How To Deal With Annoying People Without Gouging Your Eyes Out

Do you ever have to deal with annoying people? We ALL do! Click through for three simple ways you can cope with just about anybody! //
Let’s play a game called “What’s The Most Frustrating Thing In The Whole Dang World?”

My front runners (and there are many):
1. People who repeatedly kick the back of my airline seat
2. People who say inappropriate, disrespectful things (bonus Awful Points if this happens at a fancy event/meal that’s meant to be pleasant or celebratory)
3. When someone who has made different life choices tries to lecture me about mine
Are your hackles going up just reading through that list? No? Just me? Allow me a moment to step away from the computer and deep breathe my way through the memory of that time someone told me I’d “never meet a nice guy” if I kept traveling all the time.
Okay, I’m back.
While deep breathing can occasionally help us navigate The Most Frustrating Situations In The World, it won’t prevent them from happening. We’re bound to encounter perfectly nice humans who try our patience, circumstances beyond anyone’s control, and incredibly annoying people why are doing their best (even if that best doesn’t look the way we’d like).
Luckily, my friends Katie and Jina reminded me that we always (yes, always) have three options when dealing with a tough situation – whether that’s a traffic jam, a snarky coworker, or a less-than-amazing romantic partner.

3 ways to deal with annoying people


Is this easier said than done? Yes. Is it usually an option in some form? Also yes. You can quit the job, leave the cheating partner, move out of that apartment, or excuse yourself from the conversation. Of course, sometimes pesky things like “signed contracts” or “leases” make this harder, but if we’re really, truly honest with ourselves, leaving is usually an option.
I think this is particularly important to remember on dates, in friendships, or in social settings. Would it be awkward if you got up and left the restaurant when your date made a sexist comment? Sure, but it’s still an option.

Say something

If I’m honest, my frustration often stems from my OWN behavior in a situation. Click To Tweet I’m annoyed that I didn’t say something or I ignored someone’s offensive joke rather than challenging it. And we don’t even need to be particularly quick-witted! We can just say “I’d prefer not to” or “What did you say?”
Again, speaking up is sometimes awkward. But isn’t it better to feel a little awkward than feel disappointed in yourself?

Choose your attitude + stick it out

If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, it’s unlikely that you can leave and ‘saying something’ probably just consists of yelling at the radio dj or pounding you steering wheel. Or maybe you’re stuck in an important meeting and leaving or speaking up are simply not options. If this is the case, you can choose your attitude.

Before Katie and Jina told me this, it had never occurred to me that I could “choose my attitude.” In long meetings, my go-to attitude is “bored out of my gee dee mind” and my traffic jam attitude is “frustration bordering on anxiety.”

But what if I opened my emotional contacts list, found the number for ‘Patient” and then stuck with it? What if, before walking into that meeting, I thought “I’m choosing to feel interested and engaged for the next hour and a half.”

I imagine there would be fewer internal eye rolls and steering wheel punches. At least from me.

How do you deal with frustrating situations? Do you think most of them could be solved with one of these options? Which one do you use the most? I’m a leaver/opt-outer!

P.S. How to deal when someone disappoints you

Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash

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  1. Vanessa

    I'm usually the person who says something. Does that make me the most popular girl in town – or my apartment complex? No. But I'm okay with that. I've learned being assertive is better than have a bajillion fair weather acquaintances. &I believe that most people either don't know what they said was offensive, or they need someone to call them out on it. Surprisingly, it usually works. For those people who just don't care – I opt out of being around them as much as I can.

    But there are a lot of other times where nothing can be said or done. I know I can always choose not to be incredibly peeved over traffic or that guy with 20 items in the express lane. It's just really easy to forget. So thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  2. Dineo Maboe

    I loved this article! I will definitely be incorporating these into my life.

    One thing my mother taught me was to apply creative neglect (CN). When people are irritating you and just causing, you suddenly get busy. Then people start to wonder where you have done but they will never find you unless they bump into you. Cue: I have been so busy, I don't even have time to breathe. Because of that, I cannot help you with your query.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Dineo, I looooove the idea of a creative neglect! Seriously, you could write a book on that topic alone!

    • Anonymous

      I lost a friend due to this. She kept telling me she was too busy for me, and it took me a year and a half to realize … wait a second… she can't be that busy all these months… she must be lying! I must have done something to upset her! But by then, it was way too late to fix it because it had become an old hurt, and I lost a very old and very important friend. All because when she said she was busy, I *believed* her, and therefore had no idea that I was upsetting her.

  3. Sarahf

    Where annoying people are concerned, I try to find a topic they are less annoying about. For example, the person who is always complaining about work, but has a family they are really proud of, I constantly change the subject to their family, or something like that. I risk becoming the creepy spinster who is overly involved in their family life, but at least I've lost the urge to scream.

  4. Anonymous

    Love, patience, a healthy dose of respect… and a keen understanding that on some days, you are probably the one doing the annoying, instead of being annoyed, and you would want that same respect and patience in return.

    I work in an environment where we are all kind of socially odd, and all have our own annoying habits, but all have a healthy respect for each other – even the most annoying of us. Some days I might still need a temporary escape if I am feeling frazzled, but I find that a healthy respect for my colleagues and an understanding that they are not on-purpose being irritating, is absolutely key. And this is how a large group of social misfits can have a productive and pleasant working relationship.

  5. Michelle Carden

    Choose your attitude – I'm a huge believer in this! It's totally something you have the power to control and choosing to be positive can turn your day around. Great blog!

  6. Carolina Partners in Mental Health

    Thanks for this great article, Sarah! We work–in various ways–to help people realize and claim their personal power. So it’s awesome to read your reminder that we ALWAYS have options, even when in frustrating or annoying situations.

    We love your three options and also wanted to share an additional strategy from one of our providers, Michael Goulding, MSW, LCSW, who talks about using verbal strategies similar to Aikido when dealing with an annoying person. He writes:

    “Aikido is a Japanese martial art (also known as the art of peace) that empowers people to protect themselves without having to hurt other people. These techniques can be applied to verbal confrontations with others.

    You can use the three steps in an Aikido move in your verbal differences: Evade, Align and Enter.
    Evade – Let the other person’s behavior go by once or twice to see if the person stops on his/her own.
    Align – Let the other person know that you want to be on their side.
    Enter – Establish your boundaries by stating the behavior you expect from the other person.

    By not participating in the argument, you win with the potential of everyone else around you winning too.”

    Here’s the link to the full article, where Michael explains more about these strategies:

    Thanks for writing!

    Carolina Partners in Mental Health
    Durham, NC

  7. Danielle

    First off, great post. I’m already thinking about my annoying co-worker I have to face tomorrow. Wamp, wamp. The job itself is amazing, the one co-worker…not so much. And it’s a great student gig (done in June). I’ve recently started toying with the idea of jobhunting once I’m available for full-time work. It’s scary and exciting to think about. I try to disengage with her and limit my interactions. I choose my attitude of “I’m fabulous and I’m focused on work and I can’t be bothered with your TMI personal life stuff!”. Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t. In the meantime, I’m focused on school and daydreaming about a better paying gig without that specific annoying co-worker. 🙂

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