Who is the one person who always raises your blood pressure, causes you to mumble to yourself and always darkens your otherwise beautiful day like a shadow across the sun?
WRITE the name of that person on a scrap of paper. No, it isn't enough to simply THINK the name. It's time to bring that person out from the shadows where they lurk at the back of your head into the bright light of day. Write down the name!
Next: Write a one-word description of that person. Unreasonable? Rude? Condescending? Self-centered? Overpowering? Threatening? What is it about them that upsets you?
It's time to deal with this situation RIGHT NOW because you have already given this person too much control over your life and your behavior. Understand that if they are older than age four, you cannot count on them to change. You, on the other hand, have enormous creative control over your own behavior. This situation is not hard-wired. Why are you allowing this same person to annoy you over and over and over again?!
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Imagine that you are flying over the spot where you are feeling annoyed. 3,000 feet is high enough for you to still see yourself in conversation but you can see, at the same time, many other neighborhoods and schools and parks and federal buildings and freeways and construction sites. Finally, your Annoyer is just a tiny dot on the landscape.
HOLD YOUR COURSE
Think through the encounter ahead of time. Don't expect the other person to behave differently. They never have (nor have you). Change the music to change the dance. This time ACT instead of REACTING. You are a calm, reasonable, polite person. Commit to holding that course no matter what the other person does or says. You have nothing to lose here. Keep your breathing slow, deep and steady. Speak slowly and calmly, NO MATTER WHAT.
DEFEND YOUR "CLIENT"
To date you have been in the mode of defending yourself from a perceived slight, assault or annoyance. Imagine that you have been hired as an outstanding defense attorney to defend the person giving you grief. Build a convincing case to an imaginary jury to explain why your client acts the way he/she does.
KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR
On a scale of one to ten this situation is at best a two or three (compared to draughts, tsunamis and ethnic cleansing). Still, you are allowing this person to take up valuable real estate in your beautiful mind. Vow to walk INTO AND OUT OF your next encounter with a smile on your face.
DEFINE YOUR BOUNDARIES
Setting boundaries was a luxury rarely afforded women who grew up prior to the 60s. The culture dictated that they be accommodating, agreeable and selfless. Set boundaries thoughtfully but set them! Guard your time. It's priceless. Say "no" when you mean "no." Never let anyone hurt you physically. No excuses. That is a boundary with a very high fence. Do your best to cut people a lot of slack so long as they stay on THEIR side of YOUR boundaries.
LISTEN FOR THAT KERNEL OF TRUTH
One of the reasons criticism and accusations can be irritating is that there is often a valuable bit of truth buried in all useless and untrue stuff. Take note.
Now, wad up your piece of paper and throw it into the trash. No, not the wastebasket. Into the big garbage can with yesterday's banana peels and coffee grounds.
Diane Neuman founded The Yoga Workshop in San Francisco where she taught for 11 years. Neuman wrote and illustrated HOW TO GET THE DRAGONS OUT OF YOUR TEMPLE (Celestial Arts). Currently Neuman writes and illustrates a health blog that draws on her 50 years of studying yoga, advanced breathing techniques, stress management and relaxation exercises. To find her blog and learn a new breathing lesson every week, check into http://www.breathingdeepexercises.com/