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15 Feb '11

Who Really Irritates You?

Posted by T.J. Addington in emotional intelligence (EQ)

Ok, so all of us have them in our lives – often in our extended families or in the work place. The challenge is that unless we can understand the source of our irritation it is easy to react back in ways that we really don’t want to. Irritation produces anxiety and often reactivity that is counterproductive to a good working relationship – as well as causing internal discomfort.

Often when we encounter someone who regularly irritates us we don’t stop and ask the question, “Why do they cause me to be reactive inside?” “What is it about the individual that triggers emotions in me?” We cannot change those who irritate us, but if we can understand the emotional trigger that gets to us, we can work on managing our own emotions so that the irritant does not get in the way of our working relationship. At the least, we don’t want to have to deal with negative inner emotions each time we interact with the individual.

The truth is that while there are indeed irritating people in this world, or those that have problematic emotional intelligence, in some cases our internal angst with another individual is more about us than it is about them. They unconsciously trigger something in us which is what we want to defuse. At this point it is about our emotional intelligence and our ability to manage our own emotions and reactions. Even if their own EQ is so problematic that they irritate many, we still want to be able to manage our own emotions so that they do not cause us internal conflict – regardless of their behavior.

Part of the answer is learning to try to understand those who irritate us: how they think, process and make decisions. Concrete thinkers, for instance, are very different from conceptual thinkers. Both can irritate the other but if we seek to understand their thought patterns we can better appreciate how they come at conclusions and handle situations.

Often, we just need to consciously ignore those things that irritate, make a decision that they are not going to cause us angst and keep our emotions in check when interacting. After a time, we can simply learn to manage our own reaction which in the best case leads to better relationships and interactions and in the worst case keeps us from being eaten up internally by another’s issues or behavior. In the worst situations, one is probably dealing with a major EQ deficit which is a major challenge. In that case we recognize it for what it is, deal with the individual appropriately but don’t allow their dysfunction to trigger angst in us.

The one key in all of this is not to make assumptions about the motivations of those who irritate. If we assume their motivations are evil, which they rarely are, we will be unable to turn a corner. If we assume that their motivations are reasonable we will be able to accept or at least understand their differences – or quirks – and move beyond our irritation. At least that is the goal!