“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius
No matter who you are, there will be situations in your life which frustrate you. There will be people that you encounter who will annoy you, those you find difficult to deal with. It may be a personality clash in general or situation dependent. What bothers you, may not bother other people or more likely it does, but perhaps less than you.
Recently I have had a situation that was bothering me. It shouldn’t have, it was inconsequential. But it did. I thought about it regularly, I felt vindicated, they were clearly in the wrong, how could they? – I thought a lot about how to approach them, how to broach the subject, I wondered if I should try to ignore it, to them it was nothing, to me (and others) it was causing disproportionate stress in my life. But after a while, realising that I couldn’t go with the status quo, I decided to look a bit more closely.
Why is it so annoying?
Most of the time it is difficult to pin-point why it is so annoying and frustrating. It is often petty. It may be because of repeated “offences” building up or it may be it makes the offender’s life easier and in your view at the expense of others. The individual’s benefit, impacting the community at large. They like it one way, and do not consider what other people’s perceptions may be as to what is considered acceptable. From your perspective it is selfish, from their perspective it is reasonable, after all, it doesn’t really impact others.
It can end up like the small stone in your shoe, harmless initially, but persistent. An important recognition should be that it doesn’t bother the stone at all, you are doing all the work, the movement causing the abrasion. You may end up feeling the frustration building even in anticipation of the likelihood of the event, during the event and then subsequent to the event. It can end up being very painful, far out of proportion to the event.
Can we all be a little more self-aware?
Perhaps the question should be, what is acceptable when people have different thresholds or levels of tolerance? – Being disorganised or cluttered could just as easily be replaced with care-free and homely.
Perhaps we should all practice and encourage a little more self-awareness? Am I a whiner bringing other people down? Do my preferences impact others? Am I looking for someone else to fix my problems for me? Am I prioritising my convenience over other peoples? – All good questions to help develop more self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the first step in emotional growth and development, yet is so often neglected. Emotionally intelligent people strive to develop this mindset as a priority. By taking a moment to think about how their personal actions may impact others, it initiates two key triggers. One is that is enhances their ability to see things from some other people’s perspective, two is that they start observing their own behaviour more clearly, making adjustments where needed.
What are the approaches to over-coming frustration?
It is very easy to fly off on an emotional rampage that generally does more damage than good, this is balanced against the power of a few “clear the air” arguments, which will probably have a positive long term effect. Perhaps though, it is more useful to look at different philosophical approaches, of course they are more complicated than I have explained below, but I am pulling out a key lesson or insight that they provide.
- Zen – The first step is to accept that it bothers you, rather than ignoring it. Pretending it doesn’t, is like pretending there isn’t a small stone in your shoe. Then after accepting there is, you can then remove it or “let it go.”
- Stoic – Start by recognising what is in your control, that is your internal thoughts and your response to these thoughts. Any negative thoughts or responses are your fault then. Your mind is the one thing that you can control, your perceptions. As you have not shown the offender a better way or been able to convince them to change. Then you are the fool for worrying about something that will not change. The stone did not put itself into your shoe. Ask yourself – “will it matter a year from now?“
- Success – There are obviously numerous “Success” philosophical approaches. A fairly consistent theme though, is to accept the need and benefit of having uncomfortable conversations, as success in life is often directly proportional to the number of uncomfortable conversations you are prepared to have. In most instances, people do not realise the impact their behaviour is having on your psyche, as the action is inconsequential to them. So, speak to them about the facts and your feelings – Your feelings, not theirs.
- Perspective – Accept they have a different perspective, then re-frame the reality. The brain struggles to tell the difference between fiction and reality, which is why Horror movies are scary. This can be used advantageously to re-frame the situation with a false reality. For example, visualise that the person who cut you off, was rushing to the hospital. You know that it probably isn’t true, but I think you’d be amazed how much better you feel.
- Dealing with people you can’t stand (from the book) – Choose to accept that most people have a positive intent. The book contains numerous chapters tailored to specific personality types and situations. The consistent response though is basically a variation of firstly recognising positive intent, secondly trying to see it from their perspective and then thirdly adjusting your attitude and approach to get the best out of them and the situation. Read more here.
So, what is my approach?
All the above approaches are useful, dependent on the circumstance or the personalities at play. By adding some mindfulness perspective, I have the following synthesised six step approach to dealing with frustrating situations:
- Take a moment to breath and reduce the emotional level you are experiencing
- Recognise the positive intent and purpose
- See it from their perspective
- Look for acceptance of the situation
- Adjust your attitude and approach
- Look for and facilitate change either internally or externally
I tried this and it works, but it is quite slow, so for the more trivial, I have found something that is proving to be powerful and effective. I simply use the mantra said out loud and with conviction – “___fill in the blank___ annoys/frustrates me, but I chose happiness“.
Recognising that life it too short to be annoyed all the time, I refuse to give these situations the power they could have over me. I am back in control. So next time something frustrates you, maybe you should try using “…..annoys/frustrates me, but I chose happiness“.