“Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never hurt you.” That’s a common ditty we have all been taught in our lives as children, and probably have oft repeated to our own children. The problem is, it isn’t true. People who call us names bug us. People who tell us they don’t like what we wear, what we do or who we are bug us. If we all made a list, we’d probably have many people on it. The person who cuts you off on the freeway, or the co-worker who cuts their nails at their desk can bug you. Siblings, parents or children can bug us. The list goes on and on and on.
It seems like a simple solution – we should just get rid of those people who bug us. Or, at a minimum we should get them to stop engaging in the “bugging” behavior. If the person who cut you off on the freeway had just driven alongside you at 65 miles an hour, life would be good – wouldn’t it?
The problem is that we see the problem as “out there.” We see the problem as being with the other person. We don’t see it as a problem within us. The name calling hurts us because we allow it to hurt us. I might not mind if someone calls me a negative name, but someone else might be devastated by it. It’s hard for us to comprehend, but the problem really isn’t the person bugging us; the problem is in how we deal and react to that person.
Want to get rid of those people who bug you once and for all? Consider these six keys to turning off your triggers – and in doing so, taking away their power to bug you!
- Practice compassion. That’s right – have some compassion. A person who drives too fast could be in a crisis situation you don’t know about. The person who cuts their nails in their cubicle may have never learned social graces. Many times people are engaging in “bad” behavior because they have other objectives or they simply don’t know any better. Feel sorry for someone who is rude or difficult, instead of rejecting them.
- Turn inward. Notice what is bugging you about the person. What triggers do you have that are set off by someone else’s behavior? Do you hate to lose? Do you hate when someone gets something “up” on you? Do you hate when you are ignored? Watch your own reactions and see what you can learn from them. While it is their behavior, the reaction is all about you.
- Adopt a mantra: “This too shall pass.” The person who cuts you off will be forgotten by tomorrow. The co-worker gets left at work when you go home. The person posting nasty things about you online is only a click (“off!”) away and you can remove them. Nothing is permanent. Don’t let someone else’s behavior take on such an air of permanence and importance for you. It will pass – and something else will replace it. Imagine that their behavior just flows through your fingers as you wait for it to go.
- Assume positive intent. This is credited to the NLP community (neurolinguistic programming). People do “bad” things but often for good reasons. My teenage daughter will say that when she was a child, she threw tantrums to get attention. She needed the attention; she just didn’t know a good way to ask for it. Lots of people don’t know how to get what they need. They don’t know how to express themselves in an effective way. They don’t know how to honor themselves, or others. It’s an extension of practicing compassion, but remember that while the intention may be good, the delivery may be bad. It doesn’t make the person bad.
- Take a break. Walk away. Go in another room. Move to another lane on the highway. Go into the restroom and sit in a stall for a minute. You don’t have to stay and subject yourself to someone who is bugging you. Move. Get away. Take a physical and mental break. Go somewhere and take some deep breaths. Think about something that makes you happy. Focus on the good things in your life. Break the connection, and then come back with a fresh view and a fresh mindset to deal with the person again.
- Give up your need to be right. The person may be a jerk. They may do negative things for negative reasons. They may be nasty or unreasonable. So what? What difference does it really make to your life? Abandon your need to be right and to make them “pay” a price. Feel sorry for them and move on. Do you really have extra energy to contribute to their cause? Do you have nothing else to focus on or worry about? Don’t give negative people the energy they need to keep fueling their behavior. Don’t care. If you don’t care, there is no one left there to battle with in the end.
Consider what role you have in the relationship. What do you get out of hating the person, or identifying how they bug you? Focus your attention on more productive and interesting things. Don’t let negative people drain you. Decide you will uncover your own triggers and do something differently next time.