t make you feel good.
Even if someone checks all the boxes on paper — what’s it worth if you feel drained every time you talk? The people you hang out with should enrich your life, not take away from it.
Human relationships aren’t always rational — sometimes, you have to go with what feels right.
Wrap-Up so You Don’t Waste Your Time and Energy
Not every red flag is bright and colorful — here are the subtle clues to look for in others.
- They always circle back to their shit without listening to yours.
- They take more than they give.
- They choose problems over solutions.
- They aren’t as committed as you are.
- They don’t treat service staff well (because that’s how they’ll eventually treat you.
- They gossip instead of talking openly.
- They blame others instead of taking responsibility.
- They can’t take criticism.
- They make you feel drained.
Last but not least, keep in mind that human connections are significant to a happy and healthy life. Don’t jump at every opportunity to cut someone off. Just make sure you don’t waste your time and energy with the wrong people so you can spend it on the ones who matter.
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