“There is no teacher of patience like the person that irritates you.”
-Master Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhisattvacharyavatara)
Like everyone, there are a few people in my life who really push my buttons. One person is someone very close to me. I once complained to my favorite teacher, Mira, about how difficult this person is to deal with. Her response was, “Well aren’t you glad they’re in your life?!” I was like, “No!” But here’s the key to transforming that person into someone who doesn’t push your buttons -- Cultivate patience. Do everything you can not to get angry. Because getting angry guarantees you’ll get more annoying people in your future. That’s just Karma; no way around it.
Be grateful for the person who annoys you, because they are your greatest teacher of patience. In Buddhist texts, patience is described as “the ability to not get angry.” That’s a serious skill! Have you ever tried to stay calm and even-tempered when someone you don’t like is doing that thing that drives you crazy? It’s nearly impossible.
Here are two methods I use:
1) Try to see their point of view, and what the motivations for their annoying behavior are. I once heard it said that “no one does anything inappropriate given their version of the world.” We have to remember that people see things differently.
2) Do a dress-rehearsal in your mind. Think about the next time you’re going to see that person, and imagine the scene. See the location, see what they look like, see them doing that annoying thing. But instead of your typical reaction, see yourself being patient. See yourself reacting in a new way. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to stick it out when the real deal goes down.
And incredibly, it does work. Just like an athlete visualizing their victory, you can visualize yourself as the very picture of patience. Of all the times I felt totally justified in getting angry and even yelling at someone, not once did it make things better. And think of all the future annoyance you’ll spare yourself.