It is completely obvious that when loading the dishwasher the cutlery basket needs to be at the front, so that you can pop stuff in easily later on, without having to pull out the whole drawer. My husband, however, disagrees. When he stacks the dishwasher, I very often find myself swearing under my breath as I pull the drawer out, rather than feeling appreciative of the fact that I didn’t have to stack it this time.

There is part of us (in everyone, but more developed in some than others) that just loves little things like this happening so that we can enjoy playing victim. It’s the part that goes around saying, ‘Why does he/she/they NEVER…..?’, accompanied by a big sigh. [If you’ve never done this, you can stop reading now, but I don’t think I’ll lose that many readers. ]

Make a list of all the little things that drive you mad about your partner, or friends, or workmates. I’m obviously not talking about major things such as cruelty or violence, but irritating little habits like stacking the dishwasher wrong, not picking up dirty socks on the bedroom floor, or failing to wash up cups in the communal kitchen at work. Bring to mind how these things make you feel: clenched jaw, tightness in the chest, and the thoughts that go through your head about how they obviously don’t respect/love you or they wouldn’t do these things.

Notice how strong those feelings can be. Are they really about the dishwasher/socks/cups? Or is your Inner Troll getting something out of playing victim?

How could I see this situation differently?

We often can’t control what others around us are doing, but we can always choose how we respond to it. This isn’t about suppressing the anger and irritation that arises, but about looking at it dispassionately, and asking ourselves, ‘How could I see this situation differently?’

Maybe we don’t actually know the best way to stack the dishwasher (or it doesn’t matter that much). Maybe the other person actually is somewhat thoughtless or lazy- but why are we taking their character flaws so personally?

Would you rather be right or be happy?

We don’t need to change the other person’s behaviour so much as we need to change the way we react to it. As the saying goes, ‘Would you rather be right or be happy?’

At this point, lots of you are probably hearing your Inner Troll pipe up about how important it is to be right, and how we can’t let people get away with this stuff. But you’re not letting them get away with anything. You can still say something, or take action, or leave the situation if it’s really warranted – you just let go of that inner dialogue of victimhood which changes nothing, and poisons relationships.

When you do this, you feel so much lighter, and, miraculously, the other person often stops the irritating behaviour as well. Not always, but I’ve seen it many times- it’s like their Inner Troll realises that the game is up.

Try it and see.

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