Imagine this: You’re meeting someone for the first time and out of nowhere, you’re hit with this sinking feeling. You see them and suddenly you feel really, really bad.
Like something got caught in your throat or that you feel like your “fight or flight response” is getting triggered. You see them and you’re ready to run.
Or at the very least, want nothing to do with them at all.
And maybe you look around and think to yourself, is no one seeing what I’m seeing? You might even think you’re being overdramatic or that you’re overthinking everything.
You feel me? Am I making sense? Are you saying to yourself right now: Yes! Exactly that!
Well, let’s talk about it and I have a list! And said list is not strictly in order, you can skip some points if it doesn’t apply.
I have also included a quick tidy skimmable summary at the end as well for your convenience!
Anyway, here are 10 things you can do when you get bad vibes from someone, or as I fondly call it, “The Ick”:
1) Assess your feelings first, without taking the other person into account.
I’ll be real with you here for a second, I admit that I’m always one minor inconvenience away from being cranky. And that crankiness changes the way I see and treat people even without meaning to.
Yes, I can admit when I’m the problem.
So, my point is this: it’s important to assess your feelings first. Is these bad vibes a “you” problem?
Hear me out first.
Try to be as objective as you can. Take note of what you’re currently feeling. Your emotions. Your physiological needs. Your comfort level.
Try to ask yourself these questions:
- What am I feeling?
- Am I hungry? In pain? Irritated?
- Is what I feel about them outside of my mood?
- Am I not projecting?
- Am I just having a bad day?
- Am I operating under a bias? Am I being prejudiced?
- Is my ego at fault here? Is it making me feel threatened or inferior?
Especially when it comes to physiological needs, ask yourself if addressing these needs will put you in a better mood. Will addressing these needs change your opinions?
I know it sounds silly, but have you ever been “hangry”? Ever lost patience when ordering food because you’re starving?
Have you ever been so exhausted that every tiny thing sets you off? So tired and burnt out that you can’t handle human interaction?
Or if you’re sick or hurt, have you noticed how that changes how you interact with others? And how it could make you more sensitive?
A bad mood can lead to a bad day and sometimes there’s no reframing that can salvage it.
We’re just humans, you know? Sometimes we fail to regulate our emotions even if we do our best.
And our bad days can bleed into how we see the rest of the world. It can change how we interact with people we know, what more with people we don’t know that well or at all?
So yes, sometimes it is a gut feeling, but we need to consider that there are times that it could also just be a “you” problem.
A “you” problem that can be fixed.
2) Assess how your feelings change when the other person is added to the mix.
Okay, you’ve figured out your baseline. Cool. Now let’s add the other person to the mix.
Are they still giving you bad vibes? Is the ick still strong?
Try these questions now:
- What about them throws me off? Is it explainable?
- Am I sure I’m not just being biased?
- Am I recognizing patterns?
- Do they remind me of someone I don’t have a high opinion of? Is the comparison warranted?
It’s a lot of thinking, I know, but there is merit in doing the mental work. Determining what we feel can make it easier to address it.
How can we address the problem if we don’t know it, right? How can we form informed decisions if we don’t have a good starting point?
WAIT! What’s a gut feeling, anyway?
Let’s define it just in case anyone needs the refresher.
“Gut feeling” is seemingly knowing just because like it’s with no rhyme or reason.
It is intuition.
“Intuition is a form of knowledge that appears in consciousness without obvious deliberation.
It is not magical but rather a faculty in which hunches are generated by the unconscious mind rapidly sifting through past experience and cumulative knowledge.” says Psychology Today.
In simpler terms, gut feelings don’t come from nowhere, even if we might think that it does.
We might see someone and get a bad feeling even if we don’t know them, but we fail to realize that we have known people that share their behavior.
Or maybe we have seen it played out in someone else’s life. We see patterns play out.
This creates a reaction within us that can vary from person to person.
- a flash of clarity
- tension or tightness in your body
- goosebumps or prickling
- stomach “butterflies” or nausea
- a sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach
- sweaty palms or feet
- thoughts that keep returning to a specific person or situation
- feelings of peace, safety, or happiness (after making a decision)
Alright, the refresher is over! Let’s move on.
Categorize (for the hostile kind of “bad vibes”)
3) Determine the level of danger
Important: This won’t apply to every situation. So don’t go thinking every icky situation is a hostile one.
With that said, we can say “bad vibes” all day but there can be true danger when gut feelings are involved. Sure, bad vibes could literally just be someone appearing to be rude.
Or arrogant. Or a liar. Someone you don’t ever want to be friends with.
But sometimes it could also be hostile like something in your body is telling you to be vigilant. Like something in your body is telling you to run.
I am not, for one second, telling you to go out there and do heroic deeds at the cost of your well-being. Not at all. However, it’s still prudent to do what you can.
So if you can, and if it’s applicable, SAFELY determine the level of danger.
Ask for necessary help if:
- Someone appears injured. [Emergency services, Medical]
- Someone appears to carry a weapon. [Emergency services, Police]
- Someone is visibly asking for help. [Nearest authority figure, Emergency services]
- Someone is visibly distressed. [Nearest authority figure, Emergency services]
Don’t be subject to the bystander effect if you can help it, but don’t bite off more than you can chew either.
4) Determine the urgency
Similar to the point above, and still on the topic of seemingly hostile bad vibes, you have to figure out the level of urgency. You also need to qualify if it’s even involved at all.
Numbers 3 and 4 are for worst-case scenarios, although I am hoping this is unneeded.
Read the room, friend, and use your discretion.
5) Gather information
Gather all logical reasons why they give off bad vibes
“The vibes are off” is a valid reason on my side of the pond, but that’s not the case for everyone (and especially if you open up your concerns to someone else.)
So, beyond gut feeling, gather logical reasons that support your opinion.
- Have they done anything wrong to me or to someone I know?
- Have they said anything wrong to me or to someone I know?
- Is there anything about their manner that negatively stands out? What are these and why?
- Is there anything about what they say that negatively stands out? What are these and why?
- Are they acting suspiciously? Which parts? What did they do?
- Are they acting negatively in a way that I’ve seen before? Is there a precedent that I can base these feelings on?
Why this matters:
- It’s easier to explain to people if anyone cares to ask or if you share this information.
- You’re not judging someone for no reason. (You’re not being a hater.)
- You can be sure you’re not projecting.
- You can calmly look at the situation without bias.
- You can change your mind when presented with new information in the future.
Gather all reasons why they give off bad vibes, even the irrational (and petty) ones.
This is the “the vibes are off” territory. List them all, even the irrational and EXTREMELY petty ones.
This is a judgment-free zone, friend.
Do you think they eat an Oreo or a Kit Kat the wrong way? Or pour milk before their cereal?
Do they say “GIF” incorrectly? Mispronounce every word by choice? How about if they say “moist” frequently?
They don’t listen to your favorite musician? Or, gasp, they only listen to your most hated musician?
Why this still matters, despite the pettiness:
- You can base future judgments on these if you happen to be right.
- You can use these to hone your gut feelings.
- You might actually be seeing patterns you weren’t aware of before. Yes, despite the pettiness. You might actually find a common denominator.
6) If you can, sound them out.
To be clear, I do not recommend doing this for the hostile kind of bad vibes. So we’re NOT going to talk about that.
But if you can, sound them out—something as easy as actually making conversation and not only inferring at face value.
You can try leading into conversations that will require answers that are rooted in their values. You can do this to know if theirs align with yours.
You might even find out that they’re really nicer than they appear (ever heard of RBF?)
The point is, allow yourself to be proven wrong.
7) If you can, ask someone else.
This is definitely a case-to-case basis, but if you have someone that you trust and trust the opinions of, open this conversation with them.
I’ve had PLENTY of conversations regarding this with my closest friends, these people that I trust will give it to me straight if I’m being overdramatic.
It helps to have someone objective to center you when you need it.
Again, it’s important to accept that you could be wrong. Otherwise, you’re just constantly allowing your gut feelings to dictate your perception of the world at large.
I wouldn’t say this is “bad” per se, just limiting, especially when our biases can sometimes affect our gut feelings.
But WAIT! Should you even tell people about your suspicions?
It bears repeating that potentially hostile circumstances should be reported to proper channels.
For everything else, the answer is: That depends!
If you’re the type of person who revels in “I told you so”, then you probably wouldn’t be able to stop yourself anyway.
However, in the event that you’re wrong, that mistake is on you. Ask yourself if that is something you’re willing to carry.
It’s probably not going to be as dramatic as I’m making it seem, though. You can always just tell the people closest to you, especially if you think they shouldn’t interact with someone who gives you the ick.
There’s always that burden of knowing but as I said, it’s truly a case-to-case basis for this. Use your discretion.
Alright, next point!
8) Confirm what you can
You might be thinking, hey isn’t this the same as sounding them out? Sort of.
There’s a difference between first impressions, first interaction, and continued interaction. This one applies to the continued interaction.
Yes, the bad vibes don’t just disappear after knowing people and even people you’ve known for so long can give you the ick. Don’t ignore the feeling, friends!
So for this, confirm what you can. I’m not saying that you need to go out of your way to investigate because you can never know what you will find out.
And again, there’s a burden in knowing.
What I’m saying is don’t ignore the red flags when they appear. Don’t be complacent after the initial interaction. Learn to pay attention to their actions and not just their words.
It’s easy to say things we don’t mean but actions are a lot harder to continue faking. And so see them for what they are if the bad vibes continue to persist.
See them for what they show you.
9) Look at everything you know
So now you have your hunches, your first impressions, and maybe some more information that is more than face value.
Well, make sure you include all of these when you decide your move forward (which is the last point I wanted to make.)
And especially for mid-friendship or mid-knowing bad vibes. There are pros and cons in continuing or walking away from said connections, after all.
Honesty is important. For people you don’t know very well, list their good points too. For people you know VERY well, list their bad points!
It’s sometimes difficult to be objective with these matters but trust what you know PLUS what your gut is telling you. A well-rounded decision, see?
10) Decide the move forward
You’re now *hopefully* ready to make an informed decision about how to move forward.
What are your options?
- Ignore the gut feeling and proceed with further interaction.
- Ignore the person and trust the gut feeling.
- See how it plays out first.
What to remember when you decide to burn bridges:
Be resolute about walking away.
As much as we love to think that it’s easy to mend bridges after walking away from them, not everyone is emotionally mature enough to undergo this reconciliation. So, be absolutely sure.
This is much easier for virtual strangers but much harder when you walk away from someone you know. I know it, I’ve been there, but sometimes you just gotta trust what they show you and proceed from there.
What to remember when you continue interacting:
Remember that it’s okay to change your mind if the “bad vibes” won’t go away.
In the reverse of the previous burning bridges comment, know that you CAN change your mind if the ick feeling persists. You might’ve stayed in that connection for whatever circumstance and that’s valid.
Perhaps you just want to see the good in them. Perhaps it’s a friendship or romantic relationship with a lot of history and you can’t bear thinking of a separation.
However, if the sinking feeling persists, listen to it. Look at the facts again.
What to remember if you wait it out:
Remember to wait it out within reason BUT to decide eventually.
Sure, you can wait in limbo forever but that won’t be a very fulfilling relationship if you constantly mistrust them, right? So wait within reason, however, our timelines will differ from each other.
If the bad vibes persist, that’s a pretty good indicator that a decision is required.
Okay, you’ve decided. But what if you eventually find out that you’re wrong?
With time passing, you might find out that you’re wrong about a person. And that this someone who gave you the ick is a truly wonderful, law-abiding human being.
And that they have tons of people to back up this claim.
Well, that is the nature of an opinion. You can be wrong. It just is.
So admit to yourself that you were wrong. Apologize wherever necessary, especially if you’ve been telling people left and right about your suspicions and it somehow affected the person involved.
I’m being vague here because we can’t ever know the ripples of our actions until we’ve done it.
And just to tidy everything up…
Here’s a quick summary of everything on this list, just to help with the overwhelming information. I know the feeling, friend.
Gut feeling is our intuition at work. That sinking or euphoric feeling when something is about to go very right or very, very wrong.
And even though it is seemingly baseless, it’s actually our minds noting, categorizing, and comparing present actions to previous experiences. It’s not necessarily our personal experiences either but it could also be patterns we have seen from others.
Gut feelings could manifest physically as sweaty palms, chills, goosebumps, or butterflies in your stomach. It is what’s engaging when we get bad vibes from someone.
And here are some of the important things to remember when that happens (unless you just want to decide on the spot, that is):
1. Reflecting is important
- Assessing your emotions and physiological needs first. Always remember that there’s a possibility that you’re projecting. Address your needs first.
- Assessing your emotions when the other person is involved. What about them is throwing you off and triggering your fight or flight?
2. Assessing the level of danger and urgency for potentially hostile situations is vital.
- I am once again reminding you to not put yourself in harm’s way when the bad vibes reach hostile levels. Ask for professional help.
- With that said, assess the level of danger and urgency of the situation. Contact the necessary emergency services required.
- Don’t just be a bystander but don’t bite more than you can chew.
3. Gathering information
- Gather logical reasons why they give off bad vibes
- Gather illogical and even petty reasons that they give off bad vibes.
- Consult someone you trust.
- Interact with the person if possible.
- You can make well-rounded decisions this way instead of just relying on one or the other. You can also use these cues to hone your intuition further, moving forward.
4. Confirming information
- Sift through the hearsay but believe what the person involved shows you. See red flags for what they are.
- Remember that there’s always a chance that you could be wrong, be open to that. However, for mid-friendship or mid-relationship suspicions, be ready to be correct.
- You can either stay, go, or watch things unfold.
- Choosing to walk away from a stranger you don’t jive with is easier than to walk away from someone you’ve known for years but if the icky gut feeling persists, know when to walk away.
To end, human connection is truly both an art and a science. It takes years of trial and error to know if we’re right about someone.
Our body is signaling us to pay attention, everything in our system is telling us to not engage, yet sometimes our feelings get in the way.
We’re just human beings, after all, we make dumb decisions. We make mistakes, we learn, and most importantly, we grow.
Sure, some situations do require urgent decisions, and for that, I wish you nothing but the best. Trust both your intuition and the cold, hard facts, friend.
May the path be clear or more straightforward for you.
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