The story you tell yourself about other people has an enormous impact on the quality of your life. When you assume something about people, it may or may not be true. But it doesn’t matter, because it often says more about you than the other person.
My wife took me to the Hall & Oates concert a few weeks ago. The woman sitting next to me was very excited. She yelled “Whooo!” directly into my ear dozens and dozens of time throughout the night, in a high-pitched, ear drum piercing voice. She recognized that she was not only annoying, but that she was diminishing the quality of my experience. Things were made worse when she stood up to dance and fell into me four or five times. She apologized to me no less than 30 times, each time I told her “No worries.”
I decided that she was doing all of this for the attention of her date. She wanted to seem “fun,” and she was afraid that he might not like her as much as she liked him if she didn’t show her wild side. I have no idea if any of this was true; they may have been married for all I know. My story allowed me to do my best to enjoy the rest of the show with my wife.
The person that cuts you off while you are driving may be late to an appointment that is so important that missing it would put their future in jeopardy. Or, maybe they have a family member who is ill that they are rushing to help. Whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with you personally.
That client that is always in a foul and nasty mood may have low blood sugar. They may be under tremendous stress, and they may be dealing with challenges that are beyond anything they imagined they would have to deal with in their role. They may be going through a messy divorce, or they may have a child failing school. Invariably, their foul mood and negative state of mind has nothing to do with you.
You know this to be true, because you have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, and you have been short with people in your life when there was absolutely no reason for you to have done so. You were annoying to those people who couldn’t understand your behavior. Most of us behave badly when under stress of some kind, and the greater the stress, the worse the behavior.
The key to not being annoyed is to exercise empathy and to be compassionate. None of another person’s bad behavior has anything to do with you, and if you are going to be upset by people that annoy you, you are going to find yourself in a permanently negative state. Instead, tell yourself a different story about that person’s situation, and eliminate the idea that there is any motive towards you personally.
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Filed under: Values