It’s inevitable that we will become irritated at times with the people we spend the most time with. It happens in romantic relationships, within families and even at work (you should see the irritation that occurs in a classroom with kids that have been cooped up together for too long!). Close proximity over extended time leads to friction, and friction often leads to abrasion. Small tics and habits that once seemed innocuous wear thin on the temper’s hide over time, scratching away until an open sore is revealed.
It’s easy to snap as the offending stimulation continues, lashing out at the other as your patience wears away. It happens to all of us at times; we bite out tongues as long as we can until eventually, our tongues bite back, often escalating a one-sided irritation into an all-out confrontation.
But what if it was possible for you to sooth your own irritation before your temper flares? What if you could be conscious of and change your thoughts in such a way that the irritant no longer rubbed you raw? What if you could take charge of your responses and, in turn, avoid irritation and its escalations?
It starts with acceptance. See and acknowledge the entirety of the person that bothering you, their gifts and their burdens. And so often those are two sides of the same traits. For example, if you need something done by a deadline, I’m your woman. My sense of responsibility and propensity towards anxiety means that I’ll take care of it. But have me as a passenger in your car when we’re running late for some appointment? Yeah, those same traits are going to drive you crazy. And, as is so often the case with someone’s struggles, I know that it drives people crazy (it does for me too), but it’s not something I can completely hide either.
Make a rule for yourself that you’re not allowed to be irritated if somebody does something or neglects to do something else if you haven’t asked first. It’s not fair to get upset because someone has yet to perfect the art of mind reading. Begin by assessing the reasonableness of your request. If my sneezing bothers you and you inform me that its like nails on a chalkboard whenever my sinuses blow, I’ll sympathize but there’s not much I can do. If, however, you hate it when I neglect to put the seat back after driving your car, please let me know and I’ll make sure I slide it back.
Muffle the irritations with gratitude and a smile. I find this to be so incredibly helpful with those minor household irritations. For example, if I have to start my Sunday cook-a-thon by clearing Brock’s clutter off the counter, I can feel those prickles of irritation starting to speak. As soon as I sense their presence, I respond by very actively and intentionally recalling recent good deeds and words he has bestowed upon me and our home. The mess pales in comparison to his selfless trek into the cold to make sure I had wood for a fire, his sweet note still resting by the coffee pot and the new retaining wall he organized and paid for that ensure that our driveway won’t wash away with the next deluge. I then clean up the clutter with a smile. The other benefit of this method is that it clues you in to issues that are more serious than minor irritations. The the gratitude doesn’t silence your ire, something needs to be addressed.
We don’t live in a vacuum. Consider the surroundings and the circumstances when you find yourself getting annoyed. If you’re sick, or stressed or overwhelmed, you are going to be more prone to irritation. That’s not the other person’s fault; don’t lay it at their feet. You are the responsible for managing your own stress levels and obligations. And if you’re sick, maybe staying in bed helps others as well as you:)
And if all else fails, take a break. It’s amazing how quickly an abrasion heals once the friction has stopped.