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Dealing with Irritating Neurotypicals: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

We’re all familiar with irritating, frustrating and annoying people. Learning how to deal with them is an art-form, because what works for others, may not work for you. There are a lot of facets that come into play when someone is annoying you. For example, are they bothering you because you genuinely don’t think they ‘vibe’ with you …or is the universe sending someone to show you what you have to work on?

If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: honesty always works. The longer you try to be nice to someone, the more you’re making other people believe that you actually enjoying hanging out with them. There’s no need to be unnecessarily blunt about it, but if someone becomes too pushy, you have to be honest about what’s going on and let them know. It stinks, but if you value your time, it has to be done, and it doesn’t have to be done in a harsh manner.

Tips for dealing with irritating neurotypicals:

1. A lot of conflict is based in misunderstandings, so always make sure you’re getting all the information. It can be easy enough to tune someone out when they irritate you. The trick is to use careful questioning to focus the other person on the topic at hand so they give you what you need and avoid straying too far. Poor listening leads to misunderstandings that need clarification – which means more time spent with someone you’d really rather not be around.

2. Accept that which you can’t change. You can change yourself – but not someone else. Also, you can’t feel comfortable if you constantly wish the world were as you think it ought to be. If you find yourself getting irritated at someone who bothers you because they're letting their personality shine forth, realize that there is not much you can do – and that you will gain very little by such irritation. You can’t change someone's personality because you don't get along with them or because you've chosen to find them irritating.

3. Anything that helps you to grow and mature will tend to dampen irritation with others. The more that you learn about the world, and the more understanding you are of people's motivations, you'll expect less of others and let them just be. In turn, you'll be less irritated by the things people do.

4. Ask yourself, “How is this individual reflecting my shadow?” People who get on our nerves are often simply reflecting a part of ourselves we don’t want to see. If someone irritates you, ask yourself: Have I ever demonstrated this irritating quality in the past? Do I demonstrate this quality in my life now? Am I capable of demonstrating this quality under different circumstances in the future? Chances are the answer is yes. If you can find a way to accept the irritating quality in yourself, you are much more likely to accept it in others.

5. Ask yourself, “How do I benefit by continuing to be so irritated?” Despite how bad it feels emotionally to be angry, mad, or irritated, we often cling to the emotion. We hold grudges, become passive aggressive, get into arguments, or ruminate about a person for days in our own minds. For what? The ego just LOVES to be right. Ask yourself, “What do I gain by being right?” Would you rather be right, or would you rather be free?

6. Much irritation comes about when we take the path of least resistance – not saying anything but fuming all the same. Irritation caused by placing yourself into a position of powerlessness because of the things another person does is self-destructive. A far more constructive approach is to speak up when you'd like to see something changed around you.

7. Assertiveness is about standing up for yourself politely but firmly. It is not something to be afraid of, and you don't need to attend a course to master it. It's as simple as responding to the irritating behavior promptly and with a pointed request.

8. Avoid generalizing. Saying things like "I only care about my immediate friends and family. All other people are so stupid and such time-wasters" says more about you than about these "other people." You're shutting off the opportunity to meet lots of new people when you label them irritating. Also, you are acting defensively to try and ward off anyone who might cause you to have to think, respond, or feel differently about the things you're used to.

9. Be careful if you're the sort of person who loudly proclaims, "I don't tolerate fools." Such broad assumptions about people you've grouped together by characteristics that you dislike will always give you cause for irritation, because you've chosen to treat anyone in your grouping with contempt.

10. Everyone gets irritated sometimes, which means people will be irritated with you sometimes too. We're all in a position to do or say irritating things now and then. Try to focus on what you can do to adopt a more compassionate, guiding approach to an irritating behavior or action. Consider the ways in which you can provide constructive feedback to try and alleviate the irritating behavior or activities rather than blowing your top or creating a negative atmosphere. As part of this, be interested in the other person. If that sounds difficult, then there is all the more reason to put your compassionate self into action.

11. Be aware that being irritated by other’s traits can be based in your own lack of patience or understanding. In some cases, irritation is driven by a sense of superiority, as when we state, "How stupid those people are!" …or… "Does he have to be such an idiot?" We automatically assume we're smarter without ever knowing the full story or the personal issues that drive the person to act the way he/she does.

12. Besides the tendency to tune-out people you’d rather avoid, our feelings about another person can color our perception of what they’re saying. To avoid this, repeat back any instructions, questions, or other problems they pose to you to make sure you absolutely understand what they’re saying. Give them a chance to correct you before you go off half-cocked.

13. When you are about to go-off on the irritating person, breathe deeply and shut your eyes briefly. Calmly count to ten, slowly. Imagine yourself on the beach. Let the internal sound of waves and seagulls wash over you. Feel the mist of the seawater on your face and let it calm you.

14. Check your facial and body language. Frowns, glaring, and other unpleasant body language convey anger and contempt – and it's contagious. So, if it's targeted at the person who is irritating you, he/she is likely to feel angry too, and things can escalate. Try to maintain a calm and collected demeanor without facial expressions that suggest you're irritated or displeased.

15. Consider shaking your life up a bit. Being irritated can be a sign that you're too deeply entrenched in your comfort zone. Try shaking things up a bit to expand your comfort zone now and then. Rearrange your bedroom furniture, read books by authors who challenge you, start new hobbies, take a trip, start volunteering, or get a new job. Changing something in your life that shifts you out of your comfort zone and into new territory can reduce your levels of irritation and beef-up your compassion for others.

16. Focus on the humor in the situation. Laugh-off whatever has caused you to feel so irritated, and try to imagine the irritating behavior or situation in a more humorous light, along with how you might just have the totally wrong end of the stick.

17. Know what sets you off and learn how to not react. It's usually obvious who is bothering you – the noisy chatterbox, the bragging backstabber, or the constant complainer who follows your every error and turns a molehill into a mountain. It's also important to identify the “what” that is bothering you (i.e., what precisely about their behavior is causing you to feel so irritated that you feel ready to explode or snap at them). Working out the real reason underlying the irritation will enable you to target responses that will be effective in both solving the problem that irritates you and causes you to find that particular person so irritating.

18. Identify when the irritation reflects a deeper conflict. Sometimes this is easier to see a few hours later when you're not with that irritating person. Small things can mount up into a pattern that can guide you to understand why you need to be more patient. For example, if you work with someone who is bigoted against you for an unstated reason, you may be hearing constant borderline insults in everything from their anecdotes about others to the differences in the way they treat you and other people.

19. If you’ve found yourself in a position where you are obligated for some reason to spend time with someone you dislike, remember that most likely, they are in the same position – and it’s you they dislike. But you wouldn’t be in that situation if you didn’t provide something of value – whether that’s a work skill or talent, specialized knowledge, even things as abstract as emotional support or solidarity. You have a mission, so to speak, and everything that distracts you from that mission reduces your value.

20. If you're irritated because you view other people as rivals and enemies, you're on a slippery slope. Remove the competitive aspect from your work, study, or social relations by realizing that there is more than enough praise, pay, accolades, and recognition for everyone.

21. You may need to unlearn anger habits, as irritation is often sourced in unresolved anger. A course in anger management might be extremely helpful if you're finding almost everyone irritates you.

22. It’s tempting to want to argue with people who rub you the wrong way, or to lose it and start pointing out their faults. Don’t do that! Unless they’re wrong about something that directly and materially affects you, don’t bother. Starting a debate or an argument will only prolong your agony, and neither of you is likely to change your mind. Save the debates for when you’re with friends whose opinions matter to you.

23. It's important to cope when you're irritated with another person so that you don't let your sour face or sarcastic comments alert them to your irritation. After you've coped will come the time for reflection on the irritation and what it means for you and your approach to others.

24. No matter who you are, someone hates you for race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference or social class and finds it very hard to see you as a human being in your own right. Understand that it is possible for someone to learn to overcome prejudice, but it rarely happens fast. They may become aware of it in a moment and be shocked, but they will probably not be able to completely overcome it without compassionate, gradual education and personal support.

25. People that are irritating are that way for a reason that has nothing to do with you – it’s not your job to fix it. Don’t worry about figuring them out or correcting them, worry instead about how you’re going to manage their irritations without letting it hinder your ability to achieve your own goals.

26. Realize that when you are irritated – and voice that irritation – you are also irritating. You’re doing the same thing to others that you don’t want done to you.

27. Remember that most people are not trying to irritate you. They probably don't realize that what they are doing is irritating. In other words, they are probably in their "own world" and are not even aware of you (e.g., someone talking on their cell phone and engrossed in their own conversation while totally irritating the rest of the people within earshot).

28. If you find yourself getting irritated when other people aren’t meeting your needs, let them off the hook and ask for what you want instead of resenting what you didn’t get it because you didn’t ask.

29. Sometimes irritation with other people can be sourced from an illness or disorder and turns into an ongoing, long-term problem. If you're in frequent pain or you're depressed, anxious, prone to panic attacks, etc., you may find yourself easily (and constantly) irritated by other people because you're so busy coping with your pain and disability that you cannot bear it when people make things harder for you. If you're easily irritated and feel anxious, down, and worried over a period of more than a week or two, go and see your doctor to discuss what might be happening.

30. When someone gets angry at us, we sense it and instinctively throw it back at them. When this happens, we “hook” into their energy. Try to give yourself some space before reacting to someone else’s behavior. Most of the time your negative emotion will pass, and you’ll be able to deal with the situation with much more composure and grace.

31. Many times I notice I get irritated with other people when they don’t do what I expect. How often do you make your happiness dependent on the actions of others? It’s like you’re writing them a script, and if they don’t follow it to the letter, you can’t be happy. Stop giving your happiness away.

32. Talk to the other person when you feel calmed or less irritable. If you find that this person is continuing to irritate you, figure out whether it's a good idea to ask them to stop doing whatever they're doing that's bothering you, or whether you just need a temporary break. Either way, you'll need to talk, even if it's just to excuse yourself.

33. The worst thing you can do with an irritating person is engage him. In the heat of battle, any word or action interpreted as “aggressive” in response will only trigger more aggression. As hard as it might seem to do, the best thing is to sit quietly and let them spend themselves ranting and raving, and then ask if they’d like to schedule a time to discuss the matter more calmly and return to whatever you were doing. If this sets off another round of yelling, simply wait it out and repeat.

34. Try meditation. It may help to reground you and open your mind up to peaceful ways of approaching challenging situations and difficult people.

35. While you may have to interact with people you don’t care for in any number of situations, remember that your time is your own and don’t let other people, especially ones you’d rather not interact with, take control of your time.

36. You don’t have to be friends with everyone, which means you don’t have to do favors for everyone who asks. If someone’s encroaching on your time, simply tell them, “I’m sure this is important to you but it simply isn’t a priority for me right now. I really need to work on x and not y.” Again, there’s no need to be mean, just redirect the conversations whenever conversation drifts into areas that aren’t relevant and where you know you’ll be irritated.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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