A Simple Practice When You are Annoyed by People

Whenever you find yourself irritated by how someone else is behaving, first notice that our minds start to create a story of resentment about them. It’s about how they always act in this irritating way, or why do they have to be that way, or why are they so inconsiderate, etc.


By Leo Babauta

It’s a common thing to be frequently annoyed by other people.

Not only the regular interactions with family, friends and coworkers, but the online habits of people on various social media can all irritate the hell out of us. What can we do when other people are being annoying, frustrating, inconsiderate, irritating—even aggravating?

Well, assuming we’re not in real danger and we don’t need to take action to protect ourselves, often the best practice is an internal shift rather than trying to change the other person’s behavior.

That suggestion in itself can be frustrating for some. Why should we have to change our own behavior when it’s the other person who is being aggravating? That’s because with one simple shift, you can be happy with any person. But if you try to change every other person, you’re just going to be miserable.

This is illustrated by a metaphor from legendary Buddhist teacher Shantideva:

Where would there be leather enough to cover the entire world? With just the leather of my sandals, it is as if the whole world were covered. Likewise, I am unable to restrain external phenomena, but I shall restrain my own mind. What need is there to restrain anything else?

In this metaphor, imagine that the surface of the Earth were covered in shards of glass or some other sharp surface. You could try to find a covering for the whole world, so that you could walk in comfort, but you’d never be able to do it. Instead, just cover your own feet, and you can walk around just fine.

This is the idea of shifting your own mindset, so that you can deal with irritating people. Let’s look at a practice to work on that shift.

A Simple Practice

Whenever you find yourself irritated by how someone else is behaving, first notice that our minds start to create a story of resentment about them. It’s about how they always act in this irritating way, or why do they have to be that way, or why are they so inconsiderate, etc.

This story isn’t helpful. It makes us unhappy, it worsens our relationships with others, it makes us into people we probably don’t want to be.

So the practice is to drop that story, and instead try this:

Recognize that you don’t like the way the person is behaving. You are not happy with your current experience. In this way, you are rejecting this part of reality and rejecting a part of life. Consider opening up to all of life, without rejecting.

Reflect on a river that flows downstream. Imagine wishing it would flow upstream. It would just bring you unhappiness to wish that the river were different than it were. Now imagine that this other person is the river. Wishing they were different just brings unhappiness.

See them as they are and open your heart to them, just as they are. See them as a suffering human being, with flaws and habitual ways of acting that can be irritating, but are actually very human. How can you love humanity just as it is?

Open up to all of life, without rejecting. Accept the river as it is. See the suffering human being in front of you, and love them fiercely, as they are.

See how this practice shifts you. And see how it opens you up to connecting to your fellow human beings, and the vast experience of life, just as it is.


Accept the river as it is. ~ Leo Babauta Click To Tweet



Leo Babauta is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). He eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads. He is the founder of Zen Habits which is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.



Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall


This article was published on the author’s blog and re-published with permission.


Did you like this post? You might also like:


Keep Your Moon-Pointing Finger to Yourself, Master: The Balance of the Teacher/Student Relationship

  By Rev. Mark ShenYun Gilenson   Hui-Ming asked the Sixth Patriarch, “Master, what secret did the fifth Patriarch transmit to you?” The Sixth Patriarch said, “How could there be any secret? The secret is not in me, it’s in you.” I recently...

Our Girls Will Be Women Soon.

By Peter Schaller There are few better ways to spend a rainy Saturday than kicking around with my daughter, Ximena. We spend a slow morning poking around the farmer’s market, but she’s not in the mood to go home and cook. Instead, we head to one of our favorite coffee...

The Altruism Revolution is on its Way. Let Us All be Part of It.

  By Matthieu Ricard   Is human nature inherently egoistic or altruistic? Despite the violence and conflict that we constantly see in the media, studies show that violence has diminished continually over the past few centuries. Our everyday...

How to Change the Way We Respond to Stress

  By Szymon Pelechowicz Whether inside or outside of the yoga studio, there are ways to manage stress in our daily lives---from scientific to spiritual. It’s a word that has roots in the Middle English word destresse, which means “to draw tight.” In physics, it is...



The Tattooed Buddha

The Tattooed Buddha strives to be a noncompetitive, open space for the author’s authentic voice. We offer a dialogue that is aware and awake to the reality of our present day to day, tackling issues of community, environment, and compassionate living. A space for the everyday person, whether Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Christian, Pagan, or secular humanist, we hope to provide a platform for a voice that seeks to change the world one article at a time.

Latest posts by The Tattooed Buddha (see all)

(Visited 230 times, 1 visits today)