Do people do things just to annoy us?

How many people at work do you wish were different? And if they were different, wouldn’t life be much easier?  

Why limit it to the workplace … let’s get real, and include family members, lovers and children too?

Stress comes in many forms, and the biggest place we experience stress is in relationships.  When the people we work and live with don’t meet our expectations we get frustrated, angry and disappointed.  And don’t think the feeling isn’t mutual …it is.

What if, instead of judging someone about what they do, we thought “I bet that person has a very good reason for doing what they do.  I just don’t know what that reason is?”  Because we don’t know their reason (and I can assure they have one), we make one up.  The problem is the reason we make up is often highly inaccurate.

What should we do?

  1. Ask them their reason why they do what they do? It may seem simple. The trick is to ask from a place of curiosity.  If we ask from judgment, believing we know best or better, they will get defensive.  Imagine you really don’t know, and get curious.  
  2. Listen to their answer.  They may not know themselves. Notice what they say. Do they get defensive? Are they aware of their behavior? Do they care that it affects you?
  3. Explain as neutrally as you can how this is impacting you. Use phrases such as…

”I notice when you (are late for our meetings), I feel (frustrated) and (afraid I won’t be able to meet my deadlines).  

“When you (check your cell phone during our conversation), the impact on me is I get (distracted from my train of thought) and lose my focus.  

The more you can be neutral in your dialogue the more relaxed you and the other person will be. Do not come from a place of blame. Make your statements as matter of fact as you can.

  1. Make a request to get agreement on what is possible moving forward.  Use empowered statements such as “I need or I want” to help the other person understand what you really want.  Eg I want (you to be on time).  I need (you to put your phone away during our conversations).  Ask them “Will you do this?” 
  2. Be prepared to negotiate. For every request, expect a “yes, no or counteroffer”.
  3. Expect it not to work all the time.  Human beings behave from well ingrained and practiced patterns. The trick is to notice your pattern and to change YOUR behavior to create a different result that works for you.

This strategy is great for work, and home. Stating our needs, wants and expectations with our loved ones means we may not always get things to go exactly the way we want, but we can begin to slowly shift some ingrained habits and improve existing relationships.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a person in your life, or your latest business problem, sometimes the best course of action is just letting go.  There is only so much we can control.  

Trust that you are doing the best you can.  Trust that others can take care of themselves?  Trust yourself first and do what you can.

And know when it’s worth having the difficult conversations?

Ask for help. Set boundaries. Communicate with those who need to know what’s going on. Don’t make the other person wrong (or you right). Instead just state the facts in a way that expresses what you need. Watch and learn and always be curious.