Here is my column from last week. It is part of general talk I give on assertiveness and explains the problems that occur when we let frustrations accumulate too long. They almost invariably blow up in our faces.
In order to avoid this problem we must first learn to accept minor frustrations. This involves changing our expectations and developing a little more tolerance towards others. However, there is a limit to tolerance. For irritants that are a little too big to be accepted, we must learn to act on them and address problems before we blow up. It may require facing some minor discomfort and risking upsetting another individual, but it will never be as uncomfortable or as upsetting as what will inevitable follow if we wait too long.
Take this pen and shove it!
(Source: Frustrations au panier! Journal Métro, January 25, 2011. Veuillez noter que la première phrase est manquante du site Métro. La voici: Nous en connaissons tous : des collègues dont les petites habitudes agaçantes finissent par nous taper sur les nerfs.)
We all encounter them; colleagues who irritate us with annoying little habits that get under our skin over time. You know the type – people who constantly “borrow” your pen or a note pad and never bring it back, or who always ask for change for the coffee machine, or who never return books you lend them. When these things occur once in a while we can all live with them, when they happen all the time, it’s a whole other matter.
Who’s the bad guy
Let’s pretend your colleague Bob is the guy described above. Nothing he does is worth arguing over. After all, a pen, a notepad, a dollar for the coffee machine, are all minor things. Unfortunately if this irritating habit is never dealt with, one day he will ask to “borrow” your pen and you might say, “Take this pen and shove it up your ***!”
You will soon find yourself in the human resources department having to explain yourself. “But, he…but, but, the pen…the pad…and he borrows books and never…and the dollars…always with the dollars…” When the HR person asks Bob for his version of events he will say, “I don’t know, I just asked for a pen and he had a conniption.”
There is no doubt about it. You will appear to be the bad guy, not him. Not very fair is it? This is what happens when we let irritants fester. Unless we deal with them in some way, they will eventually boil over in us.
Let it go
There are really only two options when we find ourselves around someone like Bob. The first one is obvious: let it go. By this I mean really, really let it go. We all want others to tolerate our little imperfections and occasional absent-mindedness. If we expect tolerance from others, we must be prepared to offer it too. This implies that we must accept minor irritants as a normal part of life. Sort of like bad weather, I suppose.
Deal with it before it’s too late
Some things are not so little and you just cannot let them go. In such cases you need to address them before it’s too late. The key here is that there is no emergency. You can wait for an opportunity to present itself. Many opportunities will be there for you to make a comment or to remind someone to return your things. If you do so before you let your anger grow too strong, your message won’t get lost. If you miss or ignore these opportunities, it’ll only be a question of time before you look like the bad guy.
Posted in Anger and conflict.Posted on 31 Jan 2011