If you’re human, you’ve had an encounter with someone who has rubbed you the wrong way. Maybe it’s an annoying habit, or chronic negativity, or over-committing while under-delivering. No matter what the personality trait, these annoyances can disrupt our peace and our workflow, and it can also seemingly suck the vital energy out of us, leaving us frustrated and exhausted, and no closer to a resolution of the issue.
What do you do when someone gets on your nerves? After all, on the surface, we know that it’s not nice to not be nice to other people, and we also know that it’s a waste of time and energy to get hung up on how we feel about someone who annoys us in the first place.
Let’s start out by talking about what “annoyance” is. The experience of annoyance arises from negative emotions. These emotions may be anger, frustration, aggravation, impatience, or even resentment. But we have to understand that when we experience these emotions we are allowing the activities and behaviors of other people to affect our inner environment.
After all, who makes you feel the way you feel? If you are responding internally with “me,” you’re absolutely correct! You are the one who makes you feel the way you feel. But, then I will ask you — if you know that you are the one who makes you feel the way you feel, why are you allowing the actions and behaviors of others to affect the way you feel internally? Why are you allowing the external to affect your internal?
We’ve all been there, and maybe you’re still there now. You are allowing the behaviors of others to disrupt your ideal “you.” If you’d do an inventory of your core values, chances are they would include values such as love, respect, kindness, and compassion. And, when we act in alignment with those values, we satisfy them and therefore experience the positive emotions that come along with living in accordance with those values.
If you’re struggling to find a way past the annoyance from others who are disrupting your peace, I suggest that you focus on the act of disconnecting yourself from that other person and the emotional experience that accompanies your relationship with them. This involves shifting from a perspective of allowing the external to affect your internal to one in which you arouse curiosity within regarding the needs and feelings of other people. When you invoke curiosity, you employ empathy and compassion. These are two core values which can provide you with the leverage you need to return to your own core values and re-instate your control over your own personal emotions and be unfettered by the actions and behaviors of other people who may have annoyed you up to this point.
When we arouse curiosity about others’ feelings and needs, we seek to establish a relationship between the two. After all, feelings are connected to needs. If we need something and we don’t get it, it results in a negative feeling. The end result is that usually there is an unpleasant or unwelcome behavior that accompanies it. This may be the very thing that we are observing in those who are getting under our skin or bothering us.
So when we observe that annoying behavior, the questions to ask are, “What is going on inside that person?” and, “Are they struggling to fulfill an internal need?” You can even go beyond that and start to think of what a person may need. Now you need to be cautious that these needs that you’re coming up with are actual needs and not interpretations. An interpretation would be “they need to be right,” where a need would be “recognized as competent.” The two on the surface may sound the same, but you can see that the interpretation employs the concept of “right/wrong,” whereas the other does not. Try to keep needs as objective as possible. If you’re struggling to come up with needs, the Center for Nonviolent Communication provides a comprehensive list that you can refer to for some assistance.
Once we begin to understand that the unpleasant behavior that we observe stems from what I would consider a “pain point,” meaning that they are struggling to have needs met, we become more compassionate and understanding of why they do what they do. Now if you’re not closely related to that person, you can stop right there, and simply understand that their annoying behavior is caused by a non-fulfillment of their needs or values. This is where the disconnect happens. Once you do that, you are no longer tethered to their issues, and you restore your control of your own core values and realize that your happiness is not determined by external circumstances or factors.
However, if you do have a relationship with the other person, you can simply ask them what you can do to help them or help them feel better about what’s going on in their life. You can alternatively share your observations and how it is impacting your ability to meet your own needs, and engage in a discussion toward a resolution of the difficult issue.
It doesn’t happen instantly, but taking that first step and acknowledging that you are in control of your emotions and attempting to disconnect your emotions from the actions and behaviors of others can be a crucial step in regaining your composure and inner peace in the midst of annoyance or frustration. This is such an important step, and it’s frequently one that we don’t even consider, because we’re getting carried away in a negative emotional experience, and projecting the responsibility of our emotions onto another person. This is not correct nor justified because we know that we, and we alone are responsible for the way we feel.
Two last things to consider: Number one, people aren’t annoying on purpose. The behavior stems from a deeper cause. Number two, we may be an annoyance to other people and not even realize it. Our behaviors and actions may be disrupting the peace of others, which is, in turn affecting your relationship with that person. We’re hard pressed to find anyone in civilized society that is actually and intentionally attempting to disrupt the peace and well-being of other people. We all are in this world, trying to do the best we can with what we have. If we can all step back and realize that we’re all cut from the same cloth and going through this human experience all together, perhaps we will gain a valuable perspective that inserts a little more patience and understanding into our lives when it comes to interacting with other people, annoying as they may have seemed to us at one time.