How to Deal with a Nuisance

Annoyed Businesswoman

A person who’s become a nuisance can be a sore spot in your day.  It might be someone who’s not just annoying or gets under your skin, but someone who can cause social disturbances in your world.  

This might come about when someone:

  • Has endless tasks for you, making you feel taken advantage of.
  • Is obsessed with boundaries (space issues in the office or neighborhood).
  • Wants your attention and seems always to appear on your radar screen just when you least need it.
  • Wants more from you than he/she gives back.
  • Is insecure and isn’t aware that his behavior is annoying.
  • Tries too hard to make a good impression on you!
  • Has an overly energetic laugh.
  • Has trouble being mindful of time, place, and circumstance.

The Dilemma

A person who’s become a nuisance creates an etiquette dilemma for the person who is championing being the best version of herself. 

Why a dilemma?  Dealing with your own perceptions of annoyance while you’re dealing with the person herself, and the fact that you know you are in charge of the perceptions enhancing the annoyance, is annoying.

Dilemmas present the challenge of having to make a difficult choice between two or more alternatives, both of which may be equally undesirable.

Example:  Your co-worker invariably challenges your legitimate role of making certain decisions.  You always try to be kind to him, but every time you make pleasantries it feels as if you’ve let your guard down.  It feels as if there is resistance at every turn and the work is slowed down.  Yet there is nothing to put your finger on.  What to do?  If you go to your supervisor and bring up the subject, it not only takes time, but you know there will be a confrontation.  If you speak directly to him, communication levels won’t support that approach. You need to act kindly and honestly, yet you might not feel kind. 

Experiencing the person who is a nuisance only produces anxiety.  Your own anxiety then becomes a second nuisance.  Regardless, we are the only persons who can take charge of our actions.

When deciding on an action to take, think about times when you've probably been annoying to others.  What would have helped you break the habit?

Etiquette Tips for Handling a Nuisance

As always - etiquette to the rescue!  This simply means that you take a moment to put yourself in a place of respect for the person you are dealing with, and then proceed.

Emotion Control
Keep your emotions under wraps.  Strive for an even temper and remember to breathe.

The Respectful Pause
When someone is annoying you, breathe, and establish eye contact.  Don't react at all.   Just look at the person, without staring her down.  She could simply be very nervous and your quiet pause may mirror the chance to look at herself and change behavior.

Courteous slip-away
Without drawing attention to yourself, exit the situation.  (This is one of the exceptions to the rule of never leaving a party without thanking your host.  Even etiquette knows when a fast getaway is necessary.)

Tight Lips
Be careful to avoid venting behind the person’s back.  Easy to do — but hard to correct.

Pride Control
Yes, you did a good job!  Celebrate your humility alone.

Is Confrontation Really Necessary?

If the person who bothers you so much is not someone you know very well, you have some control over avoiding future encounters.  But what if the person is a close relative, or your best friend's spouse?  Should you air your grievances in an effort to make time spent with this person a little less painful for you?

The only time you should confront anyone is when you can be level-headed enough to remember the following rules:

  • Never lead anyone into a debate.
  • Never confront someone if either of you are angry or upset.
  • Never blame or accuse.
  • Never react in an annoyed manner.

Remember, any encounter requires a respectful approach.  If you think you may lose control of your emotions, don't do it.  If you think the other person is manipulative enough to draw you into an argument, don't do it.

Instead, try getting to the bottom of why this person bothers you so much.  Sometimes engaging in small talk leads to a deeper subject that will help you explore what's going on in his head.  If you can find some common ground in there, you just might solve your dilemma!

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