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Idaho Behavior Analyst Answers, 'How Should We Deal With Annoying People?'

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To say 2020 has been a challenging year is a significant understatement. Indeed, there has been plenty to provoke or disturb us. But what annoys you? More specifically, who annoys you?

Finding appropriate ways to deal with annoying people is Cynthia Matheny's stock-in-trade. In fact, she'll soon lead a course, via the Boise School District's Community Education program, "How to Deal with Annoying People."

"What I'm passionate about is helping people understand themselves better, " said Matheny. "The very first step is super simple: Ask yourself, 'How do I annoy other people?'"

Matheny visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the basis of that understanding, the importance of being self-aware and "saving ourselves from ourselves."

“Those who think, act or respond differently than we do, are likely going to be the people that annoy us most.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I'm George Prentice.

How might you deal with annoying people? We're going to talk a bit about that this morning with Cynthia Matheny, business coach, consultant and certified master behavior analyst. We were intrigued to see that in the Boise School District's newest listing of community education classes is an upcoming course, “How to Deal With Annoying People.” Cynthia Matheny, you have my full attention.

CYNTHIA MATHENY: Good morning. I'm so glad to be here, George.

PRENTICE: Annoying people…Is that…well, is that in the ear of the beholder?

MATHENY: It can be. In fact, it's interesting that you ask that question..When I tell you a little bit more about what the class is about, perception and perspective is the first topic that we cover. So, yes, everybody's definition and meaning that they assign things to tends to be different. And we all have those people in our life that just annoy us or bother us. And so, I thought I'd use a catchy word to transfer some of my wisdom and knowledge that I've gained to other people to help them deal with these annoying people.

PRENTICE: To be sure, these are hypersensitive times. So, help me out a bit on this: Should we avoid annoying people? Do we reassess who they are? Do we reassess who we are?

MATHENY: So, that's a great, great question and the answer is yes to all of those. My goal in sharing this with other people is to make us more self-aware of who we are and how we're naturally wired, as well as encourage people to be open, to realize that other people might think, act and respond differently than they do. And those who think, act or respond differently than we do, are likely going to be the people that annoy us most.

PRENTICE: I have to assume this includes people who we care about.

MATHENY: It especially includes people that we care about, truly. It's any person that we have a relationship with. We often think of people that we are in relationship with… that those are all positive relationships or close relationships. But we can be in a relationship with someone from a distance and it doesn't necessarily have to be close and personal. Yet at the same time, there still is a degree of relationship, anytime you have two humans interacting.

PRENTICE: I want to make sure I hear you right. Can I assume that it's less about the topic or the issue, and more about the heat of the moment?

MATHENY: For what I share with people, and what I am passionate about, is helping people understand themselves better, and then understand why other people act the way they do; because if we can be open enough and honest enough with ourselves to really take a genuine look at that, and then accept that, acknowledge it, and even embrace it, then that will give us a more firm foundation from which we can interact with people without becoming as annoyed.

PRENTICE: So how do we figure out why some people just drive us crazy?

Credit Cynthia Matheny
Cynthia Matheny

MATHENY: OK. So, the very first step is super simple: Ask yourself, “How do I annoy other people?” Because, chances are, you are annoying to people who are different than you. And some of us are more self-aware, and some of us are more cognizant of how we act and are very intentional about using our strengths and looking at our weaknesses for how we can maybe put a system in place to save us from ourselves. And a lot of people aren't self-aware. So, it really begins with ourselves. One of the things that I address in my course is really taking a look at what you have control over. And I am a firm believer in that. There are only three things that we have control over. And those three things are your attitude, the decisions you make and the actions you take. Outside of that, we truly don't have control over anything else. We have one of two things. We have perceived control, which is truly not control, but we may have influence. And that's truly what most of us have, and don't realize it. We misinterpret influence for control, but we have influence over other situations, but we don't have control over much. So, it's really identifying, “What do I have control over and what can I be responsible for?” And making sure that I'm not owning anyone else's thoughts, actions or opinions.

PRENTICE: Well, as I said, you have my full attention. The course is coming up September 22. More information is at Boiselearns.org. She is Cynthia Matheny. Cynthia, best of luck to you. I am fascinated by what you do.

MATHENY: Thank you so much. You know, it is fascinating. I've learned so much and it's been life-changing for me. And my goal is to share some of what I've learned and that passion with other people so they can have as much positive impact in their world as I've had in mine.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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