I’d be very quick allow someone to get under my skin and become annoyed by the very way they breath. We’ve all been there, right? Or on occasion, glass of Sauvignon in hand, the girls and I would have a good old grievance-airing session. Let she without sin cast their judgement on our weakness – we’re all human.

The most important thing, I feel, is to recognise when I’m unduly having a go and make an effort, where I can, to rise above it. No harm in opening your horizons and challenging your less-than-nice thoughts; you never know you might learn something.

So recently, I’ve been trying to be a nicer person …I’ve got plenty of them. Irrational enemies and arch-nemesis that exist only in my head. Tell me I’m not alone in this? So at times I try to ask myself a few questions to re-train my brain, play a bit of reverse devil’s advocate if you  will:

What Are Their Circumstances?

A tragic backstory does not give you fair game to be a difficult person – but it’s worth looking at the context that is someone’s background. Are they on unfamiliar territory? Or out of their  comfort zone? Are they alone for the first time when they’re usually with another person or a group? Some people have had a harder ride and there are times we need to check our privilege and acknowledge it.

Are They Compensating for Something Else?

A recent bitching session came to an abrupt end when we considered for a moment that perhaps the obnoxious behaviour of a mutual antagonist was in fact compensating for nerves or social anxiety. If I cast your mind back to when I’ve had to “fake it ’till you make it” I can see how that overcompensation could very easy come across as arrogance. Couple this with question one, it could explain a lot of things.

Why is it Bothering Me?

While the first two questions are about analysing their behaviour, the next are about looking at my own.

Sometimes it’s worth asking not why someone is acting in such a way – but rather, why is it bothering me? Is it drawing attention to them that I’m jealous of? Or does it remind me of someone else in my life, or myself? (more on that later) Was my ego hurt or my pride bruised by them, or someone like them? Why is it getting under my skin – and is it really that big of a deal? Taking a look at why I’m annoyed by this person says as much about me as it does them.

Have I Ever Done This?

Some more introspection for good measure – can I see something of myself in them? Not necessarily in their annoying habit of leaving tea bags on the counter (monsters), but generally humanising this nameless enemy of yours tends to quell the irrationality (listen, I’m lazy too and not adverse to a shortcut. It’s still disgusting though!) . It can also help answer the earlier questions of what might be driving it – be it shyness, overcompensation or nerves. Sometimes taking a hard look at myself is just what’s needed in times of reason-less rage; as I realise – it’s not them, it’s me.

Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to be the bigger person, and I’m by no means an angle when it comes to my thoughts and comments on others; but God loves a trying, right?