Is Someone Getting on Your Last Nerve?

My husband was noticeably irritated with me last night. He said that I was “yawn talking.” Do you know what yawn talking is? It’s when you keep talking even as you yawn. Apparently, I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and it’s extremely annoying.

My initial reaction after being accused of “yawn talking,” was to strike back. If I do that, then he “burp talks.” But that isn’t really the point. The point is, we’ve been sheltering in place for too long, and we’re getting on each other’s nerves. Critical words, verbal tics, grating habits, and nonverbal gestures that we might normally have shrugged off are getting to us.

You may find yourself in a similar situation. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard numerous complaints from my clients about other people’s bad behavior. It could be a boss who is making more-than-usual unreasonable demands. A family member who is acting out. A coworker who is chronically late – even for Zoom meetings. Perhaps you have an upstairs neighbor who is playing loud music or moving furniture late at night.

None of these may be new behaviors, but they feel more irritating today. It’s the emotional by-product of extended captivity in the name of staying safe.

If your nerves are frayed, your temper is quick, and you feel overly reactive to the behavior of others, you are not alone. The question is, what can we do to calm our systems down?

Here are a few tips:

Shift your energy – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Confined living creates pent up energy which needs to be released one way or another. Run, jog, dance, squirm, have a pillow fight, take a bath, step outside, take ten deep breaths. Do something to shift the energy and relax your system. The more rigorous the movement, the better the release.

Ask yourself, “how important is it?” – If someone criticizes you, interrupts you, ignores you, makes a sarcastic remark, or offends you in some way, try to pause and ask yourself if it’s worth getting upset about. Is this a matter of life or death? Is your welfare truly threatened by this person/event/remark?

Let someone talk you off of the ledge – Sometimes you may know that you are over-reacting but you can’t help yourself. At these times, it’s smart to call a trusted friend or confidante, voice your complaint, and let them calm you down.

Try to find the humor – This isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. I am forever grateful to those people who can find the humor in difficult moments. Laughter relaxes the nervous system and puts small problems in their proper perspective. If you can find what’s funny in a tense exchange, both parties will benefit.

There is no miracle cure for our frayed nerves at this time. We don’t know exactly when we will be less confined, more mobile, less fearful. While we do our best to manage our lives during the pandemic, let’s all commit to doing what we can to soothe our over-worked nerves.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

If You’re Feeling Hysterical, It’s Probably Historical: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 6

Katherine talks about historical triggers on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

Often when we’re feeling emotional about something at work, it’s because it’s triggering a past experience.

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

#33: Best Of – Cliques – Season 6

Kathi and Katherine talk about cliques on this week’s episode of the My Crazy Office podcast.

First we give advice to a new employee who feels left out because her coworkers are divided into cliques.

Then we discuss how a manager should deal with a culture of cliques.

Loneliness At Work: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 6

Kathi and Katherine talk about loneliness on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

Do you feel lonely at work?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

Multi-Generational Workplace: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 6

Kathi and Katherine talk about multi-generational workplaces on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

How do you navigate working in a multi-generational office?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

#20: How To Work For and With Friends – My Crazy Office, Season 5

Kathi and Katherine talk about working with friends on this week’s episode of the My Crazy Office podcast.

First we give advice about how to turn a personal relationship into a professional one.

Then we discuss the pluses and minuses of working with friends.

Boundaries, Anger and You

Interpersonal boundaries, the lines or parameters that define and protect the territory between individuals, can be difficult to discern. How do I know when my behavior feels invasive to you? How can you tell if you’ve offended my sense of propriety?

Because interpersonal boundaries are imperceptible to the human eye, and because they differ from person to person, they have to be communicated. Part of the work at work involves defining and expressing your own interpersonal boundaries.

Here’s a hint: If you are continually angry, upset or complaining about someone or something, you probably need to set a boundary.

In this case, anger can be your friend. It’s telling you that you feel invaded and probably need to protect yourself. It’s important not to act out in anger. Rather, notice who and what bothers you. Then consider whether you need to communicate a boundary.

If a coworker’s voice is too loud, can you ask that person to lower the volume – explaining that you’re having a hard time concentrating?

If your client is behind in payment, can you explain that until you receive payment for work already delivered, you won’t be able to move on future projects?

If your boss or coworkers habitually email you at midnight, can you stop responding to all emails after 10 p.m.?

Use your anger as a signal that someone may be inadvertently invading your territory. Then see what you can say or do to communicate your limit.

It’s not personal

When it comes to workplace relationships, the notion of not taking someone else’s behavior personally is one of the toughest to really internalize.

If you are a friendly, thoughtful person, and someone at work never says “hello,” refuses to say “please” and never thanks you, it’s tempting to think that he or she is being mean and discourteous to YOU. The truth is that this individual is being who she or he is, and you happen to be there. That same individual would be just as rude to anyone else. You didn’t cause that behavior and it will continue long after you leave.

What would it be like if you could take a coworker or boss or company’s behavior less personally? How would you feel if you could attribute a cranky person’s brusque remarks as their problem, not yours?

Today, look for an opportunity to take someone else’s behavior less personally. whether it’s a sarcastic remark, a thoughtless act, or an angry reaction, remind yourself that you are not the reason why this person is acting poorly. It may feel personal, but it isn’t.