Laugh, Cry, Live

Pondering the emotional side of life, beginning to end.

Bah Humbug—Are the Relatives Getting On Your Nerves?

Grandma can talk the paint off a fence post. Brother sniffs up his snot. Sister is always running late. Uncle exaggerates and brags. And Mother keeps asking, “Do you want instant coffee?” even though you hate it and always will. Oh, to endure family time without being driven to distraction! Here are some mindfulness-based stress reduction tips to help you keep your sanity. Read More

Behaviour in company

I have difficulty with much of the advice proffered in this article. Yes, nobody is perfect, and, much as others' behaviour may be irritating, so it is true that one has one's own traits which irritate others. However, if the implication of this observation is that one should therefore put up with others' imperfections, then I feel that view needs a lot of qualification. For example, it often happens that others do not hesitate to complain of what irritates them in one's own behaviour. Above all, it is not my experience that awareness of one's own imperfections lessens one's irritation at those of others. I also do not know what part of myself is "reflected" in behaviours which others allow themselves but which I do not allow in myself. For example, I have suffered for some 40 years from chronic sinusitis which I keep under strict control at all times. As in your example of "Brother Sniffles", it just so happens that I have an acquaintance who for decades before we met and since we met permitted himself to sniff and snort in all sorts of social settings non-stop - all until I insisted he put a stop to it when I am around; lo and behold, he did just that, and not just when I am aroud. Also, I do not see how "self-improvement, self-care, and self-acceptance" are at issue when others' behaviours irritate one.

Behaviour in company

I agree with you, that this post simplifies the issue. And you've cited a case where "say something" was indeed the most appropriate response. When it's a worthy, honest, and helpful endeavor, done with kindness and compassion, saying something can be a gift that leads to positive change. But sometimes, the quirks that annoy us are just people harmlessly being themselves, and these tips are an alternative to "say something" and can help folks be a little bit more tolerant of others. They are meant to be antidotes to judgement, they question the desire for perfection, and they encourage folks to be more curious, compassionate, and relaxed around each other.
And you're right, not every quirk that annoys you is directly reflected in you-- some quirks just grate on your sensitivities, or remind you of someone, or resonate with something you've overcome, such as in your case: your sniffly friend reflected your own sniffly issues, and you were able to reach out, based on this common ground.
Finally, to answer your last question, here's how self-improvement, self-care, and self-acceptance come into play. If you focus on your own self-improvement, you're not so focused on improving others. When you focus on self-care, you know when to "say something" (e.g., a sensitivity to perfume) and when to just let it go. When you focus on self-acceptance, you are likely to be more accepting of others as well.
Thank you for chiming in with great points. I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate and clarify. :)

Behaviour in company

Many thanks, Dr Davis, for taking the time to clarify the intent of the article for me - much appreciated.


One example is that a few years ago, when my neighbor had his music cranked up at a loud volume - I very politely asked him if he could please turn down the volume. He got offended and cranked up his music even louder. Then I called the Police but he just lied to them and made perjurious statements against me. I realized there's nothing I can do to control my neighbor's behavior - or even what he says about me. I realized the only thing that I can control is my own attitude, response and my own behavior. I am more careful to avoid walking past him (several years ago he used to crank up his music to a louder volume when he saw me walk by to return to my house - and he had also threatened me (and harassed me in other ways) - but I had no evidence to prove this to Police - the Police are also poorly trained and totally useless to help in any way in the city where I live). To help my attitude, I discovered some Buddhist teachings that were very helpful - including Mindfulness Meditation. I also focus on certain words like "Equanimity" "Patience" "Tolerance" "Acceptance" etc. and remind myself of the definitions of these words and hope a positive response in my mind to this very oppressive enemy will improve my character.

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Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and author of 6 books, including one about perinatal hospice titled A Gift of Time.


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