What to Do When a Person Annoys You

We must learn to deal with people even when they annoy us.
... Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The world is filled with people who have irritating habits, so it's inevitable that sooner or later you're going to run across one of them. The usual response is to become frustrated, but it's more effective to react in a more relaxed manner. If you don't react out of frustration, you might just succeed in changing the person's annoying behaviors. Even if that's not possible, you can learn how to handle similar situations in the future.

1 Think Before You Act

Do a little soul-searching before you react. Decide why you find this person's behavior annoying. Sometimes we become aggravated because someone dared to disturb us even though it's possible to tune them out if we really try. Try to divert your attention to something else. Remind yourself that it's best to not react immediately. Take a deep breath and focus on pleasant thoughts before you respond so that your response does not come from a place of pure frustration.

2 Control Yourself

If you believe someone is deliberately trying to annoy you, you may struggle to control your emotional response. But often the best way to respond to an annoying situation is to give no response at all. Marcia Reynolds, Ph.D., in her article, "How to Deal with Annoying People," on the Psychology Today site, explains that people can diffuse negative energy by not fighting back. She also suggests controlling non-verbal behavior; for example, making an exasperated expression or mumbling nasty remarks is likely to inflame the situation.

3 Confront with Compassion

Focus on how the other person is feeling. Don't attack and put him on the defensive. Instead, make "I" statements rather than "you" statements that often sound like personal attacks. For example, try saying, "I'm having trouble concentrating on my work because I need a quiet space," rather than, "You're making too much noise. I can't concentrate." Listen attentively when you get a response and try to understand the other person's point of view. It's easier to be patient when you understand what the other person is dealing with. Judith Orloff, MD, suggests that when dealing with a difficult situation, it's helpful to feel empathy toward the person at the other end, who might be acting out for some specific reason, such as being afraid or hurt.

4 Walk Away

It's not always necessary or desirable to respond when you become annoyed. Walking away can be a sign of strength. Engaging in conflict takes a lot of energy, so it's often best to remove yourself from the situation. Responsible people recognize when a situation is beyond their control. If no solution is likely, it's best to let go and walk away.

5 The Bigger Picture

Learning how to get along with difficult people is a valuable skill to develop. People admire those who are able to rise above petty annoyances and focus on the important tasks of life. Put your situation into perspective by asking yourself how much this will matter in the future. Keep in mind that confident, secure individuals are less bothered by petty irritants.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.