How To Stop Annoying People

By Maureen McKane, LCSW 

Everyone has annoying traits. Be honest, slow down and you can stop annoying people.

January brings thoughts of self-correction. I’d like to make a plea against resolutions, those promises for enormous change. January’s resolutions are February’s regrets. Instead, why not just reveal one small truth to yourself and do something different.

I’m talking about the ways you manage to annoy other people. I’m wrong, you say? They think you’re annoying but you’re not. It’s just their intolerance. You have good intentions. That’s all that counts, right?

We spend enormous energy defending ourselves, enough to solve the global energy crisis. How tiring that is. What if we turned over the coin?  Heads we are defending, tails we are a better, more honest person.

Perhaps I need to admit I am annoying people (sometimes) and that’s not who I want to be. With that thought I could stop when I do the obnoxious behavior and try something else. I could pay more attention to my child, spouse, friend. With just a moment’s pause I could change direction, stop talking, calm down inside, see the world through that other’s eyes. After all I am not the center of the universe. It is liberating to give up that position. Why not try?

Years spent defending our difficult traits makes an engrained habit. To stop and be honest is disquieting. By honest I mean the moments when you don’t do the automatic thing, like the guy who jokes too much and stops himself instead, or the woman who is quick to give unasked advice, stops herself, remains silent. Your own silence in that moment can shout in your ear. What will people think if I’m not me just as they know me? Will I feel small? Invisible?

Try it out and see. That strangeness is temporary. When you practice change for a while, people around you gradually get used to the better you. That’s when you begin to like the change. You notice more smiles and fewer grimaces.

Did you think the title above meant I wanted you to stop other people from annoying you? Ironically that’s the side effect of changing you. Others look different when you stop annoying people yourself.