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Is It Them or Is it You?

Man talking on mobileThink about someone who’s super irritating.

Have you ever thought about why they bug you so much?

If you’ve ever wondered, “Is it just me, or is this person incredibly irritating?,” here are some thoughts on how to figure it out.

It’s probably THEM if:

1. Most people who know them share your opinion.

If they would come in dead last in a popularity contest, there’s a reason. And it ain’t you.

2. You’re not usually triggered by the behavior this person is exhibiting.

When others say or do exactly the same kinds of things this person says and does, it just doesn’t rile you like this.

It could be YOU if:

1. You generally find that kind of behavior annoying, no matter who’s doing it.

A few examples:

  • Helplessness
  • Entitlement
  • Strong opinions
  • Highly emotional
  • Victim mentality

Do any of the above drive you nuts? Do you find it hard to like or deal with people who exhibit these?

2. Other people generally don’t find that person particularly annoying. 

The person who’s bugging you doesn’t have a bad reputation. They do have satisfying relationships, including their share of friends and admirers.

In this case, the source of the buggin’ is inside of you, not in them. Read on to find out what you can do about it.

What to Do When It’s Them

Ultimately, the buttons that get pushed are our own. However, there are a few people out there who just seem to push everyone’s buttons. Call them Universal Button Pushers (UBPs).

If you’ve got a UBP in your workplace, neighborhood, friend circle or family tree, you may get relief just from knowing that it truly IS them and not you.

You can relax knowing that you’re just having a normal reaction to abnormal social behavior.

It’s okay to push back against the behavior of a UBP. In fact, you may do them, yourself, and everyone who knows them a favor by setting some boundaries.

UBPs don’t necessarily know what the problem is. They just know that others don’t seem to like them very much, or that relationships are difficult for them.

By telling them No, or outlining why their behavior rubs you the wrong way, you may become the first person in their lives to offer the gift of useful information.

They might not show appreciation for your honesty at the time, but they will at least think about what you say, if not appreciate the favor, later.

What to Do When It’s You

When it turns out that you have personal buttons a reasonable person might accidentally push, congratulations! You’ve won an opportunity for personal growth.

To maximize this opportunity, pay attention to how you feel around the person who bothers you.

Instead of focusing on how wrong their behavior is, focus on how YOU feel about their behavior.

Let go of the need to be right. Invite curiosity about your own emotional response to this person.

This is hard, but keep trying to focus on yourself instead of them…

Do they remind you of someone from your past?

Do they behave in ways you don’t allow yourself to?

Do they trigger your own insecurity or self-doubt?

Do they share qualities you don’t like in yourself?

Sometimes it’s helpful to practice acting the way they do. You know, do something that bugs you when they do it:

  • Tell the whole world your birthday is coming up
  • Take as much food as you want from the buffet
  • Take an unscheduled break (unless your work culture frowns on it)
  • Wear something a little outrageous
  • Ask for time off
  • Say nothing for an entire meeting
  • Talk on your cell phone in the grocery store
  • Be the LAST person to offer your seat (or help, or anything else)

By giving yourself permission to do these things, you’ll be able to relax a little more when others act like this.

I welcome your comments! Please share them below.

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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