I bet you know some annoying people. (If not, stop reading this post and go back to tidying up your cave.) Annoying people are everywhere: at work, on buses, trains, grocery stores, anywhere people congregate. I recently heard a comedian riff about annoying people at work. He claims this is why he can’t have a “real” job; he’d have to spend eight hours around annoying people. Perhaps you’re smiling in agreement when reading that last line. If you’re not smiling, the comedian believes you may be one of those annoying people.
Oblivion is the Culprit
I don’t work in a big office so my exposure to annoying people is limited. I do, however, attend a crowded yoga class several times a week. We have our very own annoying yogi (sad, but true) in our yoga community. I assume he is a nice, but clueless, man. My guess is that he’s oblivious to how annoying he is with his disregard of physical space and his loud grunts and groans.
In the name of protecting the guilty, let’s call him Ken. Rather than focusing on how distracting Ken is, I began a silent practice of using his grunts and groans as cues for exercising compassion. Some days I’m more successful at this practice than others.
Throughout my life, I’ve had reminders of others’ pain and suffering and how this pain sometimes results in annoying habits. Many years ago, I was part of a work team lead by a young consultant from one of the “Big 8” accounting firms. The consultant drove me crazy with her officious manner and micromanaging style. One day she took off her jacket and I saw angry rashes up and down both arms. I asked her about the rashes and she confided that she had uncontrollable anxiety that caused the rashes. From that point on, our relationship changed and she no longer annoyed me.
These days, with many of us preoccupied with our devices, it easier than ever to be oblivious to others. On public transportation, young, healthy riders may not notice an elderly or disabled person who needs a seat. Distraction (or entitlement) may result in a rider using two seats on a crowded bus or train.
Last week, while doing a yoga posture in class, I glanced under my legs and noticed someone texting while in the posture. I caught myself feeling annoyed but made up a story about an emergency she had to address. My breathing returned to normal.
The best advice for dealing with annoying people is to avoid becoming one. Getting snarky with someone whose habits annoy you serves no function. When asked nicely, riders using two seats on public transportation often (albeit begrudgingly) remove their backpacks or legs.
Staying mindful while sharing crowded spaces with others builds sensitivity. Lately I’ve been monitoring my screen time on my smart phone and am embarrassed to admit how many hours a day I am tethered to my phone. I imagine I’ve been annoying during part of that time.
As I write this post, I am aware of the double meaning of the title “Annoying People.” We can view the issue as other people being annoying (annoying as an adjective) or see the issue of us annoying others (annoying as a verb). Although we have little control over the former, we have complete control over our own tendency to bug others -- or not.