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An Eight-Step Approach to Coping with Pet Peeves

I don’t have pet peeves, I have whole kennels of irritation. – Whoopie Goldberg

Sometimes it’s the little things that can irritate us the most. We go to pour our coffee in the morning only to find there are no clean cups, the slowest driver on the face on the planet is just ahead of us traveling in the left lane – under the speed limit, or we take our seat on a crowded airplane only to have someone with a bag of smelly fast food sit down right next to us.

These irritations, or pet peeves, may seem minor at first but can lead to more significant stress in our lives. There are ways to cope, and perhaps eliminate these pet peeves, before they develop into something more serious, more stressful, and more harmful.

What is a Pet Peeve?

Pet peeves are usually complaints about specific behaviors rather than general feelings of dissatisfaction or unhappiness. More often than not, our pet peeves involve people who are close to us. Our spouses, partners, children or best friends can be the sources of our most irritating pet peeves.

In my house, my oldest daughter Caitlin will pour a glass of water, drink it and then put the glass down. Five minutes later she will reach for another glass from the cabinet and repeat the process. By the end of the day, there will be at least eight glasses scattered throughout the kitchen.

My wife Mary Beth frequently runs late. The whole family will be ready to walk out the door, but can’t. Mary Beth is not ready.

The word peeve means to annoy or irritate. The word pet implies something close to us; something that is a favorite. Thus, a pet peeve is an irritation that is individually unique or personal. My pet peeves may not be yours and vice versa.

Eight Ways to Cope with Pet Peeves

Our pet peeves, although a little quirky at times, can also lead to more significant stress if they are allowed to grow and become more destructive. Consider these eight ways to cope the next time you are irritated by one of your pet peeves.

  1. Acknowledge the existence of a pet peeve. Rather than deny you are irritated by the slower driver in the left lane, acknowledge your reaction. Denial may lead to increased stress on your body and state of mind. Become fully aware of the moment and listen to the stress the irritation is causing. Only when something is acknowledged can it then be treated and resolved.
  2. Resist the urge to vent. Venting over a situation is not the same as resolving a situation. When we vent, we tend to stay in the negative moment and bring up even more negative thoughts and triggers. Venting can become a habit just like the reaction to the pet peeve. In addition, venting can intensify the feelings of the pet peeve and cause even more stress, frustration and irritation.
  3. Understand the deeper meaning. Because our pet peeves are so personal to each of us, they can become a lingering habit and something known and familiar which can be hard to let go. Often we hold on to negative thoughts and behaviors because they exist within our comfort zones.

    The resolution of these negative thoughts requires change and conscious thought – two things that exist outside of our comfort zones. So, we may unknowingly cling to our pet peeves because of old insecurities. Again, not only acknowledge the presence of a pet peeve, but also get in touch with the fact the pet peeve is an extension of an old tape playing in your head. This old tape, which may be telling you are not good enough or inadequate, can be replaced with the truth.

  4. Know it’s not personal. OK, the driver in the left lane, the one with his head up his you know what, is really not determined to make my head explode – it can just feel that way at times. Remember our pet peeves belong to us; we own them. Therefore, become aware your personal irritation does not fester into damaging anger or retaliation against another person.
  5. Find a healthy release. By confronting my daughter regarding the 27 water glasses she has scattered throughout the kitchen will only lead to more conflict and stress. Tailgating the slower car in front is not going to help you nor will it make the person go faster. Instead, take a breath, go for a walk or listen to some relaxing music. The point is not to react when you are most irritated.

    As for daughter, they will be a better time, a time when the situation is not occurring, when I can approach her and in a calm and loving tone say something like, “Hey Cait, what’s the deal with using more than more glass? Do you own stock in Cascade or something”?

  6. Understand the rest of the story. No matter the issue or circumstance in life, there is always “the rest of the story” to be considered. When Mary Beth is running late, it’s not because she is being rude on purpose or is disregarding the need to be punctual, but often it’s because something has kept her from being on time in the first place. It could be an appointment with a patient ran late, or she received an important phone call, or she was helping Emily (our ten-year-old daughter) get ready first. Before you allow a pet peeve to cause unnecessary stress, seek to gain a better understanding of the rest of the story.
  7. Look for something good. Yes, the number of water glasses left by my daughter on the counters and tables can get on my last nerve, but we don’t see Caitlin as often as we would like. The sight of the water glasses when I first walk into the kitchen in the morning can also be a reminder that my time with my daughter is indeed precious and not to be taken for granted.
  8. Make a heart connection. Even though we all have different pet peeves we are all alike in the sense we have pet peeves. Therefore, show grace, compassion and understanding when someone triggers you with a pet peeve.

    Avoid the temptation to engage in road rage-like behavior with the slower driver ahead of you or with the tailgater behind you. Instead, find the right time to pass or move out of the way. Smile, extend a helping hand and understand the source of the pet peeve is more about you clinging to a perception or some old baggage than it is about someone trying to disadvantage you.

Our Readers Share Their Pet Peeves. What Are Yours?

We all have different pet peeves. Below are some of the greatest sources of personal irritation from a few of the readers and friends of this blog. What annoys you? Is there a habit or trait that drives you crazy? Is there something someone does that gets under your skin? Whatever annoys you, please share your pet peeve in Comments below. Reading this by email? Please visit the blog to share – just click here.

Posted by on July 13, 2011.

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Categories: Faith & Inspiraton, Inspiration, Stories of Change

  • AZ

    my pet peeve is hearing others chew with their mouths open. It make me angry because I feel that it is very inconsiderate to force others to hear the process of food juices churning an the smacking of teeth and lips .. it’s bothered me since i was 9 and i am working on meditating and becoming less offended by the act. I guess what bothers me the most about it is that people tend to be offended when they are asked to chew with their mouths closed … so I usually feel trapped and incapable of having a constructive conversation … sure, you can talk to someone in a non-confrontational way .. but i guarantee you, no one wants to be asked to chew with their mouths closed

  • Beth

    When the rest of the room is quiet and someone is eating crunchy stuff or drinking and making loud swallowing sounds. I just want to slap them, but I try to ignore them until they are finished. I appreciate the words from others. It’s helped me to get through this session with a co-worker eating something and me gritting my teeth. I think I will try putting on some quiet music next time.

  • jasodh

    My pet peeve is just terrible. it’s when people sniff, let’s just say im never going to get through this one….

  • Marfy

    People who put thier skanky feet on the seat on the bus or train. Ewww! I’m afraid someday I will smash someone’s knees.
    Also, those selfish SOBs who won’t move their stuff to make room for a person to sit. HAAAATE!!!
    Men who spit. Nasssssty.
    Litterers. Grrrrr!
    Parents who don’t pay any attention to their little ones.especially if the poor kid is crying.
    Axe body spray. Please don’t-that stuff reeks.
    People who have private conversations in public. I do not need the disgusting details of your colonoscopy in my head.
    Political phone calls.
    People who talk out loud at a show.
    People who record concerts and whatnot on thier cellphones. Read your ticket-the artist has asked that you NOT do this!
    ANYONE who thinks the rules don’t apply to them. Hate to break it to you, sunshine, but you’re just not that special!!!

    I could go on and on…
    And on and on…

    I try to remember that everyone is somebody’s child, and they probably weren’t raised properly. (See “Parents who…” above.) It does help somewhat, but if you put your feet on my seat, look out for your knees!!!

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Alex Blackwell | Founder and Primary Writer On the brink of divorce several years ago, I needed to make a few changes within myself before my life could change. Knowing creating positive change was necessary, I started down the path of learning how to appreciate exactly what I have. The articles you’ll read here are […]more →