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Episode 33: Feeling Annoyed

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I’m Hannah Coles and you are listening to The Confidence Catalyst Podcast episode 33: Feeling annoyed.

Feeling annoyed is one of those sneaky feelings. You can be having a great day and then you see/hear something and before you realize it you’re kind of crabby and snippy and you wonder what happened? Then it dawns on you, “oh, it’s because xyz happened and it annoyed me”. Everyone experiences feeling annoyed from time to time but maybe it’s actually something more prominent in your life than you think. All those seemingly little annoyances are actually creating more challenges for you and blocking your ability to create the life you really want. Tune in today to find out what you can do when you’re feeling annoyed. 

Holiday season

Welcome back, everyone! Happy November! It’s fall and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. The stores are already decked out in holiday attire and my daughter and I saw Santa has already set up shop in the mall. I love the holidays and all the fun that accompanies this time of year but I’m also very aware that with this funness there’s also a lot of family and friend time, there are more people wandering the stores, parking lots that normally are empty or at least moderately full are now to the brim full. There are lots of little annoyances that are floating about that can ruin this magical season. 

When you’re annoyed

So that’s what I’m bringing you today. What to do when someone annoys you. This will be so helpful because we each have our own preferences, things we like or dislike. Things we believe no one should ever do or say and yet people still do those things. Use today’s podcast as a guide to help you not just survive or get through life’s little annoyances but to thrive and rise above them without changing the other person.

Here’s the thing, we think we need to DO something when we’re annoyed. When people say or do things we don’t agree with generally our first instinct is to think, What can I DO to make it stop?

STOP!

When your kids are whining or complaining, screeching or crying and you just want it to stop. When that one car races to get around you on the freeway and then drives 50 mph and you’re left thinking, “are you kidding me?” When that family member tells that story again for the 1000th time, and you’re thinking, “yes, we get it already”. When the stores are too full, the lines are too long, when you have to wait more than 5 seconds for the link to pop up on your phone. When the restaurant gets your order wrong or the bagger at the store forgets to put the one item you really needed in the cart so you have to go back and get it. 

Life is full of opportunities to feel very human, to experience the full spectrum of emotions but today I want you to take a trip with me into the land of annoying and all the little annoyance and inconveniences and things that can add over time and impact your life.

What annoys you?

What annoys you? When was the last time you felt annoyed? Why? What was it? What happened and what did you do when you felt annoyed?

Okay, so Pop Quiz time. If you’ve been listening for a while this will make more sense to you but if not, you can follow along. Let me paint you a picture before I ask you some questions.

Pop-quiz!

Suppose you go to the symphony to hear your all-time favorite piece being performed. Do we have any symphony enthusiasts here? Suppose you drove quite a distance to get there and you were more than happy to do so because, well, it is your favorite piece. Suppose it was also a special occasion so you paid a pretty penny to get up close, amazing seats. 

You’re excited. 

You’ve gotten all dressed up. 

You settle in your seat and let the beginning stanza just washes over you. 

You’re feeling elated and fully immersed in this magical moment…

that is until the patron next to you starts humming along only, she’s just a hair off-key.

Off-key patron

At first, you try to ignore it, to tune it out but it just gets louder and more noticeable.

You can’t take it anymore. The off-pitch humming is still there, still loud, and still annoying. 

You glance over at her and give her a look that says, “Listen, lady…you’re not on the program today. Please refrain from singing”. 

But it doesn’t phase her.

So, quiz time!

Do you 

A.) Set a boundary and tell her to stop?

B.) Lean over and ask her politely to stop?

C.) Be passive-aggressive and keep giving her dagger “looks” and hope she stops?

D.) Switch places with the person next to you and let them deal with it?

E.) Do thought work and let the how figure itself out

If you guessed D, switch places and let the other person deal with it, you’re correct!

Switch seats?

Just kidding. Don’t do D. Choosing D is changing the Circumstance and as you know by now, the circumstance, what’s out of your control,  is NEUTRAL. Circumstances don’t create feelings, nor do they help you escape feelings. 

Thought work is always the answer and truly I don’t know what the answer is for YOU. If you were in that position I don’t know what would be best for you, only you know that. But I’ll tell you what I did because this happened to me earlier this year. This was based on a true event. 

My manual

At first, I was surprised. I was confused about why someone would be humming at all at a concert. But when I paused to try to understand why it was bothering me, I noticed that the humming was annoying me because of my preferences and because of my manual. If you’re unfamiliar with the manual, I’m not going to go into it here but go back and listen to episode 19 to hear all about that. 

My manual said, “people should NOT hum along at a live symphony”

“People should NOT hum along – especially if they’re off-key”

“She should KNOW that my “look” meant STOP IT NOW, sister”

“This should be obvious – symphony etiquette people!”

But it wasn’t obvious to her. How do I know that? Because she was humming off-key at a live symphony. 

Her manual?

I thought for a moment about her manual and why that was okay for her and why it didn’t bother her. 

Her manual probably said something like, “You should be allowed to express yourself”

“If you’re feeling the music, hum along!”

“SHE (meaning me)should NOT be looking at me while I’m feeling the music”

I don’t know what her manual said. I’m just guessing. However, I will tell you that I chose E. I chose to do my thought work – get really clean on my thinking about it and let the how figure itself out. The how meaning, how am I going to get what I want and need. 

I thought about ALL those options I shared with you. C, being passive-aggressive and giving her looks and D, switching places were looking really good but no, I sat there in that beautiful space getting really clean on MY thoughts and why I was allowing a circumstance to bother me. It was after all neutral – that her humming didn’t have to mean anything until I chose a meaning for it.

I didn’t want to do A and set a boundary because setting boundaries would mean that I  state what I want and then also state what I’ll do to protect me if they don’t comply with my requests. And I wasn’t prepared to follow through with that – I didn’t want to leave or remove myself and frankly, there was nothing there to protect me from. 

It was just a preference.

I didn’t want to ask her to stop because she was REALLY enjoying the piece and although I gave myself permission to do so – I chose not to.

Choosing C, being passive-aggressive would result in me clinging to my manual and my “shoulds” and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that or create an experience where I’d feel upset and annoyed at this stranger and then deal with the aftermath aka mind drama that my mind would latch on to, as that happens when we hold tight to our “shoulds”

Choosing D would have been changing the C line and it doesn’t make the thought go away. 

So, E it was. I chose to do exactly what I teach you on this podcast and especially in the membership. I asked myself what I wanted. Which at first take is 

Thought work

I wanted to enjoy the evening and listen to the piece. In case you’re wondering because I know people are going to be emailing and asking, we went to hear Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto which is my all-time favorite classical piece.

I started with CURIOSITY. 

WHY is sound coming from this woman at a concert? Really, that was my first question. The answers were, she loves this piece. It’s beautiful and transcendent, of course, she’s humming. 

It’s an expression of connection and love for the music and for what it means to you.

Curiosity leads to connection

This line of thinking actually made me feel a connection to her. I felt compassion for her because I secretly wanted to be humming too (on key though). Eventually, I got to charity for her. I wanted her to have the best experience that night. I wanted her to appreciate the music in whatever way she wanted. 

I COULD have asked her to stop but then she might choose to feel embarrassed or annoyed with me and I didn’t want to have to do that thought work so instead, I chose to feel love for her. 

It was the better of all the choices because I created the best feeling I could for me. Love feels amazing. It wasn’t for her. It was for me. I felt abundant and generous. I felt connected to her and to the music. 

It was gone

And you know what? I didn’t notice the humming anymore. I don’t know if she stopped of her own accord or if I was able to rise above it but it was a magical evening.

I want you to think about what annoys you. We think it’s not really a big deal, these little annoyances but they add up. What happens is each time you’re triggered – meaning, you see something and you have a thought about it. It’s a preference. You have a thought that they shouldn’t be doing that and in an instant, you feel annoyed – you have a reaction. It happens so fast because you’ve programmed your brain to do so. You weren’t born with that preference. It was a learned thought/feeling/action.

You’ve just perfected it over time so it happens automatically.

Programmed

Each time this happens you’re just polishing and practicing this habit. This leads to other annoyances. You’ve created a super speed neural connections and the more you practice this, the easier it is to become annoyed at everything, the world, everywhere you go there’s something that annoys you. 

Are you starting to see the bigger consequences of what we think are “little harmless annoyances”? That maybe they’re not so harmless after all?

Everything we do is a form of practice. Everything we repeatedly think is teaching our brain that that’s where we want to go. So after a while, that becomes our default. 

Default

When we’re busy and distracted and not intentionally and deliberately thinking about what we’re doing our mind switches to auto-pilot and it runs and operates on what it thinks you want. So if you’ve been practicing seeing something or hearing something – the trigger, you think a thought, and then you feel annoyed.

This is also in part why certain people seem more annoying than others. They may do or say certain things that you’ve categorized as “annoying” so in your mind you’ve given them that label but you’ve also given your brain a directive of what to look for, to be on more heightened alert around this person to notice those things and each time your brain just keeps collecting evidence that this person is annoying.

Triggers

Then after a while, it isn’t even just the certain preferences or triggers that annoy you, it’s seemingly them as a whole. 

It’s all practiced behaviors and preferences. 

There is a solution though. You have to start by getting out of auto-pilot. You have to pay attention to what you’re thinking. 

We have to operate as an emotional adult-like I talked about in episode 32 – we have to own our own feelings. It’s not the thing that’s annoying or the person that is annoying us. It’s our own thoughts about those things that create the feeling of annoyance.

Frank Sonnenberg once said, 

“The only way an annoyance can bring you down is if you let it.” 

It’s a choice

There’s still a choice, always a choice. Most of the time the very things that annoy us about others, other people find endearing about them.

Have you ever talked to a friend and complained a bit about what a certain person was doing and you say, “wasn’t that annoying?” And you’re expecting them to agree with you because to you it’s obvious that it’s annoying but they come back with something like, “Oh, no. I liked it! I think it’s cute!”

TV show

When my son was really little he loved to watch the show, “Little Einsteins”. It was a Disney show where they incorporated music and tried teaching the kids rhythm while solving a problem and riding on a spaceship. He loved this show but it drove me crazy. Each episode they’d ask the kids to clap to the beat to get them ready to go on their journey and they’re counting along as they’re clapping but they were always just a hair offbeat, like delayed a bit and it really annoyed me.

But even here thinking about this, it was a really popular show. My son wasn’t annoyed in the least by it. It only annoyed me because I had a thought that they should be clapping on the beat.

My Thoughts

I had thoughts like, “They’re teaching kids about music, they should be teaching it “right”

The show should fix this.

They shouldn’t teach kids the wrong timing and rhythm.

These thoughts and my background being taught music and timing and rhythm made a case against this show. My thoughts felt so justified. I believed that I was doing it right and they were doing it wrong and because they kept doing it and teaching it, I felt annoyed all because of what I was thinking about it, what my biases and preferences were. I was annoyed because I had a manual for this show. They “SHOULD” teach kids proper rhythm.

Question them

But really there wasn’t a problem or there didn’t have to be one. It was what I was making it all mean, what I was thinking about the circumstance. The circumstance was easy. TV character said words, “come clap with us” and then I interpreted those words to mean, they should clap to the right rhythm. They should be using correct timing and they’re not. They should clap to the beat of the music and they’re off.  It in itself wasn’t a problem it became a problem because of what I was making it mean, because of how I was interpreting it.

It didn’t have to be a problem. It didn’t have to be annoying. My son wasn’t annoyed. The show continued to air and they continued to produce more episodes so clearly other people weren’t annoyed either. In fact, whenever I talked about to any of our friends with kids that watched the same show they were oblivious to what I was talking about. To me, it was so obvious, like how could you not notice?! But in reality, it was only a problem because I was making it a problem. 

I was making it a problem

I was only annoyed because I was interpreting it as annoying. It became my auto-pilot and habitual response to be annoyed at the show even when it wasn’t that part because of how often I had practiced that thinking and feeling annoyed.

I could have thought, “It’s just a fun show encouraging gross motor coordination. If I had focused on that, it’s a show to teach kids to clap, to listen and to respond and there happens to be music in the background I don’t think it would have bothered me at all. But I made it mean that it was a music show and it should teach correct musical rhythm. 

It was never the show that annoyed me. It was only my thoughts and my interpretation of the show that annoyed me.

I annoyed me

When you realize this you also gain so much power in your life. You have so much control over what you want to create and what you want to experience. 

People don’t annoy other people. It’s only ever our thoughts that annoy us and putting it back on your shoulders, do you want to create that for yourself?

It’s like going shopping for feelings and emotions for the day and you get to fill your cart with the emotions you want to feel, is that really one that you’d want to put in your cart? 

You don’t have to be annoyed. I think when we are annoyed it can be a learning experience for us. It can teach us things about ourselves that we didn’t know before, it can show us what biases we’ve picked up along our way and then because of that awareness you can choose if you want to keep them or not. You can question them.

Question them

So when you notice yourself feeling annoyed to use it as an opportunity to question why and not just stating what you think is obvious, like my thoughts, “They should be teaching it right” – question why you think it’s obvious or why you think that in the first place. Pay attention to what you’re thinking and why you’re thinking that. Notice what your actions are when you’re annoyed and what you’re creating for yourself.

Own it

Do you like what you’re creating? Take ownership of it and know that it’s never the outside thing that’s annoying you but rather your thoughts about it. You don’t have to choose to be annoyed. You can choose curiosity. You can choose to be entertained. I actually like it and use that one a lot.

Now owning that you’re creating it is essential because you have all the power and from this space, you’re going to show up in a very different way. You’re not going to be exasperated and out of control, like “YOU NEED TO STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” But rather from a place of ownership and choosing to keep your preferences.

Always options!

This is where the options are. This is how you get to choose A – E of what you want to do and how you want to show up. 

You can make requests and ask from a non-needy space for the person to stop if that’s what you want, not needing them to so you can feel better or change how you feel but because that’ what you prefer, that’s what you like. 

You can set a boundary if you feel that you need to but be prepared to also carry out what you will do if they continue to do whatever it is they’re doing. Boundaries aren’t ever about the thing or about the person. They’re a way to protect you. So if you feel you need protecting then you can also set a boundary.

You can leave if you need to and remove yourself or turn the show-off or whatever it is simply because you want to but again not to escape or avoid feelings. It’s because you’re deliberately choosing what you want to be around and what you want to create.

For next time

So think about what you want the next time you’re feeling annoyed. I know the answer it’s going to be something surface-level at first, like, I want them to STOP doing the thing that I think is annoying – but really, go deeper and find out what you really want. With the concert for me, I really wanted to enjoy the concert, with that kid show I wanted my son to enjoy the TV show. 

My annoyances had nothing to do with me getting what I wanted. Me being annoyed by the TV show had nothing to do with my son enjoying the show. 

The circumstances never create the annoyances. It’s never because of what’s happening around you. You’re annoyed only because of what you’re thinking about it.

You get to choose what you want to create, how you want to show up, and what your experience will be. 

Optional

You don’t have to be annoyed. Feeling annoyed really isn’t a useful feeling and it’s not going to serve you. Find out what it is you want and then do your thought work to figure out what the thought is that’s creating the annoyance. Then figure out what you want. How do you want to feel? What do you want to create?

It’s such an empowering position to know that other things and other people can’t annoy you. They can’t. They’re not that powerful – only you can do that. It’s entirely optional.

Think about that this holiday season. Notice when you’re getting annoyed and remind yourself of everything that was talked about today. Take responsibility and create the experience you really want.

Okay, friends. That’s what I’ve got for you this week. Please don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes for me. I’d so appreciate it! You guys are awesome – really awesome! Talk to you next week!

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