5 Ways to Be More Patient and Less Annoyed

They say patience is a virtue. But sometimes we wish leaving us alone would be a bigger virtue. Or not asking stupid questions. You get the point. This week, Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen offers up 5 ways to fatten up that quickly-thinning patience.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
6-minute read
Episode #173
large group waiting in line

Tip #2: Give yourself what you need in your imagination.

Think back to the most annoying of all your annoying memories. Play it through in your mind as if you were watching a movie. Now, right before the part where you lose your cool, ask yourself what you needed in that moment. It could be anything—internal strength, a feeling of relaxation, or just one of those giant squeaky hammers clowns use to hit each other. Giving yourself what you need, even in your imagination, can make your brain feel like you really received it. And that can help you handle the next time with aplomb.

Tip #3: Change your conclusion.

When Paul gets yet another question from strangers, he might conclude, “Ugh, people are stupid.” When my kids yell requests from another room, I think, “Why are they so lazy?” When your partner waltzes out the door while breakfast dishes are piled in the sink, you might think, “She’s taking advantage of me.”

Now, objectively, the thing that triggered our thoughts—a question, a yelled request, a pile of dishes—isn’t what makes us mad, it’s the conclusion we draw from it. It’s our interpretation that makes us annoyed. So if we change our interpretation, we can change our feelings. Even changing the interpretation from personal to situational can help—there’s a big difference between me thinking my kids are lazy by disposition versus thinking they’re feeling lazy at the moment.

So think of another way to interpret the situation. Maybe the question-askers are uneducated but well-meaning. Maybe the dish-leaver is in a hurry or distracted, and if we bring it up in a non-accusatory way later, she’ll offer to do the dinner dishes.

Tip #4: Pretend you’re being watched.

We tend to turn up the dimmer switch on our best selves when we’re in public. It’s unfortunate that our best behavior is more likely to be on display when there’s an audience, but the very fact it occurs means we can turn on our best selves at will. So pretend your kids, your boss, or your grandma is watching when you respond to annoyances. Or if you’re actually in public, you don’t even have to pretend. This is fake it ‘til you make it, which means once you’ve done it a few times, you won’t have to fake it anymore. Responding well will come more naturally.

Tip #5: Save the story for later.

An annoying moment can make a great story. Annoyances are almost always relatable and make a great story in a “can you believe this” kind of way.

So while you’re in the midst of it—wondering if the DMV runs in slow motion, fielding your kid’s insistence that you kiss each of her dozens of stuffed animals goodnight, or getting stuck behind the driver who’s attempting to parallel park for the fourth time—file it away for later. Seeing your predicament as fodder for a good story will help you take the mindset of “Let’s see how this turns out” rather than “Get me out!”

And of course, if all else fails, you can always use the classic: take a deep breath and count to ten. The advice has stuck around for a reason: it works.

how to be yourself ellen hendriksen bookPre-order Ellen's forthcoming book HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Get even more savvy tips to be happier and healthier by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or get each episode delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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Medical Disclaimer
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets.