Annoyed by people you can’t avoid?

Do you have people you can’t avoid that annoy you and want to handle them more effectively?
Normally I think of this situation at work, but I’m sure it applies to some people with their families on Thanksgiving.
I build on the following two principles and apply them to personal relationships:

Great teams are built on strengths.

Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for improving things to the extent you can.

You behave differently in different situations and with different people. So does everyone else. I think of it as everyone having facets — different faces they show different people. As with a gem, each facet shows more complexity to a person than you could possibly exhaust. Since people keep growing and changing, you never run out of parts of them to observe and interact with. I also think of it that if I were trapped on a desert island with anyone, I expect I would never run out of things to learn about that person.
By contrast, if you built a team on weaknesses, you could cause the best teams to fail.
If I find someone boring or annoying, I take for granted that however boring or annoying the facts I see they have facets I could find interesting. Then I take responsibility to find those interesting facets. If I find them boring, I don’t blame them. I take responsibility for bringing out parts of them I like interacting with. I look for strengths to build teamwork on. I know that with anybody, no matter how awesome, if you pick them apart enough, you’ll find parts you don’t like. Anyone could do that with you. Does that make you a bad person or hopeless? No.
This perspective puts the onus on me to develop social skills to improve such situations. It also motivates me to because it suggests my efforts will reward me.
It doesn’t oblige me to look for these facets. I keep in mind that if I find or create a better option than interacting with this person, I can walk away. Improving my BATNA (if you don’t know this term, start here, it’s one of the more important ones you’ll learn about relationships) works in these situations too.


When relationships aren’t working for me, I take a leadership role to improve them by believing others have facets I’d enjoy interacting with. I build teams on strengths.
I also keep in mind if I can create a better alternative I can walk away. I choose my battles.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Chris

    I have a question for you: While people do have different facets, the different facets are usually shown through their social skills, mainly, their ability to communicate.
    What if their ability to communicate is the facet I don’t like? Say, I try my best to lead the discussion, go to topics both find interesting, but they always end up holding a monologue or trying to convince me of something. Or they drift away in their mind, babbling away some stuff to a point where communication annoys me.
    Extreme example: Think of a pothead that’s stone high and try to bring out different facets. How would you do it? Especially in a family environment where you might be together a couple days and can’t just ignore that person?
    You could go ahead and try a different channel. Play a game, do something else than talking. But this has its limits, especially if the environment mostly only allows verbal communication. Hmm, tough.

    1. Joshua

      I still take responsibility to improve the conversation myself. If I can’t find a way to succeed, I do my best to learn something so I can do better next time.
      One of this blog’s major themes is “Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can,” which this post — — covers. I live by that strategy, which has improved my life as much as any other. This post — — describes an extreme example of dealing with someone I didn’t like dealing with, but finding ways to make the relationship work for me. He was a lot harder to deal with than the example you gave. The benefit to taking responsibility over just blaming him and accepting fate was tremendous. I still benefit from overcoming those hurdles today.
      I can’t make every conversation rewarding and productive, so sometimes this strategy doesn’t work, but I succeed a lot more today than before, which I credit to experience.
      As I mentioned in the post, also, if I can find a better alternative to working with someone difficult, I’ll do that too.
      I hope that helps.

      1. Chris

        Thanks Joshua for the post links. I just downloaded them for my kindle and will read them tonight.
        It’s interesting how incapable I feel sometimes. Yesterday some friends (a couple) were over. We played a board game. He has the tendency to bitch at her about nothing. Like “Gosh, I told you this would happen if you did that move” in a really annoyed tone. It’s a tiny thing I’d usually ignore, but it’s not so tiny anymore if it happens for an hour or two. It adds up to a point where I get annoyed of his immaturity and of her inability to handle his bitchy mood properly. But I get also annoyed of my own incapability to handle this situation in a better way and lead it somewhere more pleasant and the only thing that happened was that my own mood darkened over the course of the evening.
        Anyways, I’m telling this anecdote not for actual help (I’ll read your posts and bought your book to find my own strategy), but to give a typical example where tiny annoying behaviors of other people that aren’t a big deal add up over the course of an evening or a weekend.

        1. Joshua

          I think things like that annoy everyone. The big change for me was realizing if I had a problem with behavior like that, it was still me who had the problem. That gave me the responsibility and ability to improve the situation. That change and realizing the value in developing compassion.
          I’ve come a long way in handling situations like that, but I have a long way to go. Things like this take time for me.

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