An 8-Step Approach to Coping with Your Pet Peeves | The BridgeMaker

An Eight-Step Approach to Coping with Pet Peeves

By on Jul 13, 2011

19 Comments


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.

  • Clara | My pet peeve is people who ask for your advice and then don’t take it.
  • Andrea | Inconsiderate neighbors who let their dogs bark outside all night long, or let their children run around screaming in the backyard until midnight.
  • Evelyn | A habit that drives me nuts is my husband running late. He is not very punctual and tends to wait for the last minute to get ready and go out.
  • Darlene | My pet peeve? People who know everything. Plus people who have to correct you if you say something wrong (or they think you did.)
  • Aaron | My pet peeve is when people claim that they are cheerful, positive thinking people, yet as soon as something negative comes into their life, they devolve right back into a whining and complaining mode.
  • Albert | Cocky people drive me damn nuts.
  • Patricia | Women who are afraid of catching something from sitting on the toilet seat that they squat and then pee on the seat and don’t clean up after themselves. I am more likely to catch something from them than they are from me sitting on the seat.
  • Alex S. | Gossip. It really bothers me when people gossip because I find that it’s an unproductive past time. Part of what bothers me about it is that I have done it before and still occasionally do it myself, but I am actively stopping myself whenever I see it.
  • Mark | People who drag their feet when they walk.
  • Jenny | Repeating myself a million times to my kids as well as people who constantly feel the need to “one up” others.
  • Kendra | People who use your/you’re incorrectly; kids with ADHD; Crocs; men with big beer bellies who want smokin’ hot hard body chicks; People magazine and Iceberg lettuce.
  • Todd | I hate when people slap me on the back as a greeting or a good-bye. It’s painful and annoying.
  • Shann | My biggest pet peeve is being around people who regularly cut themselves down due to lack of self esteem. In my experience, they tend to be either fishing for a compliment or truly consider themselves to be no better than pond scum.
  • Jonathan | I guess my biggest pet peeve is insensitivity. When people are so engulfed in their own objectives and ends that they don’t stop to think about how other people feel.
  • Tim | My biggest pet peeve is being asked what my biggest pet peeve is.
  • James | My pet peeve is bluntness when on the phone, specifically when people don’t bother to say goodbye, and just hang up on you. It is equivalent to just walking away during a conversation.
  • Peter | One of my pet peeves is not receiving replies to emails. However, since I am often prone to this bad habit I am very forgiving of other people.
  • Kaite | I guess it is on the whole individuals who choose not to yield. When I first read your question, I immediately thought of the yield sign on the highway and my peeve of how people do not yield when clearly that is what the sign says to do.
  • Andrew | People who break promises. How many times has someone made promises which they have not kept? Maybe to take an action, do something – as simple as calling you.
  • Mary Beth | One of my pet peeves is being around highly negative people who can’t see the good in a situation. These are very toxic people. Also, people who think the sign that restricts cigarette smoking within 40 feet of the entrance to a public building does not apply to them.
  • Cameron | When people (strangers) use terms when addressing you like “champ” “buddy” “sport”….I know they don’t mean anything by it, but it seems like a subtle way of talking down to me like I’m a little kid that needs their help or something.
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The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Email | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

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  • Natasha

    My biggest pet peeve is when people pop their gum. It sounds disgusting and rings my ears. People do it at the most inconsiderate times like during testing, a movie, or a long car ride. I don’t want to hear the noise the inside of your mouth makes because there’s a hole in your tooth!!! Hopefully this article does me some justice. I have to get over this or I’ll drive myself nuts…

    • Ala

      I have the same problem, is there any way to get over it?

  • Rodney

    For me, people who say “Really?” more than 30 times a day and these women who use this ‘vocal-fry’ tone at the end of their sentences that is supposed to make them sound sophisticated but actually makes them look like mice following a trend.
    That irritates me somewhat…

  • David Fulwood

    Sand or dirt sticking to my bare feet and people who don’t think of others. Alot of the small pains are in the second catagory.