How To Use Annoyance As A Catalyst For Growth
“The unconscious in you is bothered by the unconscious in others.”
When I started getting coached (and learning how to coach), one of the first practices that my coach gave me, was to ask every time I was triggered / bothered / annoyed : “How could it be that it is me that I am seeing?”
It was not easy. It meant cutting through justifications, rationalizations, and also the truth in what I was bothered by.
Probably best to explain with a simple example.
One day I came home to see the kids sitting in front of their laptops, with dishes all around them, some dishes in the sink, and the house in mess in general. I started to yell at them, but stopped in my tracks. What I realized is that
- I had been planning to tidy up the house for several days but had procrastinated.
- I was bothered by my own procrastination, and I was projecting that annoyance onto the kids.
- It was still true that the kids had been lazy. (So it would have been easy to rationalize my yelling)
- Now that I owned up to the true source of my bother, the annoyance was gone, and I could operate from a place of calmness and openness.
What I landed up saying is “The house looks such a mess doesn’t it? I have been planning to tidy up for so many days and I am so annoyed that I haven’t gotten to it. Could we do it together?” And that brought about a pretty positive response from them.
Note also that I could have done it as a strategy — in which case my language would have been slightly different — probably a bit more cheery and manipulative, “Hey guys, house looks like a mess. Why don’t we clean up together, and then may be we can treat ourselves and go out for xyz?” What it would not have had in it, is me owning up to my part in a truthful way. And the truthful way makes a difference. It connects.
There are different levels of responding to the same thing. And the difference comes from our assumptions about the world and the role we play in it, and the extent to which we are conscious of those assumptions.
“Clean the house up. Or else you lose your laptops.” Autocratic.
“Have you seen how much work XYZ’s kids do? The rule in our house is that everyone cleans up after themselves. Look how little you guys do.” Shaming to follow established rules.
“If you clean up the house, you get $$.” Transactional. Manipulative.
“Let’s keep the house tidy. We are family and we are in it together.” Equality. Expectation of internalization of the notion of “for one another”.
“I have been planning to tidy up the house, but it’s really hard for me to do it all on my own. Would you help me?” Authentic. Vulnerable. Respecting sovereignty of the other.
And of course, the response we choose also depends on the recipient. The question is, are we choosing the response, or is the response choosing us?
So, what bothers you?
How might it be that it is you that you are seeing?