Three Mental Tricks To Deal With People Who Annoy You

Three Mental Tricks To Deal With People Who Annoy You

Something that we struggle with daily, that eats us up and causes stress and anger: annoying people. You know those people. They cut in line, are rude to you in the office or at the restaurant, cut you off in traffic, talk loudly about obnoxious things, play loud music when you’re trying to concentrate, interrupt you and so on.

Image remixed from JM-Design and tommasu lizzul (Shutterstock).

This post originally appeared on Zen Habits.

These offences are violations of the way you think people should act. And so it burns you up. Don’t worry, I’m the same way. If you just keep letting these offensive people get to you, you’ll always be mad or annoyed. Life won’t be very good. But it’s something you can learn to deal with.

I have to admit I’m not perfect at this, but here are three strategies I use that are helpful:

Get Big

I learned this one from Zen teacher Robert Thomas, who uses “Get Big” as one of his slogans that helps him to be mindful. Imagine you’re a two-year-old toddler who can’t have a toy or some ice cream right this minute. This problem is your entire universe, because you have no perspective, and so you throw a fit. This is the world of a two-year-old (I should know, I’ve had six of them). But as adults, we know that this is a very small problem, and in fact there are lots of other things the two-year-old could do to be happy.

Sure, that’s easy for us — we have a bigger perspective. But when someone offends us, we have a small perspective. This little offence is the biggest thing in the world, and it makes us very angry. We throw the equivalent of a two-year-old fit. But if we get a bigger perspective (“Get Big”), we can see that this little thing matters very little in the bigger picture. It’s not worth being angry over. So remind yourself to “Get Big,” then widen your perspective.

Float Down the Stream

When I drive and other drivers do rude things, I often get angry. Then I remember a trick: I imagine myself floating down a stream in a raft, and the other cars are just twigs and leaves floating past me one way or another on this stream. They don’t have to treat me a certain way, because they’re just twigs. And so I serenely float down this stream, not worrying about how the twigs float around me (though I try not to hit them, because, you know, safety first). And in truth, this is how life is — other people aren’t trying to offend you, don’t even worry about you most of the time. They are just twigs floating by. Be nice to the twigs though.

Give Them a Mental Hug

This little trick can transform the way I feel about someone who makes me angry. Let’s say someone has just said something rude to me. How dare they! Don’t they have any consideration for my feelings? But of course, in this reaction, I’m not having any consideration for their feelings — only mine matter. So I try to empathise with this rude person, and realise that they’re angry, or scared, or both. They are being rude as a coping mechanism for their fear. And so, mentally (and once in a while physically), I give them a hug. I have compassion for this scared person, because I too am often scared. We’re the same. We need a hug, some compassion, a little love.

Try one of these three tricks the next time someone makes you mad or offends you. And then smile in serenity, armed with the comforting knowledge that, like me, you are superior to the rest of the world.

3 Little Tricks to Deal with People Who Offend You [Zen Habits]

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer of Zen Habits. He’s married with six kids, lives in San Francisco (previously Guam), and is a runner and a vegan. Read more about him: My Story.


  • Excellent post – in addition to road morons, I hate people eating smelly food at work desk or smoking cigarettes while walking (they don’t realise the people behind inhale their smoke) – don’t think they ever read these blogs though.

  • Ot Grit your teeth and pretend its all ok until 7 years later you bite their head off over nothing in a meeting and everybody thinks you are the A$$ Hole!

  • Nice post! I especially like nr 2. Although you’d have to be a really big person to practise nr 3. I don’t think I’m highly enough evolved for that one. And some people are just terrible ppl who you don’t want to hug, in real life or in your mind.

    • Ignore doesn’t work for me, especially #2. If you can’t be assed driving properly, then i have no respect for you on the road. Too many drivers are so lazy with driving etiquette. No signalling, changing to a merging lane just to gain that extra few places, not keeping left unless overtaking, etc.

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