How to Deal with People Who Annoy You
All of us have been annoyed by someone else at some point in our lives. For some people, it seems to happen more frequently compared to others. We get irritated and agitated when certain people act in a certain way or say specific things. If we get annoyed a lot, it can ruin our day and our mood. So what is the best way to deal with people who annoy us?
It is important to note that the person who is annoying us is not necessarily an annoying person. When someone else acts in a certain way or says something to annoys us, it is our thoughts about his or her actions or words that create the actual annoyance. This is a vital point to understand. We get annoyed because we judge the words or actions of others, and that judgement creates our annoyance.
When someone says or does something, it is neutral. It only becomes an annoyance if we think certain thoughts about his or her actions or words. Imagine for a second that someone you know is always humming a tune that you do not like. His humming is not bad in itself. He is simply humming a song that he likes. You, on the other hand, have thoughts that deem his humming or his choice of song as being negative. You then become annoyed by him. Without your negative thoughts about his humming, the humming is neutral. In other words, we can control whether we get annoyed or not through our thoughts.
If someone stares at me or calls me a loser, that person is simply acting in a way that he chooses. It is up to me to decide how to respond. If I start thinking that his stares or calling me names is negative, unfair, or antagonistic, I will get annoyed. However, if my thoughts about his actions stay neutral, I will not get annoyed. Similarly, if a car pulls up next to you at a stop light and the driver is blasting music that you are not fond of, you have a choice. If you think to yourself, “that person is inconsiderate for blasting his stereo and his choice of music is terrible”, you will probably get annoyed. If, on the other hand, you realize and accept that this person simply likes different music than you do and he enjoys playing it loudly, then you will not get irritated by him. Do you see the difference?
Most of the time the actions and words of others are neutral. Our thoughts about these actions and spoken words are what make them annoying, or not. Most of the time, we cannot change how people act or speak, but we can change how we react to them. If we are mindful and control our thoughts about how others act, we will not get annoyed. We hold the key to our mood. If we are mindless and judge someone’s actions or words to be negative, we will get annoyed. In other words, we are giving them the key to our mood and happiness. When that happens, we are at the mercy of others and allow them to affect us negatively.
Trying to change someone rarely works, as we all know. We cannot control what others do or say. We only have power over ourselves and, specifically our thoughts and reaction. Once we learn this, we become free. Very often, the other person does not intend to annoy us. That person is acting in a way that is normal to him or her. When we think that person should not act in that way and view ourselves as being better than him, we then have expectations and get all riled up. When we do that, we ultimately give up our power to be happy.
Of course, if we think someone is not a good influence or is vindictive in his deeds and words, we can choose to distance ourselves from that person. And that is often a wise choice. We can walk away, unfriend that person on Facebook, get a new job somewhere else, or not answer his phone calls. But, very often, this is not an option and we are forced to be in close proximity of this person. For example, it may not be possible to distance yourself from your ‘annoying’ uncle at Christmas dinner or quit your job because your boss is ‘annoying’. In many cases, the only thing you can do is to change your thoughts.
Another important point is that other people in themselves are not annoying. It is only our thoughts about those people that make them annoying. After all, if those people truly are annoying, then everyone else will also get annoyed by them. Yet, these people have friends and family who do not get agitated by them. In fact, the very person whom we find annoying may be greatly liked by others who do not share our feelings of annoyance. So being annoyed is an extremely subjective thing and we are the ones who get to decide (via our thoughts) if someone is annoying or not. The more we judge others, the more annoyed we tend to get. And the more we consider ourselves to be superior in some way to others, the more likely we will get perturbed. Similarly, our own actions and words may very well be annoying to others without us knowing it. So now we can see that people are really not annoying. It is our thoughts about them that make them annoying. The key is in our possession, not theirs.
There are 3 basic methods to reduce or eliminate our annoyance by others:
1. Find Something Good About That Person
One effective way to reduce or eliminate annoyance by others is to look for something good in the person who is annoying us. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it works. For example, if I am getting annoyed by someone who is chewing his food loudly, I can intentionally look for something I like about that person. I could make the effort to remember the time when he or she bought me dinner, gave me a nice gift for my birthday, or the fact that that person is always on time to work or always holds the door open for the person behind. Doing this changes our mood because it makes us see the good in others. With practice, we get better at seeing the good in someone who is annoying us and diffuse our irritation.
2. See the Larger Picture
I recall an incident when I was twelve years old. I found out that my family had planned a weekend vacation getaway which happened to coincide with my first house dance party. It did not help that a girl I liked was also scheduled to attend. My parents would not let me off the hook and insisted that I join the rest of my family members on the vacation. I was very upset and annoyed with my parents. The party was important to me and I failed to see the bigger picture: there would be more parties to attend in the future, I would get numerous other chances to see the girl I liked, spending quality time with my family was going to be fun, etc. I was myopic and only saw the smaller picture, and that annoyed me.
We have all seen a young toddler get extremely upset because his parents denied him a treat in the grocery store. The reaction is severe and swift. Because the child is young, he or she is unable to see the larger picture and realize that, in 30 minutes, the grocery store treat will not matter and will be long forgotten.
Often, when we adults get annoyed with someone, we are looking at the smaller picture and failing to see the larger one. Our perspective is skewed and we focus on something that is trivial and won’t matter in the long run. We become so fixated on the ‘cause’ of our annoyance that everything else gets relegated. Our thoughts create our annoyance and, before you know it, we make the actions or words of others a much larger deal than they really are or need to be. If, however, we stop for a second, become mindful, and realize that, in reality, it is not such a big deal, we gain a larger perspective and prevent ourselves from getting annoyed or upset.
3. Have Empathy for That Person
Very often, when someone is mean, inconsiderate, or rude to us, it is because that person is having a bad day, is insecure, scared, sad, or angry. All of us experience those feelings at some point or another so it is easy to relate. When we feel ourselves starting to get annoyed by someone, a great way to arrest, reduce, and even eliminate our annoyance is to feel empathy for the person annoying us. We should remember a time when we felt scared, or angry or were experiencing a bad day and realize that the other person could very well be feeling the same way. He or she may not intend to annoy us and is only acting that way because it is a way to cope with their feelings. We do not really know what that person is experiencing and feeling so empathy goes a long way in diffusing the situation. The next time you get annoyed with someone, wish them well in your mind and be kind. You will be amazed how quickly your annoyance will dissipate.
One last but important thing to remember is that the three strategies listed above, plus the fact that annoyances are actually created by our own thoughts, judgements and expectations, all help US feel better, more calm, happier, and less annoyed. In other words, it may seem like the strategies are somewhat passive and docile in nature, but they ultimately work in our favor. Can you imagine being able to avoid being annoyed by others? The choice is yours to make.