The Mirror

mirror-on-faceWe’ve all experienced them at one time or another in our careers: a colleague whose very entrance into work each day makes us cringe, or a co-worker whose contributions to team efforts seems to complicate everything, exponentially.

And while I suspect that what irritates you differs from what irritates me, the important revelation is not the variety of annoying behaviors, but why we are so aggravated in the first place. This may come as a bit of a shock, so be prepared: the people who irritate us the most are probably mirroring behaviors, tendencies or actions that we dislike about ourselves.

The next time someone aggravates you at work and you begin to feel your jaw tighten and your head hurt, make a note of what they are doing, and how, on a scale of 1 – 10, you are reacting to it physically and emotionally.

  • Eye-rolling, time wasted, jaw-clenching: just a little? A minor annoyance.
  • Full-blown migraine and GI disturbance? Time for some self-coaching.

After several entries into your impromptu log book, do some data analysis to identify any trends or patterns. It’s important to look for the behaviors that incite the most extreme physical and emotional reactions in you.

Is it the idea thief, who picks your brain then runs to the boss with his/her “new idea” or is it the slacker who tags along on group efforts, and gets recognized along with the rest for minimal contributions? Maybe it’s the know-it-all who really doesn’t know anything (or so you believe), or the brown-noser who complains about the boss, then takes every opportunity to place themselves in the boss’s good graces.

Eleanor Roosevelt is famously quoted as saying that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent“. Some 21st century interpretations of this include “No one can insult you without your permission” and “No one can make you feel bad without your permission“.

I’m going to add this one: “No one can IRRITATE you to the point of physical discomfort without your OK”.

When we find ourselves reacting strongly to the “bad behavior” of others, we often own more of the responsibility than we realize. While we are judging others and how appropriate or inappropriate their behaviors and actions may be, we are almost always judging ourselves for these same issues.

The best way to dial back the annoyance someone else is causing you is to identify where you are critical of yourself for similar actions. Some of this may be buried pretty deep, so don’t give up if you can’t immediately connect with the emotion and/or time when you were the offending party. If you’re patient, you’ll find it.

Once you make the connection, allow yourself to laugh (or grimace) and then forgive yourself for being human. Spend some time thinking about where you were on your journey and from the vantage point of looking back, see how much you have learned from your experiences, good and bad.

Think again of your current situation and that annoying colleague. They’re on their own journey, and in time, they’ll probably look back and grimace or laugh at themselves. Forgive them for being human and know that they have their own path to travel and their own timeline for self-discovery.

By acknowledging and accepting our own humanity, we revoke the consent of our internal critic; and we invoke the peace that comes with forgiveness and letting go. Try it sometime – the transformation you’ll see in yourself and others is humbling, and well worth the effort.


(Blog article originally posted by the author on LinkedIn)


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