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Dealing with Annoying People

In my work as a life coach, I hear a lot about the people and behaviors that drive others nuts. Controlling people.  Pushy people. Just plain annoying people. 

The first step in dealing with annoying people is to figure out why they annoy you so much.  You might say "it's obvious - it's because they are an annoying person" but I challenge you to reframe that statement to "it's because I am annoyed by them".  There's a big difference.  The first statement puts you in a victim position "they are doing it to me; I have no control over how I feel about it".  The second statement takes responsibility for yourself and is more empowering.

The next step in dealing with an annoying person is to identify why you are triggered by the other person. Is it because it seems that they are trying to control you?  Or put you down? Or something else?  Getting awareness about exactly what it is about the annoying person is a big step towards defusing your irritation. 

The truth is, we are often irritated by people who display the very qualities that we most fear in ourselves. So say you are an extremely hardworking person but some of your co-workers take a more relaxed approach to work (in fact, you would call them “lazy”). If their behaviour REALLY bugs you, it may be because you fear and reject any hint of “laziness” in yourself.

So you've figured all that out and the person is still really annoying?  Fair enough. Yes, the reality is that often we still need to live or work with people who present challenging behaviors. So how do we do that?

The first step is to look at motives – theirs and yours. Ask yourself what specifically is it that you object to? Is it that they won’t do what you want them to? (that’s called controlling). Is it because they do things to you that you find unacceptable? (that’s called boundary violation).

“Controlling” gets a bad rap, and deservedly so. As you know, we only have control over ourselves. We cannot make someone else change.

But wait…not so fast! The truth is that although we cannot force someone else to change, we can often communicate with them in such a way that they change themselves. Same thing with boundary violations – it’s our responsibility to speak up to let people know what is unacceptable in our presence.

The good news is that recognizing what it is about you that is triggered by someone else's behaviour is a powerful technique for neutralizing your anger. Usually once you get the awareness, the emotional charge diminishes significantly and eventually the behaviour doesn't bother you anymore. So think of annoying people as a gift: an opportunity to learn something about yourself that will free you in the long-run.

It’s not always easy to do this. We’re in the habit of making the other person “wrong” and maintaining our self-righteous stance. It takes maturity and compassion to recognize a part of yourself that you had previously denied – to admit that you are not perfect. However, the more you accept your own humanity, the more accepting of others you will be. And the bottom line of that? Less stress, more happiness.

(Key concepts covered in this article: annoying people, self awareness, boundary violations, controlling, emotional triggers)

Barbra Sundquist, MPA, IAC-CC
Founder, LowCostLifeCoaching.com