For generations, we’ve been taught that it’s wrong to ignore people. There are times however,that politely ignoring annoying behavior is therapeutic and effective. AA and Al-Anon call this detachment; learning to use your inner ‘ignore’ button. AA and Al-Anon teach us that ignoring irritating behavior is part of detachment which is part of acceptance which is part of serenity which is part of recovery.
Consider these examples. Person A has some annoying behavior mechanisms. He’s a basically a nice guy, however. He’s not abusive, just irritating. Maybe he’s an attention-seeker. Maybe he was raised with poor listener parents who preferred talking and pontificating to listening to their child. Maybe he has learned that to get attention, one must behave in attention-seeking ways. To get people to take notice, he has learned, it’s not enough just to share and communicate. He has learned that to be noticed, he must engage in obtrusive behavior that people who behave with more typical give and take in conversation, find annoying.
What can Person B do when faced with these annoying behaviors? the first and most obvious method is to address the problem behavior. Explain that it is irritating to be interrupted or that the attention seeking behaviors aren’t necessary in this relationship. However, some irritating behaviors have go way back to early childhood and have become very ingrained. Additionally, some coping mechanism behaviors are familiar and comfortable. Person A may not want to stop doing them, no matter how nicely he is asked. What then.
Codependent thinking says ‘I must respond to every bid for my attention. I must attend to everything, even if I find it tedious and tiresome. I am not capable of making reasonable choices about what I will tolerate and what I won’t’ That isn’t healthy thinking. If I respond to ever bid for my attention, even annoying, pointless interruptions made by adults who know better and have been asked to refrain, I will sooner or later become resentful. A simple solution is to politely ignore behavior designed to annoy. Attention-seeking behavior that gets no attention becomes like the candle that gets no oxygen. It snuffs itself out. A little feigned deafness has often gotten me past annoying comments or behavior that would probably only lead to an argument.
Politely and quietly ignoring annoying attention-seeking behavior sends a message that, I value myself too much to waste time in a go nowhere discussion. I refuse to allow myself to get riled up by comments designed to get my attention by annoying me. And I love you a too much to let this annoying behavior drive a wedge between us. ‘Should Person A behave in annoying ways when he’s been asked not to?’ That’s a moot point. What we should do and what we actually do are sometimes, in human interaction, mutually exclusive.