How to better experience an irritating person

butterly and flowers

Sometimes transforming ourselves is the better way to go. At least we have control of our own behaviours!

This past week, 3 people came to me individually with almost identical situations, asking for my help.  The situations were all about someone in their lives who was really getting under their skin, and they wanted to know what they could do to deal with the person. Here is what they said:

  • “My co-worker is so self-absorbed. She constantly puts people down and brags about herself. I’ve tried to ignore and deflect her comments, but she doesn’t seem to get it.”
  • “Someone I work with has it out for me. I’ve never done anything to her, and she looks at me like she hates me and I’m stupid.”
  • “My dad is always been critical of me. Whatever I do just isn’t good enough.  He often makes off-handed negative remarks.”

Here are 3 good ways to deal with such situations that I usually recommend. People often tell me later that it’s worked and they are so happy. You can try some or all of them, depending on your own judgment of what the situation is, what your relationship is with the person, and what you’ve already tried.

  1. Assertively talk to the person in a respectful, calm and non-threatening way to tell him or her what is bothering you. Assertive (but not aggressive) language looks like this:  “I’d like to talk to you about how I’m feeling about something that’s bothering me.  I feel xxxx when you do or say xxxx”.  The idea here is to avoid blaming or labeling the person, such as “You are an insensitive and boastful person.”
  2. Validate facts.  If you are feeling badly and hurting emotionally, validate the truth – what facts exist that validate this feeling?  How much of this is true and how much of this is manufactured in your own mind?  This is a powerful exercise to do. Much of the time, we can realize that we have mostly, if not completely, made assumptions, and our thoughts just are not substantiated.  For example, has the person told you she doesn’t like you?  Perhaps this person just doesn’t realize that not smiling and saying hello appears unfriendly.  Do yourself a favour, and do a reality check on yourself – think about what facts and evidence exist to validate or invalidate your emotions.
  3. Simply observe and say ‘hmmm’.  When that co-worker is spouting off and bragging about herself, stop yourself from being affected by it.  Simply observe the behaviour like it’s entertainment.  This is what I do.  I mentally step back from the scene and watch it/observe it as if I wasn’t part of the conversation.  I find watching such behaviour interesting and I say ‘hmmm’ to myself, rather than getting negatively affected by it. What if you longer let it bother you?  Try it – the freedom you may experience is liberating, and you don’t even have to confront the person.


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2 thoughts on “How to better experience an irritating person

  1. Hello, Wendy,
    I’ve found that assertive “I” statements are almost always effective. Sometimes, though, basic personality characteristics (i.e., people who gossip, complain, boast, etc.) remain regardless of assertive efforts. This is when option number three works very well. Our states of “irritation” often must involve changing our own outlooks and behaviors, especially since we can’t change others’ behaviors. I often think to myself that if someone is being/acting dramatic, I will simply allow the person to have the stage. I appreciate the “hmmm” as a simple response to the observation of others, even when we’re not irritated in any way. Simply observing things as they truly are is powerful.
    Thanks for this post, Wendy.

    • Hi Midge! Thanks for the insight. Nice to hear about your experience too. I love the ‘hmmm’ too – it allows me to mentally step away enough to observe but not react. You’re absolutely right, that sometimes people just want to be dramatic and have the stage.

      Thanks so much for your comment! Have a wonderful day.

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