People do so many annoying things. They chew their food too loud, leave the toilet seat-up, bite their nails, and sometimes don’t listen to you when you’re trying to tell them something important. It’s hard when a roommate, romantic partner or coworker is doing something that annoys you, and it can be even harder to find the right way to talk to him or her about it. If you confront them, they may get offended but if you don’t confront them, you’ll be stuck suffering in silence indefinitely. It can seem like a lose-lose situation, but it doesn’t have to be.
1. Ask yourself: Am I the problem or are they the problem? If you don’t like the way someone is breathing or the sound of his or her voice, you may just need to remove yourself from the situation. People can’t learn to stop breathing nor can they change their voice. However, people can learn to cover their mouths when they sneeze or how to put their dishes in the dishwasher.
2. Find an appropriate time to talk with the person and don’t put it off. From my experience the only thing more awkward than calling someone out on their annoying habits is waiting 2 or 3 months, and then calling them out on their annoying habits. Be brave and trust that the people surrounding you are open to changing their behavior in order to improve the quality of both your lives. After all, you would do the same for them, right?
3. Enter the conversation from a place of caring and understanding. Not many people are excited to hold a mirror up to the parts of themselves that aren’t so pretty and that’s exactly what you’re about to do to this person. Their reaction will depend upon many factors including the individual’s level of maturity, self-esteem, and the degree to which they value you as a person. Make sure you take notes for the future because one can learn things from even the worst of reactions.
4. Be open to feedback about things you do that bother them. Don’t be surprised or get defensive if they turn the tables on you. Not everyone is as open, honest and brave as you are and taking the first steps to enter deeper levels of honesty with someone can inspire them to start opening up to you. So, prepare yourself to listen to what they have to say about you and your annoying habits.
5. Give the person time to adjust. Habits are hard to break even if you deeply care about someone. It can take some time and many failed attempts before someone is able to learn a new or correct an old behavior. If they keep failing instead of getting frustrated look for signs they’re trying to change. These signs are usually small but if this person is truly trying to work on things you’ll notice them.
Confronting people about changing their behavior isn’t easy but it’s worth it. Having these types of open and honest conversations with the people you care about will improve your communication skills and the quality of your relationships.