It happens to us all sometimes – another person gets on our nerves, and we feel the irritation rise – sometimes before they have even spoken a word! It happens because we are complex beings – we have different needs, desires and drivers, values, personalities, upbringing and experience… This means there are hundreds of possible reasons why the way someone else operates can be out of sync with the way we would like them to behave. Often this is where irritating problems begin that HR departments end up dealing with.
Finding someone irritating? Whose fault is it?
Differences between us are no one’s fault. They are not only allowable, but also a blessing, albeit one that may be in disguise sometimes. How you respond to another person, is, of course, your choice. Here is something to think about, though:
- Does the irritating person bother most people? In which case, there is something about there behaviour that falls outside of what is commonly approved. Has it ever been tactfully and skilfully addressed?
- Do a lot of people irritate you? In which case, you are probably the one with a behavioural trait that goes against the grain. A short fuse? Exacting high standards? A drive to get things done? Impatience? Have you ever thought about it? Are you the one that needs to be tactfully challenged?
Irritation: What to do about it
1. Firstly, ask yourself why you allow their behaviour to irritate you. What impact are they actually having on you? Be very specific here. Is it really affecting your sanity, health or productivity? If so, something needs to be done. Somehow, you need to change the situation for your own protection. What do you need to be different? Again, be specific, and also realistic.
If the answer is no, actually they are just annoying but doing no real harm, why don’t you try changing your perception of them? Easier said than done, but it is possible.
2. Secondly, spend some time thinking about what it is like to be in their shoes. Really, do it. How would you feel if you were them? For example, if you have an inbuilt need to check every detail because quality and accuracy is all important to you, imagine what it would be like to instead be driven by ‘ok is good enough’ and getting the goods out of the door as fast as possible. Or vice versa. Keep at it until you have it cracked. If you really can’t work out why they act as they do, you have some homework to do in finding out.
3. Lastly, get out of the rut. Do something differently. We are creatures are habit, so even if we decide to be more tolerant, or act differently, often we respond on automatic pilot and nothing changes. Your options here are:
- Respond differently.
- Ask the other person to change, explaining why you would like this and what impact their behaviour has.
- Change the situation. What are the variables that can be altered?
- Change your view. Maybe it really isn’t worth letting it get to you, or it’s a small price to pay for other qualities the irritating person has.
If you are working for a company where irritations are affecting productivity, consider some training or coaching to help your people understand why it happens, and how they can learn to overcome it.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences. Audre Lorde
By Julie Cooper
Author of Face to Face in the Workplace
“If you deal with people you need this book” Buy your copy here