Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
Let’s get one thing very straight: The vast majority of people you meet at work are nice, caring and considerate. They go out of their way to be polite, they help if they can and they truly care about the well-being of people around them.
Yes, there are inconsiderate, annoying jerks out there sure, but they are a minority. They may seem like they’re everywhere (just read Bob Sutton’s excellent book The No Asshole Rule for some great examples), but that’s only because we tend to let annoying people take up more mindspace, making them more visible than their numbers warrant.
So how do you deal with annoying people at work?
Outside of work, you can walk away. If your cab driver is a jerk, you can get off and take another cab – odds are you’ll never see him again. If the person sitting next to you in a bar is annoying, you can get up and leave. At work though, you’re not free to leave that easily. In most cases you’re more likely to want to stay and resolve the issue.
The very best strategy is to become less angry. If you can fix it so that it takes more to trigger your anger reflex, you will enjoy greater peace of mind and be more free to act decisively and constructively when you are treated badly at work. You will also be less affected by any petty annoyances.
With that in mind, here are some strategies that can help you become less annoyed on the job. Try some of these thoughts, the next time someone or something really gets your goat at work.
1: Staying calm means you don’t do something you regret later
Sometimes when you get really mad, you may end up doing something rash. If you can stay calm, you’re more likely to choose constructive actions.
2: Getting mad often means staying mad
If you get annoyed here and now, that bad mood may last for a long time.
3: When you stay calm, you really annoy those who want to annoy others
If that person is truly out to annoy you, the very best way to annoy them back is to stay cool. Deny them the satisfaction of getting you riled. They hate that.
4: You only harm yourself
Getting annoyed really harms no one but you.
5: Getting annoyed makes it easier to get mad the next time
You start a cycle of anger – which means it takes less and less to set you off.
6: Dreaming of revenge is bad for you
This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.
– Francis Bacon
7: Getting annoyed makes the memory stronger
Anything you experience while having a strong emotion, will be etched permanently in your mind. This is why some people can remember every little detail of that incident 8 years ago where some jerk cut them off on the highway. The problem is that the memory becomes so strong that it keeps coming back to you and keeps annoying you for years.
8: Instead of getting mad at annoying people – feel sorry for them
Jerks are very often jerks because they feel bad themselves. Hating them is really a waste of time – feel sorry for them instead.
9: Sometimes you’re at fault and blowing up just makes it worse
Sometimes it turns out, that the whole thing is actually your own fault. If you previously blew up at someone, then you look really silly…
10: It’s not about you
Most jerks you will meet are not really out to get you, personally – this is how they treat everyone.
11: It may not be intentional at all
Maybe they have absolutely no idea that they’re annoying you.
12: Losing your temper makes you look bad
Even if you’re in the right in the situation, if you lose your temper you can end up looking silly, petty or unreasonable.
13: Laugh about it
Most workplace jerk behavior is annoying sure, but when you really look at it, it’s mostly pathetic and ridiculous. Laugh at it, rather than get annoyed.
14: Is it a case of projection?
Few things annoy us more than other people displaying the same weaknesses and faults as we fear we have ourselves. If a person really, really ticks you off, maybe that person is just making you think about some weak sides you’d rather not admit you have.
15: Maybe it’s an honest mistake
And most of all: People make mistakes. Don’t read too much into it when people do inconsiderate things. It may simply be an honest mistake.
I want to make one thing very clear: I’m not saying that you should put up with behavior that annoys you. This is not about being meek and humble and never complaining about the mistakes that others make. This is about not getting angry over annoying people, because getting angry is rarely good for you.
Once in a while, getting angry may be just the ticket. It can be exactly what’s needed to unlock a tight situation. I wrote about one such case here – the time I learned to say “no!” at work.
But as Aristotle said – it’s not about getting angry, it’s about getting angry in the right way. And in most situations, keeping your cool is better for you, and produces better results.