If you’ve ever known someone who leaves his/her toenail clippings in the carpets, tosses clothes on the floor, or is just generally irritating in a way that makes you feel powerless, passive-aggressive or downright mean, this article is for you.
People are irritating. Granted, this isn’t exactly a surprising revelation coming from someone whose social life consists of sleepovers with a stuffed elephant and a Roomba – but hear me out here.
If you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely perfect in every conceivable way. You know the best way to make a bed, walk through the airport at the exact right pace, pack your groceries in the only reasonable configuration. Though everyone else driving 85 MPH on the freeway is a maniac, it’s perfectly safe when you do it, because you have a system. Is there anyone among us who doesn’t believe that – at least when it comes to small mundane tasks – their name should be writ large on the scroll of Dudes Who Are Doing Things Right?
Therein lies the problem: while you (awesome) are going about your daily life (awesomely), other people (less awesome) have the nasty tendency to gum up the gears of your perfectly calibrated routines. Unless you’re a high-ranking Buddhist monk, it’s only human nature to get irked when the routines of those we love (or at least are forced to live with) harsh our collective mellows.
An example? Think of any roommate or coworker you’ve ever had. I can’t tell you how many screaming matches I’ve refereed (okay, okay, or instigated) between disciples of different household belief systems. The “no dirty dish should ever touch the sink” clan versus the “save all the washing up for Saturday morning” crew. The “if the bathroom door is closed, that means someone’s in there” guild against the “learn to use a damn lock, you filthy pervert!” faction.
And who can ever forget the “what’s wrong with clipping my toenails on the carpet if I’m planning on vacuuming tomorrow anyway?” fracas of ’05?
Generally, when you dig for the origin of these heated disputes, you find a pretty standard history: a period of silently waiting for the offender to correct his behavior; a bout of frosty silence; an extended period of passive-aggressive sniping, leading to months or even years of moaning to innocent bystanders; finally, KA-BOOM! Toenail clippings everywhere.
Funnily enough, when I ask friends about these protracted battles or even – guilty! – look at some heated disputes from my own past, there’s often one step missing: politely letting the offender know that they’re actually, y’know, offending you.
Thus was born my patented three-step method for getting someone you love to stop doing something you hate:
1) The first time someone does something that irritates you, politely tell them that it bothers you. Yes, the first time. Not the third or the fourteenth or the three hundred and fifty-sixth. The longer you wait after that first offense, the harder it’ll be to manage the “politely” part of this step. Trust me.
2) If, after politely requesting they stop, the offender continues their behavior? Politely remind them again. Perhaps pursue a compromise? Politely of course!
3) They’re still doing it? Politely smack the jerkward upside the head with a meat tenderizer. Oh, come on. They had it coming.
There now, that wasn’t so hard, was it? It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to get sucked into ceaseless volleys of passive-aggressive Post-Its and venting sessions with third parties without asking yourself the simple question: Have I made my wants and needs sufficiently clear to the people in my life?
After all, you deserve to demand respect. And I would know: after all, I’m right about everything. Just ask my Roomba.
“I just want to be wonderful” WarzauWynn @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.