Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Can the Person Who Drives You Crazy Teach You?

My question for you: So, that person in your life who drives you crazy but you're not always sure why exactly - you have one of Those, right?

Not necessarily your spouse, child, or boss who might occasionally annoy, nor someone who is obviously toxic/suffering from some sort of readily-identifiable personality disorder. I mean the person who gets to you every.damn.time.you're.around.them.

Maybe this is just me, but there have been a tiny handful of people in my life over the years who seem to be well-liked by other people I love and respect, but who, for reasons I cannot always put an immediate finger on - annoy the ever living hell out of me. Around whom my antennae always go up. Around whom I'm always very guarded. Yet it's like nobody seems to notice it but me. Or maybe they do notice, but they're more forgiving of the person's qualities than I am. Of course, I try hard not to be a gossip IRL, so I never inquire to find out what they truly think of the person.

I was out to dinner with a group last night when one of Those people suddenly showed up. It was rough for me. I tried not to show it, but I was super annoyed - even though the person didn't really do anything actively annoying or offensive. I had to stop and think: what on earth is it about them that irks me so much? These three wonderful people who invited me here have a high opinion of said person, but I'm vomiting in my mouth at the person's every word. (So clearly, I'm going to have to do better due diligence next time before accepting a dinner invite to make sure they won't show up!)

I'm an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and I wonder if the personalities who are very opposite from mine automatically won't mesh with me - such as: very extroverted people who need to be the center of attention all the time, people who gossip in front of groups, people who loudly and carelessly reference events within earshot of people who were not invited to said events, people who are ungenerous with money despite having the means to say, repay a series of kindnesses by picking up a small dinner check, people who toot their own horns excessively and trash other people over silly things like their looks, people who host celebratory events for people they were publicly talking crap about weeks earlier, etc.

I'm channeling some imagined Zen masters with this one-- I'm wondering: What can I learn from the person who drives me crazy, even when they're not actively doing anything wrong?

Got anything for me?

10 comments:

nicoleandmaggie said...

For me, the lesson is to not click on those blog post titles, no matter how curious I am about what it is *this* time. I just wish they were on fewer blogrolls...

I think I'm blessed not to have anybody like that IRL these days.

Let me go line by line with yours:

very extroverted people who need to be the center of attention all the time: give in to your sense of humor-- I find these folks pretty amusing

people who gossip in front of groups -- if it's negative gossip, you can burn a few years off purgatory by vocally countering it

people who loudly and carelessly reference events within earshot of people who were not invited to said events -- at a certain point one has to be relieved not to be invited to everything... this shouldn't be bothersome

people who are ungenerous with money despite having the means to say, repay a series of kindnesses by picking up a small dinner check-- if this is your little sister, have a talk with her, if it's a friend who is ungenerous to you then stop doing kindnesses, if ungenerous to others, then that's not your problem: you cannot control their actions or the actions of the others

people who toot their own horns excessively and trash other people over silly things like their looks-- the former is either amusing or it's a good thing we could all stand to do more of, for the latter, again, an opportunity to burn years off purgatory by vocally countering

people who host celebratory events for people they were publicly talking crap about weeks earlier-- enjoy the event, vocally counter the crap, or avoid the people

hush said...

@nicoleandmaggie - Thank you, my best self agrees with everything you said. My actual self has two sticking points I need to work on - to wit:

"people who loudly and carelessly reference events within earshot of people who were not invited to said events -- at a certain point one has to be relieved not to be invited to everything... this shouldn't be bothersome" It *shouldn't* be, and it usually never is when I'm the one left out because I have a very thick skin, but I can't stand when others are suddenly informed "you were left out" and I'm there awkwardly to watch their pain as they hear it publicly. Awful.

And - "people who toot their own horns excessively and trash other people over silly things like their looks-- the former is either amusing or it's a good thing we could all stand to do more of, for the latter, again, an opportunity to burn years off purgatory by vocally countering" Again, it's a challenge when I'm standing there watching other people get hurt and embarrassed. For example, I didn't find it funny when this person bragged about how effortless it was for their spouse to get pregnant both times in front of the couple who they know is infertile after failed IVF attempt #4. Sure, there's the kind of bragging we should all do more, but there's this other zone of bragging that is probably in some way calculated to hurt but might not be, they might really be that clueless - in any event it's a zone Those people all too often inhabit and it sucks. One thing I could do is to keep repeating to myself: why not act as if they are well-intentioned and did not mean to offend? It's hard.

nicoleandmaggie said...

At some point those folks will also be happy not to be invited to everything. That's something they'll have to work through. Assuming, of course, we're not talking about middle schoolers who are intentionally excluding people.

I'm sure the fertile folks didn't mean to offend. Again, that's something that folks have to work through on their own. Some people are just thoughtless. The best you can do at that point is change the topic of conversation!

eta said...

I hesitate to comment on something so personal & intricate, but I'm going to toss my two cents in, just in case they may be useful. It sounds to me like you maybe do think these people are actually doing something wrong. I mean, when I encounter people doing the things you describe, I tend to think that they are doing wrong things, as it were. I don't have any great help, as when I have these types of encounters, I feel all grumpy & then go home & end up reminding myself of all the thoughtless, selfish, nervous tics I have in conversation & taking myself to task for my lack of kindness & maturity. It's not a good strategy. I do like that story that's in Zen Shorts (a fave of my kids & of mine) about the monk who helps the unkind lady by carrying her across a muddy street. You probably know it, but in case you don't: The monk he's traveling with stews about her ingratitude for a few hours & suddenly brings it up in a huff with the monk who helped her. The helpful monk's reply? "I put her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?" Asking myself why I'm still carrying certain people, or their actions, with me, is the one tool I've come up with that allows me to remember how to laugh--at myself, mainly--and to think of ways I can set them down. And of course, it's been useful in some other ways, too, in that if I can come up with a useful answer as to why I am carrying them--like that I hate my own inability to navigate certain social situations--I can even occasionally find a useful new perspective.

But please, please know this is not advice or anything. (Though I do love the Zen Shorts book by Muth & would recommend it for the pictures of the giant panda alone.) I may have misread your descriptions--innocuous people can annoy as much as harmful people, I know. I think people are really, really hard to navigate--that's why I hate commenting--but I love people & stories & thinking about other lives & other perspectives--that's why I like to read thoughtful blogs like yours (and watch too much tv). I wish I had a concise & effective answer, but I hope my rambly story is, if not helpful, at least diverting.

Got It, Ma! said...

@eta Zen Shorts is such a brilliant book. The librarian in the school where I volunteer read it to all the classes, k-5, during the first couple of weeks of school. I heard it over and over again and liked it better each time. Such simple wisdom, but the simple stuff is often the hardest to get.

hush, I'm with you. I find myself so irked by certain people and your triggers are very similar to mine: extreme self-centeredness (as in, whatever the conversation is, I will find a way to make it all about me); insensitivity; unkindness.

Something that I suspect but cannot prove is that many of these behaviors are the result of some kind of insecurity or unmet need in the person exhibiting them. Sometimes I try to imagine what that need might be and try to meet it. Maybe the person who needs to be the center of attention actually feels like nobody listens, so I try to give my undivided attention.

Sometimes, maybe, it's about a power differential, or feeling powerless. Sometimes people who don't seem nervous in groups are actually ill at ease and they say things they'd never say if they weren't feeling so uncomfortable (As an INFP I've found myself in that category at times, trying desperately to make conversation, but sticking my foot in my mouth instead).

I find if I can concentrate on where the behavior might be coming from and seeing if I can have any effect on it, I at least distract myself from being so annoyed. And occasionally, it actually seems to help. I'm not always zen enough to pull it off, though.

But I try (but don't always manage) to follow the advice I always give my kids about difficult or unkind people in their lives. "People don't generally treat others badly because they feel good about themselves. Usually, it's just the opposite. Imagine what it must be like to live in their skin and you may find you have more sympathy for them than you did before."

When that doesn't work, I find ordering another beer to be rather helpful.

oilandgarlic said...

At least you can pinpoint what characteristics/behavior annoy you? I know in general what kinds of people I like or don't like but at some point, for me it's just plain chemistry (or someone just reminds me of another person I disliked in the past) or maybe it's just astrological signs. Haha.

As an example, I can know 2 very extroverted life-of-the-party types and I'll adore one and get annoyed by the other. Or if 2 people make a careless, gossipy comment, I will get annoyed by someone I already don't like, but be OK if a friend says pretty much the same thing.

hush said...

@eta - I'm so glad you commented, thank you. I needed to hear the story of the Zen monk - "why are you still carrying her?" Indeed.

"It sounds to me like you maybe do think these people are actually doing something wrong." Yes - actually that they've done things wrong before - past wrongs that I cannot forget, that I am still carrying, even though the person they wronged has long since forgiven them and forgotten it. I tend to hold grudges and have too long a memory - that's what annoying folks teach me.

hush said...

@nicoleandmaggie - "that's something that folks have to work through on their own" would make a damn fine mantra. I can waste a lot of energy trying to determine whether someone is just thoughtless but did not mean to offend vs middle schoolers who are intentionally excluding people. I should try to just assume the former and have better boundaries, and accept that this is where they are on their life journey = not my problem.

hush said...

@Got It, Ma! - Thanks, it is so validating to hear that you have the same triggers I do. Pass the beer! Your comment reminds me that there is a part of me that secretly wishes my IRL friends had the same triggers we both do, and that they would get it and know not invite me to dinner in a group with this person - all magically without me having to say anything (mine is a very childish wish, asking my friends to be mind-readers, ha!).

hush said...

@oilandgarlic - Yes, so true about "chemistry."

Your example is spot on and I can relate: "I know 2 very extroverted life-of-the-party types and I'll adore one and get annoyed by the other." Amen, man, why is that? I think for me, the one that maybe allows their spotlight to at times be inclusive of others, or is funny not at others' expense is the one I experience as more pleasant to be around than the proverbial ME, ME, MEAN guy.

"Or if 2 people make a careless, gossipy comment, I will get annoyed by someone I already don't like, but be OK if a friend says pretty much the same thing." HA! I love that, and definitely see the truth there. Gossip is one of those things I tend to perseverate on, and have thought a lot about. To me, the audience matters, and there's malicious vs. non-malicious gossip. Depending on the gossip, as long as it is not terribly malicious or unkind, I can tolerate a close friend telling me something gossipy in a private, 1 on 1 context (and I can also more comfortably push back on the gossip when I'm only talking to one person). But hoo boy, I cannot stand it when someone delivers gossip when 2+ other people are part of the conversation - that is just such a red flag for me about someone's character, and it is incredibly hard for me to tolerate because I know they'll do the exact thing to me or someone I care about when I'm not around.