Imagine a gorgeous summer day. You have the day off and you’ve just settled into a wonderfully comfy chair on your back deck, coffee nearby, newspaper in hand. You are only two paragraphs into the front page article when someone starts to splash you. Water is coming from somewhere else in the back yard — probably the swimming pool, you realize — and it’s landing on you in spurts and waves. You ignore it; whoever it is will probably stop when he/she sees that you aren’t reacting. The splashing continues. Now this is getting a little annoying. Some water is getting into your coffee! More splashing. The water is making your newspaper soggy! How dare they!

You finally turn, ready to berate whoever is doing all the splashing. Suddenly, you realize you’ve been horribly wrong — the person splashing you is drowning, and what you perceived as intentional interference was them trying to stay on the surface and breathe.

I relate this little parable to illustrate a point: most people who are annoying are actually “drowning.” They are drowning in some pain from their past, or from something they are experiencing here and now. Here are 3 keys to help you deal with these annoying people.

1. It’s not your job to determine what is making them drown.

A lifeguard doesn’t stop to analyze why someone is going down, he just responds to save their life. The same goes for you — you don’t have to analyze the person who is annoying you to figure out what his/her issues are. That’s not your job. If you are being annoying to someone else — let’s face it, we all know when we are — then you’d best get to work and figure out what is going on in your head. Don’t be afraid to face whatever you find — bringing it to light automatically lets some of the air out of its tires, so to speak.

2. You don’t have to save them.

Just like in a real emergency, sometimes, the best thing to do is call 9-1-1 and stand by. You wouldn’t try to be a lifeguard if you can’t swim or do the job of a paramedic, would you? We’ve all heard how a drowning person can push his rescuer under. The annoying person in your life might need professional help. By all means, if they are suicidal, don’t leave them alone and do call for help (9-1-1 or a suicide hotline), but if they are just being annoying and you feel like it’s more than you can deal with, you absolutely have the right to walk away. They are only hurting you because they are hurting, and it isn’t necessarily your job to intervene. You may need to protect or distance yourself — set some boundaries — so you don’t get “pushed under.”

How you respond obviously depends on your relationship with the annoyer. If they are a mere acquaintance or a stranger, you might not do anything at all. Since they aren’t literally drowning, just let them splash — why waste energy being offended? If they are your customer or client, then it’s most likely your job to find out what is wrong and try to fix it. If you are in a relationship with the annoying one, then you will probably want to throw them a line (depending on the nature of the relationship). If your spouse or child is the one doing the splashing — pushing your buttons and ticking you off — see what you can do to help. Read on.

3. If you have decided to help, give immediate assistance first.

Lifeguards know that when a person is sinking to the bottom of the ocean, that’s not the time to try to teach him/her how to swim. Get them to the surface and save their life. Swimming lessons come later, and will probably be taught by someone other than the lifeguard.

Your job as spouse — this is what you signed up for when you said “I do” — is to give essential help to your annoying spouse in the form of loving attention.Your significant other is probably splashing you because he/she feels neglected or unloved — like you haven’t been listening or that you don’t care.

  1. Take a deep breath, get past the annoyance of their actions and remember that you love this person and the best way to help is to show it.
  2. Stop what you’re doing and listen. Let them know you care.
  3. Now is not the time to bombard them with advice on their issues or analyze their faults.

The above is equally true for children; when you became a parent, it also became your job to make that little person feel loved. It’s easier when they are babies compared to toddlers or teenagers! I have heard that 90% of the time, little children (age 1 – 4) cry because they feel disconnected from their parent(s). I’m sure the same is true for older kids, just replace “cry” with “act out.”

I can’t tell you specifically how to make that important person in your life feel loved or what the best form of attention may be, but I am sure that if you think about it now, when they aren’t annoying you, you can think of a few ways. Keep those ways in mind for the next time your buttons get pushed and, after that crucial deep breath, put them into use!

Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook