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8 Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits

Every single person in the world has a bad habit, and often a few of them. We often think these habits are just negative and try to get rid of them, and some people are even ashamed of them. However, the more research is done on these behaviors, the clearer it becomes that some of them are actually indicators of good traits, such as intelligence or optimism. 

Below, we rounded up 8 common bad habits that contrary to popular belief, can be a good sign.


1. Biting nails

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits nail biting

Up to 25% of kids suck their thumbs or bite their nails, and the latter often continues into adulthood. Usually, people who bit their nails are encouraged to quit, and while not being the most hygienic habit, a study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that nails biting has a positive effect, too. 

The researchers followed 1,000 kids starting when they were 5 years old. When they were 5, 7, 8, and 11-years-old, the parents were asked whether the kids bit their nails or sucked their thumbs. About a third of the kids displayed one or both habits. When the participating kids turned 13 and then 32, they were tested for allergies. The group that habitually bit their nails or sucked their thumbs as kids proved to be 40% less likely to develop allergies. That being said, the research authors noted that it doesn’t mean parents should encourage nail-biting in their children, as it can damage the skin around the nails, making them more susceptible to infections.

2. Procrastination

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits woman procrastinating

Procrastination has been a hot topic in literature in recent years, with many experts trying to decipher why it happens and what can be done to overcome it. One theory suggests that procrastination is a sign of intelligence rather than laziness, as it allows the person who engages in it to wait for the right time to perform a task. In other words, procrastination can boost creativity, because you give yourself a chance to develop big ideas.

Wharton psychologist Adam Grant pointed out Steve Jobs as an example. "The time Steve Jobs was putting things off and noodling on possibilities was time well spent in letting more divergent ideas come to the table, as opposed to diving right in with the most conventional, the most obvious, the most familiar," he said in an interview with Business Insider. 

Related: Why You Are Procrastinating and How Not To

3. Always running late

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits man looking at watch

Being chronically late can really interfere with one’s social and professional life, as it can make them seem disorganized and even disrespectful. In an interview with the NY times Linda DeLonzor, author of the self-help book Never Be Late Again, explained that tardiness can actually indicate high optimism rather than lack of courtesy. 

"Many late people tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic, she said, and this affects their perception of time. They really believe they can go for a run, pick up their clothes at the dry cleaners, buy groceries, and drop off the kids at school in an hour," said DeLonzor. 

4. Swearing

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits swear jar

Some may instinctively link profanity to a person being simple-minded or having poor vocabulary, but research actually proves quite the opposite. One study published in Language Sciences found evidence to suggest that fluency of swearing is actually linked to the fluency of the language being spoken (on the case of the study English).

We choose to swear in different situations for different purposes: to express strong emotion, for laughs, and sometimes to be deliberately offensive. This and the correlation with language fluency, suggests that that swearing is a feature of language that articulate people use to communicate their message with maximum effectiveness. 

5. Chewing gum

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits balloon gum
In certain social situations, like a job interview, chewing gum is considered rude or tacky. However, there is no harm in doing it when you’re alone or when the circumstances allow it. In fact, multiple studies have even shown that chewing gum can help people be more alert. For example, one research found that people who chewed gum performed better on intelligence tests than people who didn’t. Another research suggested that the action of chewing boosts mood by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

6. Messy workspace

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits messy desk

Is your work desk always full of papers, pens and is a general mess? It may not be such a big problem. A 2015 research suggested that messiness prompts people to be more goal-oriented as it pushes them to seek order somewhere... often in ideas, and work-related tasks. 

As counterintuitive as that seems, the notion that a clean desk equals a productive worker is an artifact of the mid 20th century. Interestingly, throughout history geniuses were always portrayed in art with cluttered desks.

7. Gossiping

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits gossiping

Gossiping tends to have a negative connotation, but there is also a positive form of gossiping, which is done in order to help someone. According to research, engaging in such pro-social gossip can make you feel better. In the study, a group of participants observed people playing a trust game, during which some players (who were actually experimental confederates) cheated. In those moments, an increased heart rate was recorded in many of the participants. 

The researchers gave the participants an option to send the players one note during the game about anything they wanted. About half of them chose to inform the players about the cheaters’ devious ways. After the note-senders engaged in pro-social gossip, their heart rates decreased and they reported feeling better. 

Related: The True Origin of the Word ‘Like’ May Surprise You

8. Using filler words

Bad Habits That Indicate Good Traits filler words

Frequent use of filler words like ‘uh’, ‘you know’, ‘I mean’ and the infamous ‘like’ can make you come off unprofessional, hesitant, or worse, just not very clever. However, there is a not-insignificant amount of studies that suggest our biases towards these words aren’t justified. 

One such study revealed that people who are highly conscientious and hardworking are more likely to use filler words in conversation. It is also a sign that the speaker takes a moment to think about what they’re about to say. That being said, it can’t be denied that the overuse of filler words can make us sound less articulate. Steven D. Cohen, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Baltimore, suggests to simply try and replace some of these words with a pause. “A simple pause can have a dramatic impact on our filler word use and how other people perceive us,” he told Quartz.

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