Photo: Jessica McGowan / Stringer
I am, and have always been, very easily annoyed. When I was little, I used to beg my mum to make my sister to stop singing in the car. "But it's a happy noise," she'd say. (She was right. I was being a jerk.) Annoyances are small, not serious problems, and it would make all of us and the people around us happier if we could learn to stop being bothered by them.
Over at Quick and Dirty Tips, Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, writes that patience is a kind of self-control, which, she says, is "the ability to regulate your emotions and behaviour, even when your impulses are screaming otherwise." Thus, patience is a state of mind that can be trained and strengthened — it's not a rarefied state for saints and superheroes. And annoyance, as anyone who's stewed in it will recognise, is a subset of anger.
Hendriksen draws on research about self-control and anger to draw up this five-point guide to letting go of annoyance and find patience:
1. Know that your goal will still be achieved.
2. Give yourself what you need in your imagination.
3. Change your conclusion.
4. Pretend you're being watched.
5. Save the story for later.
1. Impatience and annoyance often crop up not because we're not getting what we want, but because we're not getting it fast enough or in our ideal manner. The line is too long, the flight is delayed, the music is bad, the fluorescents are flickering. Whatever it is, it helps to remember that our goal will still happen — we'll still get to make our purchase or eat our meal or whatever. Focus on that.
2. Lots of us have an idealised version of ourselves in our minds — patient, calm, at peace with the world. Ask yourself what she has that you don't. Now, imagine that you have it. Whether it's inner peace or a remote control that pauses time so you can skip to the front of the line, just imagining that you have that magic something can be soothing. And for intangibles like inner peace, it can actually get you at least part of the way there.
3. We always think we know what's going on. The line is moving slowly because the cashier is bad. Your spouse is calling for your help because they're too lazy to solve their own problem. A stranger was rude to you because they're a jerk. It's not the slow line or the request for help that necessarily annoys us, but what we're assuming because of it. So change those assumptions, as generously as you can. Imagine your way into that as-if — it's as real as whatever other conclusions you might've been drawing.
4. Whether you imagine you're being watched by someone you want to impress or by someone for whom you want to set a good example, you have it in you to behave calmly and happily — this can be the incentive to do it.
5. What better way to pass the time in a frustrating situation than to start composing your oh my god you won't believe the day I had rant. Well, lots of better ways, because conjuring that frustrated narrative is only going to make you feel — you guessed it — more frustrated! Instead, figure out what the story would be of your long but pleasant afternoon at the DMV. Did you see a woman in a cool hat? Was a kid being weird and cute? Or were you patience personified? Get ready for that story to be the one you tell.
5 Ways to Be More Patient and Less Annoyed [Quick and Dirty Tips]