Stoic advice for dealing with annoying people – Stress Management Help
Over recent weeks I’ve become more and more interested in Stoicism, an ancient Greek school of philosophy (and I can tell you outright that philosophy has never been top of my list of things I want to learn more about!). I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a Stoic, yet there is a lot of gold in the writings and approach taken by the Stoics.
And whereas stoicism is often taken to refer to ‘the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint’ (as a google definition describes it), in fact it more refers to ways and ideas to achieve more inner tranquillity, peace and joy in your life and by seeking an absence of negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and fear.
Which of course has huge overlaps with the goals that people describe when they come to see me for help to overcome these issues and to become more mentally calm and feel more confident in themselves (and thus reducing their anxiety, stress and fear).
So here today I’m drawing upon some of this good stuff to talk about how to deal with annoying people, or more accurately how you can take back control so that they no longer annoy you.
Diffusing Stress And Dealing With People Who Annoy You
I don’t know about you but some days it seems like everyone is out to annoy me, irritate me or just plain get in my way. On my walk to the office I often move from the pavement onto the road or stand to one side to let the pass and well over half of them either act as if I’m not there as they go on their merry way or look at me like I’ve just insulted them! They stare at me and snarl in such a way that I wonder what they would actually do if someone did them a good deed that was more than letting them walk on without delay!
On any other day it could be that driver who splashes me with water as they drive through the puddle, or if I’m driving to Newmarket, that person who cuts me up or gets so close behind my car that I can almost smell their breath. Or maybe someone doesn’t say thank you when you hold the door or doesn’t return that call or do that thing they pinkie promised to get done so that you could progress the stuff you need to do. And it could be any other number or interactions with people that can easily lead to stress, frustration and dwelling upon their ingratitude for many hours to come.
(In my house it could also quite easily be, ‘who moved my X’ where X is anything you absolutely need right there and then as you rush around trying to get you and the kids ready and in decent shape to leave the house on time… My wife reads all my blogs and she knows what I’m talking about!! Yes, the sandwich toaster!! Breathe Danny Boy, breathe!).
And, I’ll be honest, there was a time when someone being rude to me would start to press my buttons and I’d find myself muttering ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘don’t mention it’ (once they were out of earshot obviously, this is Britain after all). Or there was a time when I would just clear my throat loudly (hello, I am here nicely standing waiting for you to walk past!) or whistle the tune from the Moana film (‘what can I say except you’re welcome, you’re welcome…‘).
However more recently I’ve taken to adopting the mindset of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor, and once the most powerful man in the world. His advice was to ‘begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil’ (from ‘Meditations’).
I love that! It’s a useful mindset for dealing wit annoying people. Other people aren’t here to fall into line with my own plans and my own perceptions of what people should do or how they should behave (although please and thank you surely are the minimum!). And as much as other people could annoy me and drive up my stress levels, equally I may just as easily be annoying them in what I am (inadvertently perhaps) doing.
Now the other day I was talking to a fellow hypnotherapist about this mindset for dealing with annoying people. He suggested that this is a very negative way to start thinking from the beginning of the day, that is, that as you head out into your day people are just going to get in your way, be rude and very likely annoy you.
However, I take a different view. I think this mindset is very empowering. People are going to do what they will do and chances are some or all of that may not fit in with our own plans. Thus when people are ungrateful or rude then it comes as no surprise and so should not lead to any anxiety or stress (they are just behaving as expected). And even better, when you come across people who are considerate, grateful, kind and supportive then you are able to derive even more happiness and joy from it being unexpected. It’s a win:win!
Thanks Marcus! Speaking of whom, here’s a photo of his bust at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge:
I don’t claim to be 100% perfect in adopting this attitude. There are moments when, quite frankly, people are annoying (remember the disappearing sandwich toaster Mrs Regan!!). Yet the more I adopt this philosophy the more I find that the little things bother me even less, that I am more indifferent to passing ingratitude and that I derive more pleasure and happiness when I encounter genuinely wonderful people (like you reading this!).
If you’ve been struggling with dealing with annoying people then perhaps this mindset/philosophy may be worth trying on for a while?
To your happiness and tranquillity,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket