I’ve written before about how random acts of kindness can make a huge difference to others and boost your own happiness.
In this blog, I’ll write about how little things can cause big problems. Like a dropped match that lights a wildfire, small irritations, if not addressed, can flare into major confrontations. Manage annoyances well and you will avoid major problems. Avoid causing annoyance and you’ll reap the benefits.
Workplace mediations are not always about major incidents. Often it is a gradual deterioration of goodwill and growth of suspicion. Relationships die from “a thousand small cuts”. Interestingly, it is often in the caring professions or with kind people that this escalation seems to occur. “I didn’t want to be petty” “I didn’t want to make a big issue of it” “It seemed unkind to say something about such a small thing”.
Like a small cut that becomes infected if ignored, small annoyances can fester. Or the last little thing ends up as the final straw and the situation explodes. For example, Buzzfeed lists 11 little things that they say irritate everyone.
On the other hand, we don’t want to start a conflict over a small issue.
So, what’s the best way to handle those small daily annoyances that are the result of living and working with other human beings?
Between stimulus and response is the freedom to choose. – Viktor Frankl
- Stop: Pause and Reflect. Ask for more time if you need it.
- Think: Is my instinctive response right/safe?
- Breathe: Deep slow breaths will calm you & clear your mind.
- Move: Moving releases stress. Stand straight & smile
2. Check your understanding
Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, What else could this mean? – Sharon Adler
- Facts: Do I have all the information? What don’t I know?
- Bias: What assumptions am I making? How objective am I?
- Importance: What’s most important here?
- Options: What could I do? What consequences might follow?
3. Manage annoyances well
Don’t find fault—find a remedy. – Henry Ford
- Discover: What does everyone want? What is working?
- Offer: What could you do to help make things easier?
- Remember: Keep in mind the best possible outcome for all.
- Do: Be your best possible self. Make it easy for others.
4. Be clear about your expectations and the consequences
When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated.— Brené Brown
Don’t assume people know what annoys you. Speak up kindly. Assume that they don’t know that you find their behaviour annoying.
Ask, don’t demand. Here are two resources to help you manage annoyances well.
So, next time you get annoyed, pause, check your understanding and manage annoyances well. In the meantime, I’d love to know what little things really annoy you at work? Take two minutes and get it off your chest (anonymously here or email firstname.lastname@example.org)