They’re like mosquitoes on a hot summer night – those irritating and annoying people. They can be found anywhere from our families or coworkers to drivers on the roadways to complete strangers we encounter while on vacation. Their quirky behaviors and annoying habits can ruin our day. Other than blow up, walk away, or simply endure their lack of sensitivity towards others, we often feel powerless to do anything about it. Uncle Joe who thinks he knows everything, a spouse who is chronically late for even the most important events, people who interrupt or bite their nails or cannot complete a sentence without saying “um” a gazillion times – augh! They drive us crazy!
Being annoyed is the mildest form of anger and subsequently takes the least amount of effort to address. If left unresolved it can easily progress to anger, then aggression (the 3 A’s of Anger, as I refer to them – annoyed, angry, aggressive), each becoming more intense in nature. What is it about those people that make them so irritating and perhaps more importantly, what can we do to get them to stop? Actually, the problem isn’t with them at all. Feeling annoyed is a state of mind, an emotion, and all emotions originate in our thoughts. While their actions may be less than what we consider ideal, we choose how we interpret them, feel about them, as well as how we react.
There are several reasons why other people’s behaviors bother us, such as when they behave in ways that are different than ours or what we deem to be normal or appropriate. It’s easy to place labels and judgments on others and the moment we do so we experience feelings about them. We compare their behavior to our own: “I would never do that” or to others: “No one else behaves that way.” And since our behavior is acceptable to us then the logical conclusion is that there must be something inherently wrong with theirs. We view their actions as flawed.
When others don’t live up to our expectations of what we believe they should or should not be doing or who they should or should not be, we feel disappointed, uncomfortable, or concerned about their well-being or perhaps about our own welfare within the context of the relationship. Opposing belief systems, as well as behaviors, lend cause for discomfort and concern. A law firm comprised of three generations of attorneys finds a rebel grandchild who chooses to start a rock band instead of continuing a long-established family tradition. The older generation cannot comprehend why anyone in their right mind would reject a foolproof career choice for one of little certainty. They cannot discuss any aspect of it without becoming agitated and annoyed.
In some instances, people will try to manipulate the other party into changing their ways with such statements as “Why can’t you be more like your sister/me/everyone else?” Or “There’s something wrong with people who act the way you do. You need to get some help.” Other times they may ban certain subjects from discussion or may even choose to disengage with the bothersome individual.
Humans, by their very nature, do not feel comfortable with those who are different. We tend to date the same kinds of people and socialize with those we share common interests with. When someone enters our world who has even the slightest quirkiness we are quick to criticize. We feel uncomfortable, out of our element, and want them to conform to our standards in order that we may feel at ease. Keep in mind, however, that annoying people are not the problem. Problems only exist in the mind. They do not view themselves nor their beliefs or behaviors as problematic. They are at peace with them. It is only the outsider, you or I, that labels it a problem. Therefore, the problem is not them but with us. You and I have the problem and likewise are the only ones who can institute a solution. Keep in mind, too, that unless an attitude or behavior is illegal, immoral, or a threat to my health or well-being, I have no right to ask or expect anyone to change anything about themselves. Just as I expect others to accept me as I am, so must I be willing to do the same first.
So how then do you stop someone from annoying you? Below are some suggestions in no particular order:
1. Remember that being annoyed is a personal choice. No one can make you feel anything. All emotions originate in the mind. Change your perception (thoughts) about them and the feelings will change accordingly.
2. Remove all expectations of how people should be or act. Never should on anyone. People are not here to live up to your expectations. Respect them enough to give them the freedom to be who they are.
3. Life is meant to unfold naturally. You can force a rose to bloom in a greenhouse in winter but it will not survive the harsh conditions of its natural environment. So it is with people: each has to grow and bloom in their own time and way. Let go and let God. It’s all in His hands.
4. Make light of the situation but do not make fun of it or the individual. Interject humor to diffuse your exasperation for your own sense of well-being. Put things into perspective. Remember my 10 year rule: if I won’t remember it or it won’t matter in 10 years then it’s not that important.
5. Be compassionate if the situation warrants it. Sometimes those who have odd behaviors are struggling with deep rooted personal issues.
6. Be understanding. Everyone journeys through life in their own time and way. Every experience and choice they make has purpose and value to them. It is all a necessary part of their evolutionary process.
7.Stay out of their business and focus your attention on your own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. “Wherever you direct your energy is where change will occur.” You cannot change others; the only change you can initiate is within. Let go of the need to fix or change anyone other than yourself.
8. If their behavior puts you at risk, speak with them and set some reasonable boundaries. Keep in mind that they must be fair and realistic with equal consideration for all parties.
9. Be aware of your own behavior and how may be impacting others. It is not only the other person who can prove to be irritating.
10. Understand that every person who enters our life, every experience we have, no matter how bothersome we may think it is, has purpose and value. Learn to trust in God. Find the significance in everyone and everything. In that way, rather than being annoyed, you can appreciate the experience and find inner peace and acceptance.
In conclusion, annoyance is the mildest form of anger and if left unaddressed can lead to more serious conditions. Never allow small insignificant irritations to rob you of your joy and tranquility. Being annoyed at someone is a matter of judgment. “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Once aware, we must be more diligent in allowing others to simply be. “It is what it is” is a mantra that helps to restore the serenity that slips away when we allow other people to bother us. We cannot change how others behave but we can certainly, and must, determine how we allow them to impact us. Inner peace matters most.
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