The thing that I hate about you is everything.
May 1, 2013 11:06 AM   Subscribe

How do you dial it back when you've gotten to the point where you seem to be permanently, irrationally annoyed with someone? Imagine that this is a person who you can't avoid completely - a coworker, roommate, in-law, something like that.

First off, I hope people understand what I'm talking about here, and that I'm not the only one who gets this way. Sometimes I get to the point where just EVERYTHING someone does irritates me. It might start off where it's something small, like a coworker causing me problems through his/her incompetence, or a friend's significant who I just don't much care for, or a roommate with different standards of cleanliness, or whatever. But sometimes, if I'm not careful to head it off, eventually I get to the point where being in the person's presence is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Like, there's this one person; I have tried to be lovingkind and mindful and recognize their inner beauty but I just cannot think of one good thing to say about them. Which is crazy! This person is not, like, Eichmann; but seriously, that's the best I can come up with as far as nice things to say. Maybe I need to get to know this person better? But this person's tendency to overshare is already one of the things that irritates me.

I recognize that these feelings have a lot to do with dissatisfaction with my own life, and I'm working on making some changes there. And for what it's worth, these feelings aren't pervasive or consuming my thoughts (I don't have deep ongoing feuds with my coworkers or anything). And sometimes, in the early stages, I'm able to be more generous and head it off.

So what I'm really asking about is how to turn things around once they've already gotten bad. We don't need to become best friends but I am wasting a stupid amount of energy on this.
posted by mskyle to Human Relations (30 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
I have learned through trial and error that just not giving a fuck anymore is infinitely more satisfying than wasting time on someone who makes you want to eat your own face in self defense. It can become difficult to restrict the giddy, free-for-all I DON'T CAAAAAAAARE to this one aspect of your life, though, so try to compartmentalize.

It can also be highly enjoyable to imagine the object of your wrath or dissatisfaction being gruesomely devoured by various unpleasant entities: velociraptors, small whiny children with extremely sharp teeth and claws, Karl Rove, etc.
posted by elizardbits at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2013 [42 favorites]

You don't need to come up with anything nice to say. You just need to control your behavior and be professional -- say please and thank you, smile when it's called for, do what you can to keep interactions shallow. Even if it's a family member, I think it still comes down to 'be professional. control your behavior.'

And privately hate on them and think whatever you want.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of the principles of Unitarian Universalism helps me here: I say to myself, almost as a mantra, "I affirm the dignity and worth of every person." If you're getting stuck on finding something nice to say about the person, just focus on the fact that he/she is a human being and THAT is a nice thing about him/her. Obviously, you have to believe that fellow human beings have inherent dignity and worth for this to work.
posted by mchorn at 11:15 AM on May 1, 2013 [16 favorites]

Best answer: I have found in those situations one of two things is happening:

1. I find this person threatening in some way. Usually this is not a physical threat or even a threat of anger/hostility, but the person reads to me as the type who ignores boundaries, gets clingy, starts drama, etc. I do not in any way want to get sucked into their personal theater, so I tend to get cold, abrupt, and distant.

I don't consider that a huge problem, really, especially when I'm conscious of it. It's a self-protective mechanism, and as long as I remain civil and it doesn't interfere with work or similar, I don't feel obligated to be friendly with everyone. Boundaries are important, and with some people you just have to set them really far out.

2. I have done this person harm and I am embarrassed about it. This is much more problematic, and requires some careful self-reflection. It's really easy to avoid admitting to myself that I've done something wrong and instead subconsciously blame and avoid the person I've wronged, but it makes life infinitely better to figure it out, apologize, and move on.

I would guess, based on your remark about oversharing, that you're looking at a #1 here. In which case just keep to the bounds of civility and revel in your ability to pick your friends carefully.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2013 [40 favorites]

I like to open up a picture of them in mspaint and doodle terrible things on them. Like big neon green boogers or stylized cocks on their foreheads or dinosaurs eating them.

And then the next time I see them in person and they're annoying me, inside I can be all, "be obnoxious all you want, you dolt, you totally don't even have a face anymore because a raptor ate it because you're dumb and dumb people get eaten."

It's extremely cathartic.

Sometimes I even do it at work with the drawcast app. Shh...
posted by phunniemee at 11:24 AM on May 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

On lack of preview, I see that elizardbits and I apparently should collabor-hate.
posted by phunniemee at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2013 [32 favorites]

Best answer: What I am about to suggest is a tiny bit mean-spirited and gossipy, but it saved my sanity once when I had a co-worker who was just irritrievably dim and incompetent; everyone thought she was an idiot, but she was also the only person who could put up with this one particular executive-muckitymuck guy so they kept her on. And I sat two desks over from her and she never. stopped. talking.

But finally, one day I started a viewable-to-friends-only site of a blog I had where I started keeping accounts of some of the outrageous things she said (I think everyone's favorite was when she came over to me and asked me, totally out of the blue, what species of being Yoda was). It was intended as a good giggle at her expense, but it had a kind of subtle net gain on my attitude as well - I found myself actually happy about all the inane things she said because I had yet another good story. And that...well, it didn't turn my attitude around, but it did have an overall positive effect on how I saw her.

So maybe try that - make mental notes of some of the outrageously overshare-y things she tells you and share them with friends. You may find yourself becoming strangely fond of her, like she's some weird kooky neighbor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2013 [16 favorites]

Also, in work situations I have found it extremely helpful and satisfying to document absolutely everything. That way, when someone fails to do $_THING that I've asked them multiple times to do and the deadline has arrived, I can produce my 10 unanswered emails on $_THING and say "as you can see, I have requested a follow up 10 times from Terrible Incompetent Person and they were unable or unwilling to provide the information needed to complete $_THING." There is no point in trying to be a team player when others are determined to fuck around at the expense of your perceived competence.
posted by elizardbits at 11:34 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

You know, I'm a pretty easygoing person most of the time, but every-so-often I run into someone I just can't stand.

If that person is at work, I do my best to be professional and I distance myself from him/her.

If that person is a family member, I schedule time with him/her such that there are parenthasis around that time. I'm pretty lucky, most of my family members are silly, but harmless. Also, we can gossip about them with other family members. I'm also sure they say stuff about me.

As for people in my social realm, I have total control over that. If a friend is dating someone I can't stand, I'll say something. "Marcy, you know I adore you, but I have to be honest, I just don't dig Patty. I know you love her and think she hung the moon, but I don't see it. Is it okay if it's just you and me for shopping next week?" Sometimes I can suck it up and deal, but if I just want to see my friend, I'll ask for that. Again, I'm pretty lucky, it doesn't happen all that often.

You don't have to like everyone. But you do have to be respectful of everyone. No one is requiring you to have genuine feelings of fondness for life's trolls. You don't even have to imbue them with nice characteristics merely because they are God's creatures. Accept that a portion of the population will get on your nerves, but that in small does, you can rise above it.

Also, clowning people who work your nerves is a time-honored way of dealing with this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: you may also find this helpful.
posted by elizardbits at 11:48 AM on May 1, 2013 [26 favorites]

I recognize that these feelings have a lot to do with dissatisfaction with my own life.

Umm not always. Sometimes someone crunching in carrots in your ear every day is just flat out annoying. Then whenever you see them you think "UHG you crunch on carrots everyday for lunch! I can't stand you!" Then it keeps going. (My dad has a carrot crunching coworker he has told me about.)

Totally normal. However if you are doing this to EVERYONE and all of your relationships are suffering for it, then you need to cool off. Also, sometimes friendships just turn annoying.

Hell, one of my old "best friends" annoyed me SOOO much I told them off publicly on Facebook then deleted them. It actually felt quite good and I have no regrets, however it's something I pretty much never do in general. Don't go around doing that, but know that sometimes friendships get old and annoying.

Also, I am perfectly happy with my life, but I have some family that even a status update on FB annoys me to no end. It is exactly like nails on a chalkboard. If it was easy to cut them out of my life, I would have. (Maybe I'm harsh?)

Maybe I need to get to know this person better? But this person's tendency to overshare is already one of the things that irritates me.

Been there. That person is annoying. You don't HAVE to think everyone is great. You just have to deal with the civilly.

Do you have people whose company you enjoy and has not been spoiled by annoying traits?

-If so, those are people to stick to.
-If not, you may need some anxiety or mild anger therapy to cope with annoying people to be able to have successful long-term human interaction.

I bet there are a ton of people who think just the same about you. You may annoy the crap out of them, but they smile, say "please" and "thank you." Try some breathing exercises to relax in these situations. Just be kind and distance yourself.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:50 AM on May 1, 2013

Listen to the Dandy Warhols and cultivate the door in the back of your head, where you dump out all the crap...

I use this technique all. the. time. and it really does work.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:03 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is passive-aggressive but no one ever knew about it, so I would just cackle to myself on my drive home: my solution was to make a bingo card.

I would fill the squares with things that annoyed me and then I would check them off whenever something happened or I would notice them. It was satisfying to "win" this game, and sometimes I would almost look forward to interactions with this person because I was so close to "winning." And then I would toss the card (after NSA-level shredding and dumping into various garbage cans) and start over again.

I knew my dislike for this person was eating away at my ability to behave like a normal, civil person so bingo would help me compartmentalize, acknowledge my dislike, and move on.

(I also use this to deal with certain socially anxious situations, like parties where I don't know a lot of people. My bingo card will have certain phrases, behaviors I notice in others, and most importantly things I challenge myself to do. On the drive home, I hope I won AND enjoyed myself.)
posted by hmo at 12:06 PM on May 1, 2013 [28 favorites]

Best answer: In theory all the mantras about "be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle" and blah blah are the noble and good way to handle this, right? We all know this.

You know you SHOULD like this super sweet dude with the corny puns who talks like a cartoon character, especially since he greets you every morning and sometimes brings in donuts, but... You CAN'T. And knowing you SHOULD like him only makes things worse. Because it's not just that he annoys you, it's that his very presence reminds you what a shitty person you are for not being able to appreciate the "dignity of each human being on the planet". So you get colder, and more standoffish, and feel crappy every time you don't laugh at his puns, and why does he always have to bring in those freaking donuts?! Like the guilt of eating donuts for breakfast wasn't enough burden on its own?! So you vacilitate between guilt and resentment, corny mantras and velociraptor MSPaint carnage, and on and on and on.

This is a pattern I know that I get caught in quite frequently (for reasons I haven't yet paid a therapist to expose) but recognizing this in yourself, if you identify with it at all, may help you to draw the boundary between "that guy tells awful jokes, and it's ok if I don't want to be around him all the time because of it" and "that guy has ZERO redeeming qualities, who does he think he is?! I don't even like donuts!!"

For me, it really helps to put my annoyance in perspective, and give myself permission not to care for a particular personality type. Good luck.
posted by ista at 12:14 PM on May 1, 2013 [13 favorites]

There is someone in my life who is unavoidable. She is a cruel genius, creative but ignorant. And she can just be plain mean. When she does something inexplicably negative, I whisper to myself, "I am better than that."

Then I took that mantra, printed it out in beautiful calligraphy, and hung it in my home. (It helps. A tiny bit.)
posted by HeyAllie at 12:15 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is no SHOULD like someone. You have no obligation to like everyone. It's largely a matter of taste.

You also don't have to like someone to recognize their inherent dignity and worth as a human bean.

It's tough, but you just have to accept that there are some people you're not going to like, and set your boundaries.
posted by tel3path at 12:23 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Communication! You don't mention having said anything to these people. Say to the over-sharer "I'm not sure I'm comfortable knowing that" or "I am a pretty private person" or anything directly in response to their oversharing.

Say directly to your roommate "good god sasquach, wipe out the sink when you're done shaving!" or "I know you like things tidy but can you not move my books around?"

Give voice to things you notice right away, before they even annoy you. Just respond in the moment. "Yikes, really, you have herpes? Good luck with it but let's not go there again, ok?" And then you have a baseline that you can return to. "Dude, TMI." and then "dude." and then just a look. And it stops. As opposed to nodding and seething, as the person thinks you're getting closer, shares more rather than less, etc.

I recognize that these feelings have a lot to do with dissatisfaction with my own life, and I'm working on making some changes there.

Until you make those changes, you don't really know if the other people are really doing something "wrong" or if you're projecting, or whatever. So really, turning the focus back to yourself is important. Why does someone else oversharing bother you? Do you have outlets for the kinds of things they share? If not, then maybe it's more of a resentment that they seem entitled to share while you don't get to. (That's me projecting ... I can't stand humblebraggers but it's because I am pathologically incapable of tooting my own horn even when I want/have earned major props). So, see that your own needs are being met and maybe you won't resent others for going all-out for theirs.
posted by headnsouth at 12:24 PM on May 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

There is no SHOULD like someone. You have no obligation to like everyone. It's largely a matter of taste.

You also don't have to like someone to recognize their inherent dignity and worth as a human bean.

It's tough, but you just have to accept that there are some people you're not going to like, and set your boundaries.

Oh my god, this, so hard. I've recognized, after years, and therapy, that I don't have to be friends with people if they annoy the shit out of me or make me feel like crap (usually these two go hand in hand). I'll be polite, but distant. They're free to live their life--away from mine. It feels so good to say to yourself, you know what? I don't have to hang out with this person who makes me miserable. I can minimize our interactions and therefore the psychic discomfort.

Maybe I need to get to know this person better? But this person's tendency to overshare is already one of the things that irritates me.

Um. No, some people just suck, are socially inappropriate, are noxious or tone deaf or whatever. I think you need to read the Five geek social fallacies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:39 PM on May 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I find this saying very helpful:

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.
posted by samthemander at 12:43 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to be clear: I don't want to be *friends* with this person, I don't need to *like* this person, but I am going to have to continue to interact with this person on a regular basis for some time, so, FOR ME, I want to learn to find this person less annoying.

This has been a great mix of answers, though - a good combination of nice passive-aggressive things I can do on my own and other ways of looking at the problem person.

posted by mskyle at 12:48 PM on May 1, 2013

I always remind myself "you don't have to LIKE everyone, but you do have to be kind". This has been my own coping mechanism (and a mantra I taught my son) for letting myself off the hook when I start to spiral around how much I don't like someone. It's OK not to like them. It's just not ok to be an asshole**.

** for ME - if you want to be an asshole, I will try super-hard not to judge, and I will return to the top of this paragraph :)
posted by ersatzkat at 12:49 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I want to learn to find this person less annoying.

I work with someone who just annoys the hell out me for no reason, and I minimize all my interactions with him. No friendly chitchat, just business, and then I get the hell away from him.

And while I don't think I have to go out of my way to be kind to him, I don't have a right to be rude. (As much as a "Shut up and get to the point already!" is always lingering on the tip of my tongue).
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:37 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As others have said, it is okay not to like someone, as long as you're civil. Accepting that might lessen your annoyance. I also find it very useful to consciously avoid focussing on annoying people: if, for example, someone comes in late all the time and it bugs you, find a way to be otherwise engaged in the morning so you are not aware of their arrival time.

It can also help to try to remember that most people have no idea that they are annoying, and might actually have positive motivations for the things that get on your nerves. A few years ago, I worked with a woman who grated on me and everyone else. She was intelligent but had no judgement or political sense, and would overload everyone with detail and then get angry when told to cut to the chase. She was extremely impatient and critical of the system we worked in, and didn't hesitate to vent her feelings no matter who she was talking to. She also constantly demanded special time off due to her family circumstances, blathered on about the details of her plans, and would walk out on important work meetings in the middle of the main point if her partner called her cell.

Then she died, tragically, on the job. We had a work memorial service for her and I had to write the eulogy for the Big Boss to deliver. I had no idea what to write so I made a list of all the things I remembered about her (all of them annoying) and tried to turn them into positives. And, a funny thing happened as I wrote "she was fearless in speaking truth to power" and "she valued her family above all else." I realized that it was true, and that she had never set out to bug everyone, but had, however ineptly, been struggling to do the right thing. (Maybe this person is "trying to bond with everyone," or is "incredibly open and honest," rather than an over-sharer.)

So now, whenever somebody really gets on my nerves, I imagine that I have to write their eulogy. It usually makes me feel better, if only because I get to imagine them dead.
posted by rpfields at 2:18 PM on May 1, 2013 [101 favorites]

Hmmm. After reading all these comments I am beginning to wonder if I may be a person who causes so much consternation in the lives of others. I wonder because I have gone through life without ever having to interact with people who were so (?) that it caused me to think about them even when we were no longer in the presence of each other. In other words I may have been a 'carrier' of consternation. Now I am going to spend the rest of my life worrying about whether people were faking friendship, neighborliness and kinship.
posted by notreally at 4:46 PM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

I laugh at myself when I get like this. I mean seriously, I get to a point where nothing at all that they do is admirable and it is nothing to do with them how I feel at that point. That's all on me and my ridiculousness. So I rant to myself a little, getting more and more stupid about it and then laugh and then let it roll away in the laughter. I still don't like them, but I choose how I react.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:20 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was never a more diligent kickboxing student than when I would tape a stick figure drawing of my most annoying coworker to the bag...
posted by marylynn at 7:34 PM on May 1, 2013

As I see it, everyone in my life is trying to teach me something. Sometimes this lesson is patience. To be honest, this is often a really annoying lesson to be learning. On the other hand, the art of dealing with people is a good thing to get better at.

I try to remind myself that most people aren't being annoying "on purpose," and it's quite possible/ likely that I do annoying things too. People can't read minds. In the case of housemates, you might say, "hey, I understand that you need ____, but I feel ____ [when annoying event happens]. Would it be possible that you do ___ instead?"

On the other hand, sometimes the reduction of annoying behaviors is not possible. Thus... I try to expend as little energy as possible focusing on annoying person...otherwise the annoying person wins.

Then I try to reframe the behavior. Sometimes a person can't help it that s/he does this annoying action. Or maybe this person's mother never taught him/her appropriate behavior in this case.

Sometimes it works out to make a game out of it. Play "buzzword bingo" or make a (non-alcoholic) drinking game. Don't forget to give yourself "experience points" for handling the situation well.
posted by oceano at 9:01 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've reached the "bitch eating crackers" stage.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:51 PM on May 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Lower your expectations of that relationship; both lower what you expect to get out of it, and limit what you put into it.
posted by talldean at 12:00 PM on May 3, 2013

I've viewed some co-workers with a similar point of view, building from mild annoyance at the larger issues, to getting peeved whenever they talk.

Unfortunately, it seems to feed on itself. For me, the best response has been to become cold and professional around them. Focus too much on them, and it takes more of your time than it should.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:03 PM on May 5, 2013

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