Is there someone in your life that really gets on your nerves? You know, that person who you wish would stop being such a pain all the time.
It could be your friend…your boss…your spouse…your parent…your child… your colleague…your neighbour.
We all have these people in our lives.
And, sadly, they have the potential to cause us a lot of misery and heartache.
So what is your story?
Do you endlessly wish for your spouse to be more attentive?
Your parent to be more accepting?
Your child to be more motivated?
Your boss to be more appreciative?
Your friend to be more considerate?
The story we tell ourselves is that if only that person would change then we would be so much happier. Life would be good.
Let me ask you another question. How long have you been trying to change that person?
Days? Weeks? Months? Years?
What tactics have you been using?
Quiet wishing? Gentle prodding? Continuous whinging? Full-on complaining? Maybe even screaming and shouting?
Well, it is time to stop.
Because, here’s the thing: that person is not going to change.
They are who they are. No amount of wishing, whinging, whining, crying, screaming or shouting is ever going to transform them into the person that you want them to be.
You are banging your head against a brick wall.
The real issue is, are you going to continue to give that person the key to your happiness, and waste your precious energy in this way, or are you going to do something more constructive?
Here are 7 things you could try instead.
1. Take Your Power Back
Arrive at the understanding that you do not have the power to change another person if they do not want to change.
You may be able to influence them.
You may even be able to temporarily bully them into doing things your way but, ultimately, you have no power or control over their attitude, their thoughts and their feelings.
Their inner world belongs to them.
By accepting the fact that the only person you can change is yourself, and your reaction to the situation, you immediately reclaim your power.
2. Become Mindful of Your Communication Style
Everything we do in life evokes a positive or a negative reaction in others. This is particularly true for the way we choose to speak to those around us.
Reflect on how you verbally, and non-verbally, communicate with the person in question.
Are you positive, constructive and supportive? Or, are you negative, critical and undermining?
None of us like to be criticised. When we are around people who project negativity, cynicism or resentment towards us we instinctively go into self-preservation mode.
Persistent complaining is rarely helpful or productive. It does nothing but harm relationships. In fact it is often counterproductive.
The more you judge, criticise and condemn, the more you push others into a corner and force them into responding in one of two ways:
a) they either come out fighting in an attempt to defend themselves, or
b) they retreat (emotionally and maybe even physically) in an attempt to psychologically protect themselves.
Neither of these outcomes result in the positive change that you desired.
In fact, more often than not, in an attempt to defend their position, they are likely to become even more entrenched in their beliefs and behaviour.
Empathy can be defined as the ability to identify with or understand another person’s situation or feelings. Spend some time reflecting on what life is like for the person you find irritating.
What is currently going on in their life?
What could be going on that you know nothing about?
What pressures are they under?
What feelings, or inner demons, might they be struggling with?
How have others treated them throughout their life?
What kind of parenting and circumstances were they subjected to as a child?
What is it like for them to be on the receiving end of your desire for them to be different?
How does your attitude towards them make them feel?
4. Get Real
Another important question to ask yourself is: is this person intellectually and/or emotionally capable of becoming the person you want them to be?
Do they have the knowledge, the skills, the mental or emotional intelligence to change and be different?
Often people are just not able to be who we want them to be even if they try.
They don’t understand what you want from them. They don’t have the inner resources to be different. They simply get confused, upset and demotivated.
5. Do Some Shadow Work
Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist, introduced the idea of the human shadow.
Our shadow contains all the parts of ourselves that we try to hide, deny or suppress. It is the keeper of all the aspects of ourselves that we dislike, and the qualities that we judge in ourselves as unacceptable.
Our shadows wear many faces: angry, critical, fearful, lazy, controlling, selfish, weak, pathetic… These are the faces we don’t want to show the world and the faces we don’t even want to show ourselves.
Most of us do an excellent job of denying and suppressing these less than pretty parts of us but life has a way of mirroring our shadow back to us through the people around us.
Nothing in life happens by chance. That irritating person is likely to be in your life for a reason.
Spend some time thinking about exactly what offends you the most about that person.
Then, reflect on how comfortable, or not, you are in owning those same qualities in yourself.
Shadow work is deeply transformative. If you are interested in how to work with your shadow then you will find Debbie Ford’s book “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” a great self-help read.
6. Find the Humour
Humour has the ability to build rapport and close the distance between people.
When people laugh together, the seriousness in any situation disappears and a bond of trust is created.
By allowing everyone to relax, humour diffuses conflict and stops resistance. This, in turn, provides the opportunity to move forward. You can begin to work together as opposed to against each other.
Furthermore, when someone is having fun with you they are more likely to be positively influenced by you. You can instigate change subtly.
Are you able to introduce some humour into this relationship?
If not, then are you able to introduce some humour into your own thoughts about that person?
7. Tell Yourself a Different Story
You could argue that there is no reality outside of the human mind. We live in the same world but we all see the world differently because our perceptions are shaped by our own unique beliefs, experiences and filters.
Ultimately it is our choice as to which version of reality we focus on.
Wayne Dyer said, “Change the way you look at things then the things you look at change.”
This is not new-age mumbo jumbo. It is being scientifically proven to be true in the world of quantum physics.
Life will show you exactly what you expect to see. If you are looking for the negative quality in that other person you will definitely find it.
Therefore, why not simply tell yourself a different story?
Look for evidence of exactly the opposite behaviour and then see what happens to your attitude towards that other person and your relationship.
Relationships are an ideal arena for our ego to play its power games. The game of non-acceptance of the other is a common one.
By making someone else wrong, we make ourselves feel right and by default, superior.
We project our own wishes and desires onto others and expect them to obediently comply with our view of the world. And, when they don’t, we use that as justification to feel angry, hurt and unhappy.
What screws us up the most in life are the pictures we hold in our heads about how things should be.
The key to freedom and happiness lies in having no expectations and accepting people exactly as they are.
And, if you really can’t tolerate someone then, stop for a moment and ask yourself:
"What stops me simply stepping away?"