4 ways to deal with annoying people in your life
Imagine you have a coworker who habitually sends passive aggressive emails. Or a neighbor who always has band practice in the garage until late in the evening. Or a family member who has one too many opinions about your personal life.
Even if you’ve never been in the exact scenarios described above, you’ve likely asked yourself this question at some point: How do I deal with annoying people I can’t avoid?
Avoiding the annoying people in our lives or ignoring their behavior might seem like the easiest way to deal with these situations, but it might not be the best.
“We want to work with others to find a mutually agreeable outcome,” says Sue Parcell, a licensed clinical professional counselor at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “We can’t control other people, but we can always control our responses to people and situations, and that is key.”
Here are four practical tips to help you cope or deal with annoying people:
- Address the annoying person’s behavior immediately. This might be cause for discomfort for most of us, but Parcell says it’s critical to address the issue head on. Otherwise, we start to build resentment toward the individual as they continually exhibit their annoying behavior, leading to a lose-lose situation.
- Use nonviolent communication. When you’ve started a conversation with the friend, family member or coworker, be sure to use nonviolent communication skills to de-escalate emotions:
- Use “I” statements: By starting your statements with “I” and not “you,” you avoid placing blame. Instead, “I” statements help people empathize and lead to conflict resolution.
- Listen intently: “The more we hear them, the more they hear us,” Parcell says. Body language is a powerful way to diffuse what could be an uncomfortable or awkward exchange. Maintain eye contact. Open yourself up to the other person. Repeat back what the friend, family or coworker has said to ensure the message was received.
- Don’t bring up the past: Bringing up a scenario from the past can escalate negative emotions — another reason why it is so important to bring up issues in a timely way.
- Have the conversation in private: Similarly, having a discussion about another person’s behavior in front of others is not appropriate or fair. Doing so can set the other person in defensive mode and escalate negative emotions.
- Find the other side of the story. An open and honest conversation with the annoying individual in your life could reveal another perspective that you may have never considered. Maybe your passive aggressive coworker is going through a divorce and is taking their emotions out on you. Or the neighbor has lost his job, and practicing for local gigs is the only way he can pay the bills right now. Or the family member is overly concerned about your well-being. Honesty and empathy can help you come to a mutual understanding and hopefully a mutually beneficial resolution.
- If all else fails, make lemonade. Even after trying your best to have an open and honest conversation with the friend, family member or coworker in question, there is a possibility that they can’t or won’t alter their behavior. As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Make the best of your situation: Respond to your passive aggressive coworker’s emails with an even tone. Sleep with ear plugs to drown out the sounds of the loud music next door. Redirect the conversation any time the family member gives you unsolicited advice about your life.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is regional manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Health Care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.