Getting Annoyed with Other People’s Opinions

Getting annoyed with others people’s opinions is one of the stresses of daily life that I’ve resolved to let go of as a New Year’s resolution. So far, I’m not doing so well. Here’s how I plan to do better.

Wrong Way Opinions

The Joke’s on Me

On the last weekend of 2017, I participated in a discussion about New Year’s resolutions. I had just drafted the post, “The Right Kind of New Year’s Resolution,” which addresses why New Year’s resolutions don’t work, so I felt that I was wasting my time talking about what I’d like to let go in 2018.

I sat in silence as others pondered the question seriously and offered up things they’d like to let go. When everyone else had spoken, I noticed that I was getting annoyed. If I kept silent, I felt that I would be judging my fellow participants by not taking the topic seriously. If I spoke my truth, that New Year’s resolutions don’t work, I felt that I would be judging the discussion facilitator.

I said, “I’d like to let go of getting annoyed.”

Some people laughed with recognition. But, since I had just written about an effective toolkit to actually achieve resolutions, I was also annoyed that I felt obligated to take this resolution seriously.

The Curious Value of Getting Annoyed

I experience the value of getting annoyed every time I write one of these posts. If we never got annoyed, I’d have nothing to write about.

The writing process carries its own predictable annoyances.

Every time I finish a first draft, my brain rewards me with a little dopamine rush that says, you nailed it.

A few hours or a few minutes later, I start to get annoyed with what I wrote.

I go back and fix what I once viewed as perfect. Having dealt with my initial annoyance, it’s time to annoy others.

I share the work with a critique group so they can tell me what annoys them.

Once I’ve taken a stab at dealing with their annoyance, it’s time to annoy you.

If I never get annoyed with myself, I will never do anything to change my behavior. I would believe that everything I say, or think, or do, is perfect. We all know how extremely annoying folks like that are.

Dysfunctional Belief

I should let go of getting annoyed.

Reframe

Getting annoyed with things that I can change is not a problem. Getting annoyed with things I can’t change creates useless stress.

Things I Can’t Change

I was in a “no bad ideas” creative meeting to generate marketing strategies for a service sector business. The purpose of a “no bad ideas” meeting is to think outside the box. If everyone is free to chip in ideas without fear of being judged, even wildly impractical ideas can lead to workable ones that wouldn’t have occurred to us if the wild idea hadn’t prompted it.

Someone suggested monetizing the business’s YouTube channel by selling ads within the videos.

I sighed. YouTube videos annoy me. I never watch one to the end if given the opportunity to escape. Inserting ads into a video meant to promote awareness and trust in the business struck me as counterproductive.

The speaker read my body language and defensively said that there are 100 pennies in every dollar, and if you’re not monetizing your content, you’re leaving money on the table.

I rolled my eyes.

This annoyed the speaker who said they had experienced success using this technique in other businesses and found my body language and eye rolling extremely rude.

I apologized.

Regardless of whether the idea was helpful, it was unhelpful for me to get annoyed. Opinions that others have formed based on their personal experience and worldview are beyond the scope of things I can change.

Are You Crazy?

The authors of the original mindfulness manual recommends that when other people’s opinions annoy us, we should maintain a compassionate and friendly attitude toward them.

In theory, this sounds crazy. I addressed some of the arguments against this in “Not So Great Expectations.” That would mean letting those right wing or left wing wackos off the hook. If I don’t get annoyed, that means I agree. Some opinions are too dangerous not to get annoyed!

To help us deal with these objections, the recommended practice is listening (or reading) with awareness of the five modes of speech.

Five Modes of Speech Exercise

When listening or reading other people’s opinions, consider whether what is said or written is:

  • Timely or untimely.
  • Factually true or false.
  • Gentle or harsh.
  • With beneficial or harmful intent.
  • With friendly or hostile expression.

On all occasions:

  1. Train the mind to be unaffected.
  2. Avoid responding with hostile words.
  3. Maintain a compassionate and friendly attitude.
Working with Agreeable Opinions

Since it’s difficult to remember checklists when we’re annoyed, it’s best to test the efficacy of the five modes of speech strategy with agreeable opinions.

Timely or untimely.

Even friendly conversations can be annoying if people interrupt us or we feel we’re dying to say something.

Gentle or harsh.

Adamantly bashing a common foe may be exhilarating, but it fuels our annoyance next time we involuntarily encounter that person.

With beneficial or harmful intent.

When loved ones gently suggest that one of our habits may not be serving us, it can be annoying even if we know deep down it’s beneficial.

With friendly or hostile expression.

If someone observes I’m putting on some weight, they may say, “Hey, let’s go for a run sometime,” or “Hey, fatso, get off your ass.”

Working with Disagreeable Opinions

How would this work with overcoming my annoyance with the idea to use YouTube ads?

Timely or untimely.

Expressing marketing ideas in the context of a marketing meeting is timely. We were in agreement that it was this person’s time to speak.

True or false.

It is factually true that if you don’t sell ads within YouTube videos, you are leaving potential income on the table.

Gentle or harsh.

The idea wasn’t presented in a harsh fashion. I view YouTube ads as harsh.

With good or harmful intent.

I had no reason to doubt that the idea was offered with the best of intentions.

With friendly or hostile expression.

The disposition of the speaker began as friendly. My disposition was hostile.

Would my lack of annoyance be letting them off the hook?

They weren’t trying to get away with bad behavior so there was no bad behavior for me to excuse.

If I don’t get annoyed, that means I agree.

This one’s a little counter-intuitive. Picking up on my annoyance actually made them reinforce their position. If people agree with me, I’m validated. If they disagree with me, I’m defensive. I only begin to question my opinions if they trigger no response at all.

Some opinions are too dangerous not to get annoyed.

The suggestion of monetizing YouTube videos might be counterproductive, but not dangerous.

In the age of media and social media, the more annoyed we get, the faster an idea spreads. No self-respecting local TV crew could justify covering a White Supremacists or Open Borders rally unless there were protestors present. And, a recent study confirmed that on twitter, fake news stories are 70% more likely to be shared than real ones. Now, that’s annoying.

Author: Bruce Cantwell

Writer, journalist and long-time mindfulness practitioner.