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How to Deal with Annoying People

Turning down the flame when your blood boils.

On my recent flight from Germany to the US, the man in front of me was so large that when he lay back in his chair, his head was practically in my lap. Not only could I barely open my computer to work, I had to do some maneuvering to eat my meal.

The flight attendant agreed that something was wrong with the chair and brought this to his attention. He said, “Too bad for her.”

The ongoing encounters with jerks are never-ending. It seems that the more people hide their heads in their phones, computers and personal space, the more insensitive everyone becomes, even those of us trying to be nice.

Unfortunately, the more I find myself feeling negative and angry, the more irritated I get with every jerk I encounter. Then I don’t extend warm and welcoming energy to the other people around me either.

Would you like to help put a stop to this vicious cycle? Here are seven tips for preserving your peace of mind when you encounter insensitive and rude people:

  • Accept that being quiet does not mean being weak. You don’t always need to stand up for yourself especially if there is nothing you can do about a petty situation. Pick your battles wisely. Fighting the good fight needs more of your energy than the minor conflicts.
  • Consider how silencing your reaction might shift the mind of the difficult person. Often people who react negatively regret their behavior when they calm down. But if you counter with negative energy, they are more likely stick to their story and justify their jerkiness. If instead you surprise them by shifting your attention elsewhere, you remove energy from the fight. They might give in once their ego is no longer involved.
  • Manage your non-verbal behavior. If you are going to stay out of the fight, don't roll your eyes, mutter under your breath or make an ugly face as you turn away. You are still sparking the fire with your gestures.
  • The best thing to do is take a big breath, let it out slowly and focus on breathing comfortably. You are strong when you control your reactions. The disrespect the person is showing has nothing to do with you personally.
  • Choose one word to anchor your mind until the need to react passes. Choose “compassion” or “tolerance” for the person who obviously is not happy. Choose “calm” for your own peace of mind. Say it over and over like a mantra until you feel the word flow through your body.
  • Think more broadly. What will this matter tonight, tomorrow or into the future? What is more important to you, getting the last word in or living a long, healthy and somewhat peaceful life? Your health has more value than one-upping a jerk. Consciously and deliberately choose your reaction. This is your power. Don't give it away.
  • Regularly rest and rejuvenate. The more emotionally balanced you are, the less the jerks will trigger you.

There will be times you need to stand up for yourself. If you feel your reputation is at stake, or your soul needs you to speak your truth, please do so. But if reacting to a rude person is a waste of time, let it go. Not only do you increase your professionalism, you get better and better at balancing your energies.

More from Marcia Reynolds Psy.D.
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