Relationships aren’t easy. In fact, they are very, very difficult. Even in relationships we value and enjoy there is difficulty. One of my closest friends can absolutely drive me nuts. They are overly intense, sure of themselves, black and white and almost always right. Drives me nuts. To the point that it can be annoying and difficult to be around them. Anybody have anyone like in their life? No…just me…humor me as I continue.
As I have thought about how to be in relationship with others, I have found that there are three things I can do when I am annoyed or bothered by another’s actions in our relationship.
1. Honestly assess if I am being overly critical. I need to be honest and say that there are times I am annoyed with people simply because I am overly critical of them. They may have a character trait, a way of being, or even a habit that rubs me the wrong way. And it is completely possible that way of being is okay. What’s not okay is my reaction towards them.
2. Share the impact of their actions with them. People will continue to do what they do unless they become present to the impact of their actions. A friend of mine once lovingly helped me become present to the impact I was having on him. He said to me, “I enjoy being around you and think you are great, but I have rarely left a conversation feeling loved by you.” Getting very present to the impact I was having on him, and on our relationship, affected change in me. Maybe the best thing we can do for someone and for our relationship with them is to help them, as gently as we can, become present to how they affect us.
3. Share what I need from them. This is along the lines of sharing the impact of their actions, but is a bit different. Many times what bothers me in the relationship is not what they are doing, but what they are not doing. In some relationships I need people to show more interest in my life. In other relationships I need people to be less competitive as I have enough of that in myself. From others, I need to have them show initiation in the relationship towards me as I feel as though I am always doing the initiating.
Doing any of these three things requires a lot of me. It requires humility to see myself accurately, courage to share authentically with the other person, and a willingness to have them do the same toward me. So maybe there is a fourth question, “Do I love this person enough to take action around any one of these things?” Because if I don’t love them, I’ll be content to be annoyed behind their back.