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Beyond Irritation: Shifting Perspectives on Annoying Behaviours

We've all annoyed at least one person in our lives and we’ve all felt what it’s like to be annoyed. Is it possible for us to change our perception about the things that annoy us?

What I notice is that, the thing we view as annoying is never intended to be annoying and what’s deemed annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else and sometimes being annoyed by something that someone else doesn’t find annoying, is annoying!

That’s because we're all operating from our own experiences, perceptions and tolerance levels.

I bet you’ve already started to conjure up a list of things that are annoying to you, so let’s take a look at some common nuisances that we've all experienced and see if it's possible to shift our perspective on these things.

Loud and Disruptive Behaviour

The other day I went to sit in my backyard to work and right when I got settled and was working away, I could hear one of the neighbours kids whining, which then turned into crying and continued to persist for a few minutes. Long enough that I had to pick myself up and go back in the house.

Some might say, oh Fraya just put on some headphones and tune them out. But I wanted to listen to the nature and enjoy some quiet outdoor time.

I knew the kid was just being a kid, and wasn't purposefully disrupting my peace. They didn't even know I was there. But it wasn't the kid that was annoying. It was the sound they were emitting that was annoying to me.

Mind you, I'm very sensitive to sounds. It could even be the sound of a cricket that just won't stop cricketing! Many of us with sensitive nervous systems will get easily annoyed by certain sounds, so much so that it will disrupt what we are doing.

Strong Odours

We may become annoyed by strong odours or by the hygiene practices of others. I have an especially sensitive nose and can easily enter into a state of discomfort with certain smells in which case it’s hard for me not to show it on my face. I'll respond in a dramatic way, like my safety is at risk! If I keep smelling this I’ll die!

Other people don’t notice smells at all, and they may get annoyed that you’re overreacting!

Chronic Lateness

How about chronic lateness. I annoy myself if I’m going to be late, and it’s a big pet peeve of mine when people are late. I perceive lateness as disrespect of my time. It's pretty common that any time we feel disrespected, irritation arises.

Others Chewing and Breathing

Chewing is another one that can get me fired up, or loud breathing, but that stems from a condition I have called Misophonia. So although this could be a slight irritation for some, for me it’s unbearable and I have to leave the room or turn on some background noise so it’s not the main sound anymore.

Slow Drivers

Do I need to explain this one.?Well unless you're one of those slow drivers then you might be annoyed by fast drivers!


Getting the wrong order, the order taking too long or not getting the order at all. Same goes for the work place when we feel annoyed to do the work of others, taking on roles that are not our responsibility or having to correct mistakes. This is all time and energy consuming and we are protective of our time and energy so when things are not done effectively and efficiency this can get annoying.

Being Interrupted

Being interrupted can be really annoying and irritating for many people. Sometimes I can be the person interrupting and I understand that it’s a trait that many people with ADHD have which allows me to be more accepting of this behaviour.

This is where I bring up the point in which we realize we're being annoying. If I've interrupted someone and it causes them to do something different with their face or body language, this is a cue to me that I need to listen better.

Some of us might even say, “I’m sorry for for being so annoying” and the person may respond, “oh no not at all, it’s totally fine .“ But who knows if it's actually fine? Would they be ok if it happened again? This is where we consider everyone's different tolerance levels. It's fine if you did it once, but keep doing it, then I'm gonna get annoyed.

"My Kids Annoy Me on Purpose"

Some may say kids are annoying on purpose and I think that their purpose in doing so is to get attention. So if you ever see your kid or another kid as ‘annoying’, see it as a sign to pay attention to them instead and see how the annoying behaviour suddenly stops.

If someone is clicking a pen over and over, i’ve been known to say, “You gotta stop clicking your pen it’s driving me nuts.” Some may stop and say, "sorry, I didn't even realize I was doing that", or some will stop and look at me like i’m crazy! (cue the eye rolls)

But with kids, telling them to ‘stop’ doing something rarely goes well. Telling them to, "Stop being so annoying." can be internalized as, “You are annoying.”

Kids with ADHD or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) will ‘stim’ by singing, dancing, rocking, repeating words and phrases over and over. There are many behaviours even us as adults use to soothe ourselves and don't realize that they might be annoying to others. If we lack the awareness that a certain behaviours is being used to help someone calm themselves, and we tell them they’re annoying, this results in possible shaming an invalidation of someones coping skills.

When Irritation Turns Into Anger

If we don't learn how to manage these “annoying” experiences effectively, these annoyances can easily turn into anger and rage.

We've all witnessed road rage, people raging at the airport when flights are delayed or canceled. People rage with customer service, it can happen with anything and it starts with something that is annoying, which turns into irritation, anger, and at it's worst.. rage.

If our nervous system is already stressed out, coping with every day irritations and annoyance can erupt into uncontrollable rage for some people. When we haven’t had a good nights sleep or need to eat something, this can make us more prone to being annoyed. Maybe we are under the pressure of a tight deadline for work or we've gone through a recent loss, stress can easily have us go off the deep end if we’re not taking care of ourselves.

If you’re someone who seems to be in a constant state of irritation and annoyance, it’s likely a sign that self care is in order!

What Can We Do?

#1 Become Familiar with Your Irritants and Normalize Them

The one thing we have to be able to do in these situations is first to accept the things that are known irritations to us and normalize them. Normalize them as a ‘thing’ that is irritating to us without making a big scene about it.

#2 Be Responsible For Your Responses to the Irritants

Someone is late? I will tell myself, "Ok, it's only been two minutes, we can breath and take this time to be present" I will say "Stressing about how late they are won't make them arrive on time." If a sound is too disruptive for me, I'll take care to remove myself from the sound if possible or be prepared with earplugs knowing that I'm someone who is sensitive to sounds.

#3 Avoid Making the Problem Worse

Often when things are are irritating will start to make up stories in our mind about things that may not be true, making our irritation worse. Feelings are information so instead of chastising and criticizing the person who is running late when they finally arrive, instead of the small annoyance that I'm turning into a major catastrophe, I can focus on the big picture.

I can tell myself a different story and remind myself that this person is likely not intentionally trying to annoy me, and it's my responsibility to manage this feeling of irritation and annoyance. If I'm going to miss a connecting flight, or my dinner reservation will be lost, or my amazon order hasn't come on time for my big event , I can trust that I am capable to figure out another plan and that disappointments in life are to be expected.

Getting mad and upset with someone wont make the situation better, instead it will only create additional problems.

The more we can learn to roll with the punches and remind ourselves that many things happen that are out of our control, but what is in our control is how we respond to them allows us to return the power back to ourselves.

Check out my book Colors of The Mind: The Secrets to Conscious Living, Authenticity and Freedom to discover my #1 strategy to overcome a negative and critical mindset even if nothing else has helped before


Fraya Mortensen is a Canadian based Transformational Mindset Coach who helps empathic and highly sensitive people to build their self-awareness, self-compassion and set healthy boundaries without the guilt.

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