This Wednesday: Quiz — do you make other people unhappy?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day (or Quiz Day).
This Wednesday — Quiz: Do you make other people unhappy?

One of the most crucial keys to happiness is the ability to make other people happy. (In fact, a device to warn you if you’re being boring or irritating is in development.)

Many people, however, don’t realize that they’re not making people happy – quite the reverse. They have their own explanations for the things they say and do, and they don’t acknowledge how they’re affecting other people.

One of my favorite sections in Bob Sutton’s excellent book, The No A****** Rule (I’m omitting the title not from prudery but from fear of spam-blockers), was his quiz, also posted on his blog, Are You a Certified A******?. Some people don’t recognize the clues that should tip them off to people’s reactions.

So, inspired by Bob Sutton, I’ve put together this quiz, “Do you make other people unhappy?” Be brutally honest as you answer:

–Do you often find that when you do something nice for people, they do a lot of grumbling? Do they seem ungrateful or uncooperative? Do they seem reluctant to accept your generosity?

–When you join a group of people, does the mood often shift? Does a group tend to break apart after you join it?

–When you do something generous for others, do you think it only right that your generosity will allow you to make decisions for them or direct their actions?

–Do you find it hard to get your calls and emails returned by just about everyone?

–Are you often puzzled because the people around you seem dramatically to over-react to little mistakes, oversights, jokes, or casual remarks you make?

–Do you often find yourself saying defensively, “It was just a joke!”

–Do you find that people seem resentful and angry when you offer objective, helpful criticism or advice?

–Do you often find out that something you’ve done or said has caused an argument between two other people? (E.g., your son tells you that he and your daughter-in-law have been arguing about the lovely plans you’ve made for Thanksgiving.)

–Do you find that even when you’re trying to be helpful by explaining something or providing interesting information, people don’t want to seem to listen to you?

–Do you feel annoyed because people tend to refuse to acknowledge your greater experience or knowledge in an area, and instead, ignore your suggestions?

–Do people tend to gang up against you – when you’re arguing one side, everyone takes the other side, or when one person criticizes you, everyone else chimes in?

–Do you find it funny to see other people squirm?

–If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it’s right to tell them frankly what you think?

–Do you go out of your way to point out to people their mistakes or areas of incompetence – if possible, in front of others?

–If good fortune befalls others, do you feel that their good fortune makes it somehow less likely that something good can happen to you?

–Do your peers seem to have social lives that are very different from yours? Is everyone talking about going to weddings, to surprise fortieth birthday parties, to baby showers, to Christmas parties, but you’re not often invited to these kinds of occasions?

–Is it fairly common for one person to tell you that he or she will speak to a third person, so that you need not speak to that third person directly? In other words, do people volunteer to act as intermediaries for you, rather than let you do your own talking?

A “yes” may be a red flag that you’re a source of unhappiness for others.

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Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I am proud that I am not able to make other people unhappy. Sometimes it is a problem for me. All of them (no exceptions) have told me in some way that they are happy to communicate with me.
    I like your test and I think I have passed it successfully. :)))
    Thanks for the post!

  • As a counselor I see people who fit some of those descriptions every week! Most of the time it is from a lack of emotional intelligence – EQ. Daniel Goleman has written several books on Emotional Intelligence (at work, in relationships, in leadership). Thanks for holding up a mirror so we could check our reflection!

  • N

    Hi there!
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s funny I had just stumbled upon that book at the library a few weeks back and really liked it. I totally identify with it too as I have many certified A******* at work and struggle with dealing with them on a daily basis. This book, however, made me feel that I am not alone in this world full of A******* 🙂
    Thanks for this post!

  • John Radke

    I take issue with this question: “If someone asks for your opinion, do you think it’s right to tell them frankly what you think?”
    Why would it be wrong to be frank? If someone wants my opinion, I try to be honest with them. I should think lying or otherwise hiding the truth would make them unhappier in the long run.

  • Geethebluesky

    I agree with Mr. Radke. If someone asks for an opinion, it’s only right to give the actual opinion. Changing what you were going to say to avoid “hurt feelings” or “misunderstandings” is not going to change the fact that if the person asked and wanted a made-up answer, they SHOULD NOT have asked in the first place!

  • MS

    Radke and Geethebluesky,
    One question: Does this make me look fat?

  • The question about giving an opinion isn’t meant to indicate that you are never right to give your honest opinion. However, I suspect that a conviction that you are always right to give an honest opinion, whether or not philosophically defensible, might result in unhappiness in others.
    Sometimes a person asks for an
    “opinion” when he or she is really asking for support or reassurance. I think it helps to ask myself: what kind of response is this person looking for? would honest criticism be a help? (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t). Am I enjoying pointing out flaws, showing my discernment, giving advice, etc., even when that input isn’t helpful?
    Just something to think about…

  • Some people are “brutally” honest. I want people to tell me the truth…but to do it love!

  • sylrayj

    Fortunately, when I’m asked my opinion, there’s often several ‘depths’ of answer I can give. I can say that I think it’s a useful tool, although hard to manage. I can say that it is frequently misused, making me wonder if it’s of value the way it is. And I can say that it has to be reworked into something that doesn’t need constant supervision to work properly. They are all valid opinions about the same item, and some people will know one but not the others.
    Would it help the people who don’t manage the system to know I think it needs a major overhaul? Not likely.

  • Does this make me look fat?
    Sheesh. That’s easy:

  • Michelle I

    Gretchen–you are so great! You clearly also have very smart readers who have really fantastic comments. Seriously, I love reading what others have written almost as much as I enjoy your blog.
    I also passed this test pretty well but there’s always room for improvement. Your blog is definitely helping me to keep things in check.
    You go, girl!

  • I agree with Gretchen’s explanation re: asking for an opinion. When I ask for someone’s opinion, sometimes I want reassurance and sometimes I want their “brutal” honesty. My good friends, the ones that genuinely care about me, can tell the difference, and respond appropriately. And even if you don’t believe in smudging the truth a bit occasionally to protect someone’s feelings, there are ways to tell the truth in a way that doesn’t hurt them or put them down.

  • Blech. Unfortunately, I’m one of the lucky few who found myself saying “yes” to many of those questions. (However, I was in the clear with the “opinion” one!)

  • Okay. I just watched a two minute video embedded in a blog post by Legal Andrew [] and could immediately thought of this thread.

  • oops: link needed a space before the bracket:

  • i think everyone who’s reading (and not reading) this can answer “yes” to many of these.
    does that make everyone of us an as*****??
    i like to think of myself as a brutally honest person, and i cater to no one–i may offend some with my comments, but this is who i am.

  • Mark

    Wow, for a web site that’s supposed to make me happy, that’s one of the most depressing things I’ve ever read. I found myself saying yes to so many of those things.

  • On the other hand:
    (long, funny, profanity.)

  • Vivienne

    I passed this test pretty well, but I’m wondering if it was given the correct title. Even if you answered yes to some of the questions it doesn’t necessarily mean that you make people unhappy. Many of the things that are stated in the questions could refer to you not being particularly liked, instead of an unpleasant person to be around. For instance, around my friends I could answer no to all of the questions. But around people who are not so fond of me, the answer would probably be yes.
    I hope that makes sense!

  • Jana

    I really like this site, I passed this test ok, however sometimes I say things without thinking and that gets me into trouble with people, I try to think before I say anything ,but sometimes I forget, I do not know what to do about it?Any suggestions?

  • Breanna


  • GEAN


  • This is too cut and dried for me. I don’t put a lot of weight in this list. There are too many variables. There’s no such thing as if you do this, this or this you’re an asshat. There are extenuating circumstances in life. Gray areas.
    Happiness is an inside job, not an outside job. Nobody “makes” us unhappy. Being happy or unhappy is a decision we make and it’s a reflection of our inner world. We are each responsible for our own happiness – it’s no one else’s job.
    A lot of people are “unhappy” around anyone who they perceive as doing better than they are, being thinner or better looking than they are, doing more with their lives than they are, etc. The fastest way to turn your friends into enemies is to start doing great things for yourself and living your dreams. Many naturally dislike a friend who improves.
    People, particularly cliques, can be mean and exclusive. I think part of the list in this article could be taken as justification by those who deliberately exclude other people from existing groups. I’ve seen this at work in many of the companies I’ve worked for over the years.
    So before anyone gets excited about maybe answering yes, they should take a good look at the people who are making the judgment about them and what their motivations might be.
    What I mean is if you answered yes to any of these, it might be more of a reflection on the people excluding you, in certain circumstances, than it is of your behavior or likeability.

  • I’m happy to be well liked in my workplace and with friends, as I pass this test very well! 🙂
    I like this test, it’s a very good awareness skill as we aren’t often objective enough to know our effect on people. Thanks for holding up a mirror for us Gretchen!
    Cynthia: I agree with you that we sometimes face people who are just plain jealous of us. We can’t nor should we, get everyone to like us. I think both Gretchen and your tips hold water in increasing our self awareness.

  • Skbirrell88

    Um, how are you supposed to deal with it if you DO make people unhappy?

  • Skbirrell88

    Um, how are you supposed to deal with it if you DO make people unhappy?

  • Andrew

    Me thinks you are full of it, dear, whoever you are. Your simpleton concerns are sure to find a lot of followers in quest of what you not have any aswer for, but platitudes dictated by your last flop as a person worth more than a night stand that you have failed.