One of the funniest, yet truest expressions I learned early on in youth ministry, was the concept of EGR people. If you’re not familiar with it, let me educate you. EGR stands for Extra Grace Required, which is a much nicer way of saying these people annoy the heck out of you.
In every church, in every ministry, in every job, organization, or whatever, you will come across annoying people. Here’s the thing though: some will be annoying to mostly everyone, but others seem to push your red buttons only. It may be because you’re opposites, or because the other’s dominant habit or character trait is your allergy.
I’ve had this happen with a volunteer who was a great guy and a passionate Jesus follower—but his leadership style irritated me greatly. That was more about me than it ever was about him, but I had to deal with it nonetheless.
So how to handle annoying people? Here’s my advice—which I’m still struggling to put in practice by the way since I’m not the most patient of people (and that’s an understatement!).
1. Get Perspective
Annoying habits may irritate you like crazy, but how important are they in the bigger scheme of things? We’re talking about the not-putting-the-top-back-on-the-toothpaste kind of stuff here.
My husband is not a structured person by nature, like me. I always put things in the same place, which also means I seldom lose anything. His habits are less organized and i’ll admit that they tend to frustrate me at times (see how politically correct I worded that right there?). But I do ask myself when I feel irritation how important it really is.
Does it matter in the bigger scheme of things? Are people getting hurt, dying? Is there a huge loss of money involved?
One thing you learn as a parent is to pick your battles. You can’t argue over everything. So choose your battles here as well. Is this really worth investing time and energy in? If not, take a deep breath and try to blow your irritation out as you exhale. There, done.
2. Heal Thyself
As I discussed earlier, much of what annoys us, comes more from us than from others. Before we blow up about what others do, it’s good to look inward into what causes our frustration.
To me, order is important and I don’t deal well with chaos. That’s simply how I’m wired and it’s no better or less than the more chaotic types. It does explain why chaotic people get on my nerves sometimes. The older I get, the more I realize how much this is about me and the easier I can deal with it.
Sometimes it helps to explain this, especially when you’ll be working with someone who irritates you and you’ve discovered it’s because of opposite traits. Just bring it up in a friendly conversation and see if the other is open to creating a mutual understanding. The better you understand, the easier it is to accept.
The funny thing is that ignoring the annoying behavior often works best when you know people do it on purpose. It’s like with dogs and kids: reinforce the right behavior, but ignore the unwanted behavior. People who annoy on purpose do it to get some kind of reaction and if you deny them this, they’ll most likely stop.
4. Speak Up
Sometimes, there’s no other solution but to speak up and confront the person with his or her behavior. This is especially the case when they annoy (almost) everyone and they don’t seem to realize it, or they don’t care. Prayerful preparation is important here, as is a heart filled with love. Never speak when you’re still angry or frustrated, because things might escalate quickly.
An example that comes to mind was of a student who would always start answering a question before anyone else ever got a chance. She didn’t realize how much she was annoying the others, until I sat her down to explain it to her. She felt terrible, but because I approached her with a ton of love and understanding, she accepted it. The best thing was that she stopped doing it and immediately got positive reinforcement from the group, which was what she’d been after all that time—only in the wrong way.
One last thought. If we truly believe that God uses all our circumstances for good because we love Him, we can also pray that these annoying, EGR people can lead us to growth. Looking back, I have sometimes grown more and learnt more through very frustrating encounters and people than through many harmonious working relationships.
How do you handle annoying people? Any tips you’d like to add?
[Photo Credit: Ashley Sturgis on Flicker, Creative Commons]