Is someone on your team at work driving you crazy?
Is another member of your club or association significantly impacting your enjoyment of the activity?
If your job or activities require you to spend time with someone who continually pushes your buttons, it’s time to go back to the age-old, sometimes-annoying-but-always-true fact: you can’t control anyone but yourself.
Instead of focusing on what the object of your irritation is doing, choose to change your own approach to the situation.
Irritation can reinforce itself; if you don’t shift your thoughts about the person, your frustration is bound to increase, and it will likely have an impact on how you are showing up and acting yourself.
Here are six tips for tricking yourself out of annoyance and into proactive transformation.
1. Turn the person into your teacher.
Without a doubt, my most difficult professional and personal relationships have offered me some of my hugest learning opportunities. I’ve come to believe that people who cause us to experience the most conflict have the potential to be some of our greatest teachers.
Ask yourself, what do I have to learn from this person? What about me is reacting to him? What buttons is he pushing? Remember—he didn’t put the button there; he just pushed it.
2. Try to imagine the person as a child.
It’s so easy for us to unleash our anger and harsh judgment on the other adults in our lives! Remember, though, that person was once a child, somebody’s little boy or girl. If we all made the extra effort to be patient with adults that we do with children, this world might be a much more peaceful place.
Your annoying colleague/activity partner was once a baby, a third grader, an awkward teen. Just as you became who you are in part due to your experiences and models, so did she. And just as she did when she was a child, she has vulnerabilities.
We tend to be forgiving of children and believe in their potential. Can we grant our adult peers the same generosity of spirit? This exercise can help you step out of your judgment and tap into your compassion.
3. Try to imagine the person when s/he is alone, getting ready for work in the morning, or getting ready for bed at night.
This might sound strange—but this thought exercise can help soften your anger and frustration as you get in touch with the human side of someone you’ve written off as a known quantity.
Just like you—just like everyone—this person gets into bed at night, perhaps reviewing the day, regretting perceived mistakes, hoping for some things to be different. What might he be worrying about? What might he wish for? What ongoing or new struggle is he facing?
Tuning into your compassion and empathy can help you to be more patient with someone who you’re accustomed to thinking of only as “that annoying guy” or “that woman who makes my job hell.”
4. Choose one to three admirable qualities in the person to observe (and maybe even emulate).
Everyone has some good qualities. Yes, everyone!
What qualities do you admire in this person—no matter how crazy the rest of her makes you? Look until you find some. Raising this question and seeking an answer tricks your brain into noticing the positive things instead of focusing so much on the negative ones.
Sometimes we even dislike someone because she boldly expresses a quality that we feel we can’t or shouldn’t. What does this person do that you secretly wish you could do too?
5. Make a point of doing a secret small kindness for this person every day.
It may sound crazy to go out of your way to do something nice for someone who drives you crazy—but this strategy can really do amazing things.
First, it gives you a focus of positive engagement. What’s more, you may notice brightening this person’s day could impact his or her behavior positively.
The point is not to draw attention to what you’re doing, but to see what you can secretly do. It’s amazing how looking for ways to be kind to someone can invest you in his or her well-being—and you may be surprised at the ripple effect.
6. Ask the person for their feedback or suggestions on something.
Bring the person in to help you and he may very likely show you a different side of his personality. By showing him that you value his opinion, you’re demonstrating respect for him. And who knows—when you approach him in this way, you might even find he has valuable wisdom to share!
If you use the advice you get to good results, be sure to circle back and tell him. Showing such appreciation will build the relationship.
Have you transformed a negative relationship at work using these or other strategies? Share your experiences in the comments below!