I have just completed a master class in dealing with someone who annoys me. It’s complicated, because I also love this person. She is my mother-in-law, and she’s on day 10 of a long visit with us. She’s a wonderful human being. She has a larger than life personality and people love her. But she also can’t resist sharing her wisdom on all matters from what foods I should eat to my housekeeping.
I knew that to prevent myself from exploding during her visit, I needed to get a handle on what I could do to reframe my perspective of her behaviors that annoy me. I want to be a loving and accepting person to all people, even those who annoy me most. A plan came to me while I sat in church looking over the Proverbs. Later that afternoon, after putting my plan into action, my teenage daughter said, “Mom, you seem a lot happier.” And I was, because I found four steps that’ll help you keep your peace when people annoy you.
1. Accept them.
My mother-in-law is naturally organized; I’m not. She sees money as evidence of success; I don’t. And while she bases intelligence on a person’s IQ, I prefer not to. All our differences can pile up, so if I’m not careful, I find myself annoyed. When I don’t accept our differences, I let them disturb my peace. So, first, accept annoying people for who they are—even if you disagree with them.
2. Forget about changing them.
Once you’ve accepted your differences, give up the fantasy of changing them or helping them on the journey to becoming a “better person.” Fixing annoying people isn’t your job. Yes, if we’re talking about our kids, we can guide and shape them. But for a mother-in-law and most other people, that’s not your role.
3. Do good.
You might have heard the saying, “don’t overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Well, that’s what I thought it said. But it actually says not to let evil overcome you and to overcome evil with good. When I choose to do good toward people who annoy me, I’m choosing not to let my anger or immature tendencies overcome me. By choosing to show respect, I am not stooping to a low level. I’m not letting evil overcome me.
4. Keep your distance.
One of the proverbs I read suggested keeping your distance or limiting your exposure to annoying people. I tried this during my mother-in-law’s visit and it helped a lot. I met her needs by cooking for her, checking in on her, and making sure she was comfortable—but I chose to spend most of my time in another part of the house.
How do you handle annoying people?