I talk a lot on this website about all the things you should do to be more memorable, charismatic and influential.

I write about starting, learning and beginning new habits and behaviors. Some of my favorites:

But in this post, I want to write about what we all need to STOP doing to be better with people; the bad habits, behaviors and actions we need to curtail if we want to build connection.

I have been 100% guilty of every item on this list at some point. In fact, I made this list from my own “Behavior File.” I’m a science geek with high neuroticism and love keeping logs, lists and directories of any kind. My Behavior File is a list of behaviors I have tried, attempted, adopted and failed at so I can learn from my previous mistakes.

Here are the behaviors that we all need to stop.

#1: Stop Looking for Validation

You are worthy. You are awesome. You are fantastic. And deep down, you know it! Stop looking for validation from other people.

  • Why? It doesn’t work. If you don’t feel worthy on the inside nothing on the outside will truly help. Look for ways to feel validated by your own actions, not by other’s words.

#2: Stop Apologizing For Who You Are

Apologies are important. And you should always apologize for what you’ve done, but you should never apologize for who you are. Don’t apologize for sharing your opinion. Don’t apologize for being authentic. And certainly don’t apologize for being yourself. I used to say, “I’m sorry I love science” before sharing a relevant scientific study. Someone called me on it once by saying something like, “Don’t apologize for loving science, own it!” She was right. Now it’s your turn.

  • Why? When you stop apologizing you start owning your opinions, beliefs and voice. For the next week, count all of the times you apologize unnecessarily. Examine the circumstances. Are you really sorry? Or are you just afraid?

#3: Stop One-Upping

That’s a funny story, but here’s a funnier one! That’s a great idea, but here’s a better one. You’re smart, I’m smarter! One-upping is when you take someone’s idea and tell them how you did it better, smarter or longer than them.

  • Why? Nothing takes the wind out of someone’s sails faster than a one-upper. Your one-upped story DOESN’T make you seem more impressive, it only makes you seem like a show-off—I know you don’t mean it that way, but that’s how it comes across.

#4: Stop Exaggerating

I almost called this one, “Stop Lying,” but I think that exaggeration is a more accurate behavior for most people. Harmless exaggerating for the sake of a good story isn’t what I am talking about here. I’m talking about stirring up gossip, worrying people or creating drama.

  • Why? Gossip gives us power. There is a reason why so many people gossip. It feels good to be in the know. But exaggeration and gossip is one of the most inauthentic ways to interact because you are creating drama for yourself and others. One day my husband told me that I exaggerate too much. This happened right after I told him that, “The lack of organic produce in our local super market is killing me.” He was like, “Really? Is it killing you? Should I call an ambulance?” Point taken. Here’s my credo: Speak accurately, lie less, stop gossiping.

#5: Stop Pre-Qualifying

“I know this might not be important, but…” “I’m not sure if this is right, but…” How many times have you been in a meeting or a classroom and someone raises their hand to answer but spends the first 10 seconds pre-qualifying their answer? This happens when we are nervous that whatever we are going to say isn’t going to be good enough.

  • Why? Not only does this diminish your idea (see #2 Apologizing), but it also cues others not to listen to your valuable opinion. This is bold, but here is the rule I have for myself that I hope you will consider implementing:

If you have to say a pre-qualifier, don’t say anything at all. If you are so nervous that you can’t own your answer then maybe it isn’t ready to be shared!

#6: Stop One-Downing

If you think that’s bad, wait until you hear what happened to me! Have you ever shared some bad news or difficulty with someone and then they pounce with their own “even worse” story? One-downing is the flip side to one-upping and it SUCKS! If someone had a hard day, let them have their hard day and show them empathy.

  • Why? When you one-down someone you are dismissing their feelings. You are dismissing their needs. You are dismissing them as a person. Not only does this make them feel terrible, you also miss a connection opportunity with them—instead of feeling bad for you they feel bad for themselves because you brushed off something that mattered to them.
  • Special Note: Sometimes people think that by sharing their hardships they make the person feel like they are not alone. This is true to a certain extent, but there is a difference between commiserating and one-downing. You can tell someone you know how they feel, but don’t tell them that your feelings are more/worse/more notable.

#7: Stop Pretending

You don’t need to pretend to be anyone you’re not. Ask yourself if you ever pretend to be something you’re not. Is it around certain people? What places trigger you to feel less than? Figure out why you don’t feel that you are enough. Get rid of the triggers. Stop going to the places that make you feel like you have to pretend. Decide to own who you are.

  • Why? When you show up owning who you are, people respect you and your authenticity shines through. When you pretend to be something you’re not, you miss out on the opportunity to genuinely connect with another person.

Why do we engage in these behaviors? It all comes down to self-worth. When we feel we are not worthy of love, attention and connection, we one-up to prove ourselves, pretend to be something we are not or fish for compliments. I’m here to tell you that you are worthy—you just have to figure out why. So, here’s my challenge for you:


Write down the 3 things that you are most proud of.

These can be skills, attributes, past events or things in your life. The qualities, successes and things in your life that you are most proud of are where you get your inner worth. Look at this list and own it. Ready, go!

31 replies on “7 Bad Habits You Need to STOP Doing”

  1. Cyrel

    It was hard to do the challenge especially if you’re the kind of person who think less of yourself. After digging a little deeper, I realised that I’m not really that bad of a person. Yes I have a lot to improve in my life, but I’m not that really bad. It made me realise that I need to count my blessings more to be happy and motivated to do more. Thank you for this article.

  2. The one thing that I have to stop doing is concerning and involving myself in other peoples personal stuff. What is theirs is theirs and what is mine is mine. We are ALL given something to “work with” in life. Finish the food on your plate first before, essentially, you pick off the same (but sure looks yummily different!) food off your neighbour’s (or wife, or son, or daughter, name_of_other_close_relative) plate.
    The secret lies in not caring for what is or isn’t on their plate.
    But don’t be afraid to share either 😉

  3. Dan

    This was indeed an article worth reading, I hope that this will contribute to more and more people owning and embracing themselves for who they are.

  4. Sandra

    #1, and #2 I do sometimes, and I don’t see myself dropping those just yet, even if they do hurt how people view me. But thank you for the reminders.
    I do my best, but often I do have to bow out of sharing things because I could not do it in a very good or confident way at the time, and it takes me a while. But I am okay with how things are at the moment, I try to be honest and myself when talking about myself.
    1. I am proud of myself for going through many changes over the years.
    2. For being authentic with myself and in my art.
    3. For finding better situations for myself and caring about my own happiness as a value.

  5. Drishti Narang

    I definitely loved this brazen attitude, and agree these are all things that need to be slowly weeded out of our lives.

  6. Lauren Freeman

    Reading these makes me realize that I’m guilty of all of them, but that realization helps spark inspiration to make a change in my life! I’m especially guilty of apologizing for who I am and pre-qualifying my words. It’s almost become a habit for me and it’s hard to break, but here’s to actively trying to stop!!

  7. Bella Perennis

    I really love this post because it addresses the every day problems of conversation, but just “stop doing” it won’t help. After all those behaviors are rooted in years of practice, hidden emotions and unfulfilled needs. Like gossiping for example: gossip is always a good hint that there is an unacknowledged conflict and has a vital social function. If somebody is mistreating a person talking/gossiping about it is a social consequence everybody should face to a certain extent if they are disrespectful of others.

  8. Andrew

    My whole family has always been about one-upping and this has been an engrained in me as a bad habit that needs to stop. Thank you for the advice Vanessa!

  9. Robby Smith

    I would definitely resonate in either #2 or 5. With my primary love language as Words of Affirmation, it is so easy to fish for compliments, to feel a sense of self-worth. Thanks Vanessa! I will STOP these immediately.

  10. Udo

    Vanessa, great list with certainly some points that apply to me. I would add one point, though: Stop answering a question with another question. I have a friend who does this constantly and it drives me nuts. Even just asking what she wants to drink, I never get a straight answer.

  11. ElectricBubbles

    Thank you so much for this post! I need to be reminded of these guide-lines often. Especially, “stop apologizing for yourself.”

  12. Rudy

    Barbara wrote: “Who is Marie Forleo?”

    I had to Google the name.

    Nice to know there is room enough in the world for more channels of learning.

  13. Nat

    This is a great post. We all need to be reminded about the things which negatively impact others view of us. I have noticed doing several of these don’ts, I have been working on this for some time, especially the one upping and one downing. I have found that it is much easier to stop myself and when I do, I am able to better relate to the other person because I am not looking for the “right” time to interject my story.
    I have no idea why some in this discussion are worried about where this information came from, that does not matter. The purpose is to use this information to become a better you by understanding those thing which are standing in your way.

  14. J Glass

    I loved this post. It is common knowledge, but expressing it so distinctly gives it more clarity and purpose.
    I don’t know who Marie Forleo is, but Vanessa put this post out there, and she shared this advise from the heart and soul. That is what comes across for me. My appreciation goes to Vanessa and thanks for keeping me in the know.

  15. Keeon Taylor

    We prequalify when we lack confidence, when we think we are wrong, or when we think we are not good enough. This is something most people do. Very very good point Mrs. Edwards.

  16. Stacy- Fawn

    Its quite challenging to not appear to have the same ideas as others. For myself, I dont follow Marie Forleo, but I do follow Vanessa, so that being said I wouldnt have this valuable insight otherwise. Because Ford automotive was the first car manufacturer does that make all the other companies hypocrites and not authentic?

  17. Eva

    Just because her delivery models Marie Forleo, doesn’t negate Vanessa’s work. Also, she may have learned with or under Marie. Either way, I’m sure Marie would celebrate Vanessa and wish her success, not hate on her. Modeling Marie is definitely not a bad thing. Maybe you should try it.

  18. ariastrue

    Awesome work! Its a unconscious thing that one might do not being aware of the cause and effect or influence we have on others. I automatically need to correct myself on a few things. I think one issue is letting people keep an assumption of me which would probably lead into doing a few of these things simultaneously. But of course no one is perfect and a better me could help my fellow mellow in there journey. Thanks Vanessa Van Edwards you are a Rock star.

  19. Danielle McRae

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Vanessa! While it’s amazing to learn new behaviors and ways to improve our influence with new actions, it’s just as important to STOP doing the things that our inhibiting our growth and keeping us from reaching our full potential. I resonate most with pre-qualifying. In a conversation, I’m fearful that what I will say will be stupid or not received well, so I’ll say “I’m not sure if this makes sense…” or “I don’t know if this is right…” What I realize now is that I’m putting in the other person’s mind the idea that I don’t know what I’m talking about, instead of being confident and sure of myself. Thank you for sharing your personal vulnerability with these- we are all human and can learn to trust ourselves more and find self-worth! 🙂

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