So, you know you are going to have to spend time with people who consistently annoy you every time you see them. How do you feel?
Your first response to this question might be: “Why would I continue to spend time with people who wind me up?”
By far the most common reason for many of us is because we are related to them: we are often obliged to attend family gatherings where we will see people we may not normally choose to.
[The second most common reason is because we are connected to them corporately: group work events/celebrations came second in my non-scientific research of ‘events you wish you could avoid’.]
Family members might not mean to cause you discomfort or pain but some continue to do so in any case. However much we think we’ve ‘grown’ it is easy to revert to ‘type’ in stressful familial settings.
Perhaps there was a fork in the road way back when: — you took one path where they took another or simply stayed in the same place. You went on to live a different life. Yet they still view you as you were in youth, no matter how different your experiences since your last meeting.
[Group work situations can be similarly judgmental. Substitute ‘work’ for ‘family’ if it applies to you]
At the event itself it is your responsibility to protect yourself (and others if possible) from awkward upset, petty arguments and stress. You can choose to create positive change.
- Do not imagine you know what they are going to say:
Part of creating change is to recognise that in a situation where you are sure you will be irritated (because that always happens with those people/in that place), you might slip into a familiar pattern of ignoring what needs to be changed. You might zone out or lose patience. You might even revert to childhood negative tendancies.
2. Change your perspective:
Try positioning yourself differently. Imagine the annoying person’s perspective. Focus on reacting differently and see if the situation turns out less unreasonably. If this were a theatre performance and you were all on a stage, how would you want to be viewed by the audience?
3. Remain calm:
Remember that the world will not collapse if something upsets you. Allow yourself to sit with the discomfort. Do not lose time to anger. Anger is urgent. The heart speeds up. You want to fight back. When you feel this happening, give yourself time to listen to your own heart and time to view others’ perspective. If they still seem unreasonable, learn how to remain in your new enlightened state; brush away the prickly heat under your skin, the pains in your neck, the nausea in your belly. Understand how frustration and anger adversely affect your body.
4. Be serene:
Listen to your heart. How different do you feel when your heart rate changes? Can you breathe it out? Can you respond graciously and wisely, without aggression (passive or otherwise!).
Yes you can.
I work with people who want to overcome challenges. 💝