Be Annoying

Be annoying--- have you ever been given such advice? How about by a therapist? I’m thinking probably not and yet, this may very well be one of the most valuable pieces of advice a person can get.

This idea is likely tough to wrap your head around, as I’m sure at least some of what comes to mind when you first think about the “act of annoying” are images similar to the following: Perhaps, a little boy sticking out his candy-blue tongue at his sister, or maybe a car that cuts you off on the highway in an almost assured-manner of entitlement; possibly that person pacing around the waiting room while talking loudly on their cell phone, or the customer service rep loudly smacking his or her gum with each word over the phone. May even be the careless customer who stands idle in front of the cereal aisle with an overflowing shopping cart blocking everyone else’s entry…

Am I close?

Perhaps the idea of “annoying” hits you even closer to home: Like with images of your spouse tossing 50 million outfits all over the bedroom when getting ready to go out, or falling asleep watching TV next to his or her melting container of icecream. What about flashes of your teenager telling you to “chill,” or interrupting your wise life lessons with the famous “FINE, I get it. Can I go now?”

Unfortunately, for any person with an average amount of daily interactions with other humans, these scenarios are far from uncommon.

So why, you ask, would I want to promote more “annoying” in a world where capacity seems to have already been so clearly exceeded?

Well, before many become fearful and angry in regard to “What kind of crazy therapist is she,” or perhaps overly-excited that “Wow, I have permission from a therapist to annoy the hell out of everyone,” I must clarify (as the rest of you may have guessed) that my definition of annoying in this context is quite different. And when I say quite, I mean very, extremely, significantly.

I suppose many of you are now feeling relieved or perhaps, disappointed. Nevertheless, I promise this advice will serve!

Now bear with me for a moment as my next statement will likely sound like an insult. In suggesting that you “be annoying,” I am simply suggesting that you be yourself.

See what I mean? Once again, please allow me to clarify. What I mean by such a statement is that in being true to ourselves, it is only inevitable that we will in some way clash with, get in the way of, disappoint, frustrate, (AKA annoy) someone else… and likely several others… even when we have no purposeful intent to do so.

For example, think about the last time you respectfully (and I want to stress the word respectfully) held strong to your beliefs in the face of others’ arguments against them. What happened? Perhaps you became caught in their web of accusations, like “you are so stubborn” or “so insensitive.” Maybe you took pride in your work by pointing out a coworker’s mistake who then blamed you for making him or her feel bad, or you were so set on getting more family closeness with your no phones at the dinner table rule that you drove your kids crazy. Maybe you had to make the final call about not wanting to have kids which devastated your partner and ended the relationship, or you may have become so overwhelmed by your all-too needy and boundary-less friend with whom you ultimately had to cut ties (despite his or her fear, pleading, and anger about it).

In each of these examples, I think we can all agree that your coworker, kids, ex, and friend must have considered your perspective, needs, wants, limits, and ultimately YOU, annoying. And, well, all I have to say about that is: Congratulations!

Of course, it's not that I celebrate this because I enjoy the idea of others being put uncomfortably in their place, disappointed, hurt, or left, but instead, it’s because despite the difficult consequences of it, you stayed you. Uncompromised, honest, real, “annoying” YOU.

If this isn’t enough to celebrate, perhaps it might help to consider the much worse consequences of being “not annoying.”

And what is the opposite of annoying? Pleasant.

Here I go probably confusing everyone again, as “pleasant” is what most of us are taught all of our lives to be: Saying thank you for gifts/gestures we really don’t like, finishing our disgusting plates of food so as not to insult the cook, hugging and kissing that one relative who gives us back-handed compliments each time we see them. This is what we’re taught is “right.”

So what bad can possibly happen to us when we are this excruciatingly pleasing to and accommodating of everyone around us? Well, if you didn’t pick up on it from the word “excruciating” in that last statement, it’s as simple as this: There is nothing more painful than the denial of one’s truest wants or needs. From having to choke down that dreadful plate of food, all the way to having to stay extra late at the office to make up for your coworker’s unrealized, or purposely-disregarded mistakes; from kissing your great aunt’s face that's just full of condescending insults for you, all the way to forcing your career-driven self into the life of a stay-at-home parent----it never quite seems worth it.

It’s this problematic kind of pleasant that is present in name only. This is because in every other aspect it is anything but. This kind of pleasant looks so lovely on the surface, but requires us to lie to ourselves underneath and to tuck away who we want to be. After-all, we wouldn’t want our true selves out and about “annoying” everyone, right?

Hopefully by this point, the atypical advice to “be annoying” is no longer sounding so crazy. It is not about acting out toward others in needless and obnoxious rebellion, nor is it about dismissing or demeaning others’ needs/beliefs simply to preserve our own utmost convenience. Believe it or not, it’s not even about making sure your lazy/forgetful coworker gets fired, or finally telling your great aunt to hit the road. On the contrary, this advice only works when followed with a true and honest intent to always treat others the best ways possible, just all the while knowing when to take a stronger stand for your own well-being in the face of threats to your truest needs, wants, or values.

So however you need to view it… “be annoying,” “be respectfully annoying,” “be more pleasantly honest,” or “be more honestly pleasant,” the main advice here is to just be the best and truest possible YOU with anyone at anytime.

And whoever finds it too annoying will leave and whoever finds it pleasant enough will stay.