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How to Stop Letting Other People Upset You

It happens to the best of us.  We find ourselves completely undone by someone else’s behavior.  It could be anything from someone cutting you off in traffic to your spouse cheating on you.  Mild to severe, other people’s actions can turn our world upside down.

I recently let myself get all caught up in someone else’s drama.  My boyfriend’s daughter was behaving in some ways I found unacceptable.  He was trying to rein her in; she was acting out more and more; we all went to counseling (I can’t tell you how many arguments, sleepless nights, and general fury on my part all this caused).  Suddenly, she decided to move in with her mother. As soon as she moved, poof – there was peace on earth.  No more drama, angst, or fury.  Is she still doing all the stuff we had problems with?  I’m sure.  But now it’s not my issue.  And you know what?  It never was.

Most of the things that you get upset about aren’t your issues.  The driver who cut you off?  Their driving is not your issue. All you need to worry about is getting safely to your destination.  That lazy co-worker who isn’t doing their share of the work?  Not your issue.  All you need to do is focus on your own good work.  Your cheating spouse?  Not your issue.  Your issue is why you would stay with someone who is cheating on you.

Some tips to help with this:

1. Realize you cannot control other people.  They are going to do the crazy, stupid, incorrect things they are going to do.  You can’t force them to do anything else.  You can’t force someone to stop being lazy or lying to you or cheating on you.  The only person you can control is you.  You get to decide how much you’re going to let this person’s behavior impact you.  Your worrying, obsessing, venting, etc. has zero impact on them – and only hurts you.

2. You have three choices – change your thinking, change your behavior, or do nothing.  My boyfriend is not a planner – it’s just not his way.  This used to drive me completely insane.  I would constantly argue the importance of planning – that if you failed to plan, you planned to fail.  I was quick to point out occasions where his lack of planning cost him (I’m such a charmer!).  He finally told me that if I liked planning so much, I could just plan everything and he would gladly go along.  I finally accepted that I was never going to change him.  I can either live with no plan (changing how I think about planning), make the plan myself (changing my behavior), find a new boyfriend (also changing my behavior) or just keep complaining about it. But I’ll never make him a planner.

3. Examine your role in the behavior.  Did the driver ahead of you cut you off because you just started talking on your cell and slowed 20 MPH?  Did your teenager lie to you because the last time he told you the truth he was grounded?  Is your spouse cheating because you are on the road 358 days a year?  I’m not condoning any of the behaviors – I’m just asking you to look at the only person you can control – you.  Maybe you are playing a role and not even realizing it.

4. But realize it may have absolutely nothing to do with you.  I hate to say it, but this is more often the case.  We are all the center of our own universes.  Many times we think people are doing things because of us or to us and they aren’t.  The driver may not have even seen you.  Your teenager may lie just because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed.  Your spouse may be cheating for the thrill of it and still loves you (although they have a crummy way of showing it).

5. Don’t inadvertently enable the behavior.  Some people engage in their crazy behavior because the people around them encourage it.  If your spouse cheats on you, and you take them back and treat them better than before, can you blame them if they cheat again?  If your friend “borrows” money from you, and never repays it and you lend them more, can you blame them if they never repay that loan either?  I love Maya Angelou’s advice, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”  I know you don’t think you’re enabling, you think you’re helping.  You think they will behave differently this time, that perhaps your love or kindness will change them.  I say to you – why are you trying to control them still?  Trying to change someone is trying to control them.

6. Let it go.  Think of whoever drives you crazy right now.  Get worked up – think of how they lie to you or how they don’t do their share or how selfish they are – whatever it is they are doing that drives you crazy.  Assume they will never change.  Ever.  Can you just let it go?  Is it really a minor thing you’ve been focusing on, making it major?  In the big scheme of things, my boyfriend’s nonplanning is just not that big a deal.  It’s offset by his kindness, patience, and wonderful good humor.  Can you focus on the good more than the bad?

7. Let them go.  Some behavior you just can’t let go of.  Sometimes there’s not enough good to offset the bad.  The best thing to do may be to let go of the relationship.  Why are you staying with someone who causes you so much upset and pain?  If you can’t let go of the relationship (say it’s a co-worker), can you let go of thinking so much about them?  I bet they aren’t spending so much time thinking about you.

8. Get help.  Can’t let it go or them?  Talk with a professional counselor – life is too short for all this drama.

9. What about kids?  Obviously when kids are little, you have to control them.  They might think running into traffic is a good idea and you should probably put a stop to that.  But as they get older, you’ll find that you need to alter your behavior to impact theirs.  Maybe they start to dress inappropriately.  You have several options – you can check out current fashion before you freak; you can yell and tell them they’re not going out like that (giving credibility to their attempt at rebellion); you can cut off the clothing allowance (controlling your behavior not theirs); or you can ignore it, knowing that sooner or later they will be embarrassed just like the rest of us and will fall in line.  And if you are sharing clothing with your children, know that the rest of us are trying to let it go.

The bottom line is that you can’t let the behavior of others steal your joy.  But if you do, it’s your choice.  Focus on being the best and happiest that you can be – that’s where your energy should go.  Set the best example you can and spend time and energy on people who lift you higher.  And remember, somewhere there’s someone out there who thinks YOU need to change!  Ha!

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diana
21 days ago

I’m in a quandary regarding my son and his business partner. At one time we were all very close and this man was his best friend. Now there’s a lot of discussion about only the wrong things my son does (not saying he doesn’t mess up sometimes.). We think this person is trying to distance himself but we are unsure of how to go about a discussion with him, these frequently just turn into finger pointing. I’ve been unfriended and blocked on social media after a discussion about something I read in a post and he told me in a… Read more »

Jean
21 days ago

Wow, I searched for this exact topic after getn upset,and I say, this is the best article so far…,I get upset a lot and I dislike that I get upset,and perhaps hurting their feelings with my upsetting words,I feel awful by hurting them unintentionally , cause it makes them pass the anger around thereby hurting others. Hhonestly I am scared to go into a relationship,cause of this issue,I want the words of my mouth bring peace and rest of mind…and for the solution I so much seek, I’ll put all these into practice…
Thanks for helping

Tanya
1 month ago

Hi again ! What to do if your father is toxic ? I’ve recently moved from the adjective “negative” to “toxic”. I’ve two elder siblings we all love each other.. we love dad also and he loves us too.. but i feel there’s something wrong in his personality or the way he conducts himself. He’s stubborn and short tempered. No one can say no to whatever he says. And he doesn’t understand anyone anything in front of himself. Not even mom ! The problem lies there when he expects others to understand him but he makes no effort to understand… Read more »

Dan
1 month ago

Great article and very helpful. Thank you ! Sometimes you just need to relate and read something like this to get yourself out of a funk. Was in a toxic relationship recently and broke it off. Been doing much better since, unfortunately said toxic person still harasses me (4 months later). After some time, 6 blocked facebook accounts, 22 phone numbers, a youtube account and an email; I have come to terms with the situation. hahah Can’t steal my joy !

Maggie
1 month ago

My boss is very hard to work with. she schedules lots of meetings where she simply asks us ‘how is this task going’ or ‘how is that task going’. i don’t mind giving status, but i would prefer a weekly written report that i can take my time to research and prepare. if i’m working on something time-sensitive, i could see her checking in daily via email, and i would provide details (i’m 50% done and expect to meet the deadline. in fact, i would give that status freely without her asking). what i find difficult is responding on the… Read more »

Maggie
1 month ago
Reply to  deniseryan

Thanks Denise – I can’t believe how much better I felt today after getting all of that off my chest last night! I think you’re right that my Boss has good intentions. She does say that these daily meetings are meant to build teamwork. It’s too bad she spends so much of our time on this, and the team doesn’t appreciate it. One of the things I’ve taken from your advice is to stop reacting to her as though she’s trying to hurt me. Like you say, no matter what she says to me, I CAN control how I react.… Read more »

Lang
1 month ago

Was in a very toxic living situation for a year that almost killed me quite literally. The person I was living with was sociopathic and left me and the animals in his care to die in a house without air conditioning and a usable toilet. My family is also a source of enmity. I lost a brother to suicide (who I found) 5 years ago, he was 29. My biological brother who is living has helped me tremendously but has a martyr complex and psychologically abuses me by offering me help and then using said help as leverage. My biological… Read more »

Anonymous
1 month ago

I found this article while looking for help with dealing with my anger towards my stepdaughter. She has lived with my husband and myself for 13 years now and it’s been nothing but trouble all these years. I’ve never met someone so unmotivated in my life. Myself being a striving, a person who digs in and gets things done, has a hard time understanding someone like her. Every imaginable issue has presented itself with her. I’m exhausted, frustrated and ready to give up. Her poor behavior over the years has affected her younger brother as well. We are constantly spending… Read more »

Robert
2 months ago

I dealing with a strong desire to convince a frient that a certain substance she claims she is using will not prevent COVID-19 and in fact may cause her harm.

Joe Cuccaro
2 months ago

My problem with all of this is how do you choose to not let it effectively ruin your life when the wife or husband may never stop completely doting you over something you didn’t do or didn’t mean to do and they just won’t believe you didn’t . And then I know it’s issues from her childhood that is surfacing .and it’s not me doing it but hurt from childhood by I keri getting called a liar and claims of me doing things I never did . If I say I didn’t do It I get called a liar .… Read more »

Sarah
2 months ago

Thank you, this article helped me a bit. My dad calls me mean, and that really hurts me because if I am mean that what will happen if I get in a relationship later in life? (I’m 16 btw). I’m afraid that if I let my guard down and let “my true colors” out that it will hurt the people around me or make them break up with me. I’ve noticed that a lot of my anger day to day comes from little things; like today it was because my sister didn’t take her clothes out of the dryer even… Read more »

Anonymous
2 months ago

A really helpful article, thank you.

Debby
3 months ago

This is really mind blowing… Thank you

Christopher
3 months ago

“The bottom line is that you can’t let the behavior of others steal your joy. But if you do, it’s your choice.”

Yes, let’s just throw mental illness completely out the window. Absolutely ridiculous. You honestly believe that every emotion everyone experiences is a choice? Have you heard of Bi-Polar Disorder? This is one of the many reasons why suicide rates are getting higher and higher.

tanya priya
3 months ago

Hey ! Loved your article. Me and my bf are together for 5 years now. We’ve gone through number of break ups because I’m short tempered and way too straightforward. He on the other hand is very calm and mature. He never gives up on me. I used to be very ambitious when we first met but now all I think is about him, my future with him, whether we’ll be able convince our parents or not etc etc. We are college graduates and now we’re hunting for jobs and I should strictly focus on my career right now. He… Read more »

Coco
3 months ago

Thank you so much! I will be reading this daily. I’ve been searching, learning and meditating trying to fix these issues: 1.How do I deal with toxic family members? 2. I feel like people’s actions and words bother me so much until I feel like my head hurts. Simple things such as , my aunty questioning why I am not married yet? My aunt is very toxic I feel like everything about her makes me angry or my boyfriend saying things like as a man I can’t marry someone who doesn’t know how to cook or who doesn’t do this… Read more »

Michelle
3 months ago

Shelley
I let a co-worker get under my skin as they are lazy.
I let it bother me before I start my shift as Im a good worker and to see them being slack really gets to me.
But in not anymore, their not doing to me it’s who They are.

Tapri
4 months ago

So, I have this guy best friend who also has a thing for me. And eventhough I really care about him and we spend allot of time together (we live in the same house) I can’t stand his way of going about issues. If there is something he dislikes about a situation, no matter how minor, he gives a very excessively aggressive reaction. This has happened numerous times. I have talked to him all those times and we got out of it, but every 4 weeks or so it happened again. Now the thing that makes it difficult to let… Read more »

Tanya
4 months ago

Hey ! Wonderful article. Me and my bf are together for around 5 years now. It’s struggle time for us as we are done with our colleges and now preparing for government services. We both want to be a bureaucrat, which requires a ton of sweats and hard work. Earlier, I was very ambitious but now I feel I’ve lost my fire and energy and I constantly think about us and our relationship. I don’t study and I don’t let him study too. We’ve had several fights and break ups because he kinda started ignoring me. We hardly meet because… Read more »

4 months ago

my mother is a very short-tempered lady, she through her actions and words hurt me and my other family members but i am the most affected by it and can’t resist crying or being upset and most importantly i can’t even break up with her but every other i am in a position to cry because of her , i tries talking to her and she doesn’t accept her fault even if she does . she repeats it the next day. how should i cope with this? Please Help.

4 months ago

My friend is making me feel anxious. i dont like his behaviour commenting on my personal life choices. Even i dont want him to interfere my life. If i break friendship with him he is warm headed and will create problem for me in college. He always has attitude thats makes me feel uncomfortable.he gets angry over small things and i dont share the same opinions as him. I have to pretend that i am okay, bcoz if i tell him abt how he makes me feel his ego will get hurt and he will behave differently . this will… Read more »

vera
5 months ago

My problem is that my friend? constantly brings up the same problems that she can’t change and I can’t listen to them anymore. I worried that I might lose my temper. I have asked her not to talk to me about this subject anymore, she says OK hon but the very next day starts again. How can I get through to her that this subject is upsetting me and I can’t hear it anymore.

Priya
5 months ago

My husband is not romantic and I m pretty romantic. Is it possible to come to a happy median by communicating or by other means?

Anonymous
5 months ago

thank you for sharing some advice/insight, I love the Maya Angelou quote!

Anonymous
6 months ago

God bless you for writing this article! I lack self confidence and I’m also very giving. Some people take advantage of me, my time, my money, my skills (mostly family and friends) and when I mess up, it’s the end of the world for them (and myself) and I start to feel unworthy. But this article taught me how I can control the time, energy, and effort I choose to give to the users in my life.

Kiran Vaswani
6 months ago

This just made my life a little simpler I hope I read this everyday to actually make an effort to make my life better.
This is really a huge help!!! Thanks a ton

Anonymous
6 months ago

Thank you so much because ever since I grew up I ‘ve been living a lie ,just to impress other people .I tried to control my so -called friends and that leaved me with heart breaks.Thank you so much because from now on am not gonna let anyone still my joy.

Anonymous
6 months ago

i am have problem on the school with a fourth grade she is in middle school and am in high school my last year i have been have a problem with this girl. I have to see in the front seat. i was told by the bus driver to sit in the first seat. what i am i suppose to do if she keep on and the bus driver wont let you explain what is going on. i was yelling

Anonymous
6 months ago

thank you this was helpful

Thrisha G
6 months ago

It is one of the best things I’ve ever read. This has had a very deep impact on me and I have realised how much I want to control others behaviour. Well it’s time for me to change myself. This article helped a lot and I’ll definitely work on myself.

Jennifer John
7 months ago

You are a wonderful soul. Trust me I am crying everyday and counting my sleepless nights, just because my husband’s behaviour. He behaves like he know everything, and he is always right and never ever listen what others telling to say. He just want us to to as he says without questioning. Trust me, its hell.

But you given me some hopes. Thank you very much.

No name please
7 months ago

Any idea of how to ignore friends who continuously tease me about my crush?

BRETT
7 months ago

I’m writing this with a tear because now I know why I am so miserable.Thank You…work to be done on me now!

Anonymous
8 months ago

I rarely comment, but thank you so much for writing this. I just spent a half sleepless night, my stomach in knots over a new manager. She is a bit of a bully, and doesn’t seem to have confidence in my abilities, it has really gotten under my skin. Well, no more! Thank you for sharing your insights that are so true. I can only change me. I am not going to let someone else still my joy.

Lindsey
8 months ago

I absolutely needed to hear this. Simple yet profound advice, thank you so much!

Lorrie Varin
8 months ago

And if there is someone out thee who thinks you need to change, just be yourself and let them let you go.

Khloé Hery
9 months ago

Great advice thank you for this wisdom!

Anonymous
9 months ago

Great Article. It helped me think more whether I should let them go or not. I am still thinking of whether to talk to a person who is/ was my friend . Is it good idea to talk to ?I tried before 3-4 time and she avoided me. Please advice

Jessica
9 months ago

Thank you for this..will be printing it as a reminder to myself. I get too caught up in people’s imperfections…probably to subconsciously mask my own. Toxic drama in other people’s lives not related to me also affects me. I obsess over why some people are so f*cked up and try to make meaning of it by overanalyzing and searching for answers online to diagnose them in my head. It drives me crazy. I lose hope in humanity. I despise people a lot. I focus on flaws rather than the good in people, even in the good people. I find flaws… Read more »

Monica Danielle Frazier
9 months ago

Love the article I really needed to here that I let people get to me all the time especially my coworkers im 46 a nurse for 17 years and i work with people that arent team players and it pisses me off because later that person needs me or help or has a question… I can honestly say I take it to far and will apologize when im wrong I hate when i go to 10 so quickly

cel
10 months ago

hello, thank you so much for writing this article! I’m in sort of a sticky situation where whenever I am in a relationship with someone or have a partner, their behaviors/actions/words to me have such a deep impact on me that it will literally like consume me for days. My happiness and emotional well-being is basically contingent on others and how they treat me. I know this isn’t healthy and that I should have my own sense of inner happiness and self security that shouldn’t be controlled by other people. Of course it’s normal that your partner will affect your… Read more »

mary
10 months ago

great article,Hello everyone,I am 46 old female, I am a nice kind, and very caring person, but everyone taking my kindness as granted include my boyfriend and my family,(8 brothers and sisters) since I was 17-18 i have been helping to my family from 10% to %100 such as buying them house, helping their kids colleges, and any unexpected things in their life, of course my family are competing with each other to get close to me, but at the same time I feel they are not appreciating my kindnesses, for example they become angry with me easily, I have… Read more »

Tracey
11 months ago

I live in a street where there are loads of kids and I have severe mental health issues and no children of my own. The kids in the street every day and night hang around outside my house screaming at the top of their lungs my partner is a lorry driver so needs rest and I tried talking to the parents also the police as they broke my trellis many times and it just gets worse people seem to think I’m being unreasonable but it’s really bothering me and upsets me in a big way how can I ignore this

Josh Stoneking
11 months ago

Thank you for writing this. I teach high school and I have a particular class that I end up dreading every day. They are so incredibly obnoxious and rude and it makes me question whether I want to be a teacher any more frankly. Not taking behavior personally is a big training piece that gets hit on time and time again, but as a teacher, I naturally wear my heart on my sleeves and try to make it so everyone is learning and growing. When those efforts are met with reciprocal effort or in this class’s case, out right disrespect,… Read more »

Anonymous
11 months ago

Thanks. I needed that.

Christopher Williams
1 year ago

My girlfriend and I have been living together for about 3-4 months. Everything is great except for one thing. We live in a side by side multi family home with no insulation in the walls or floors. The neighbors are continuously slamming things, banging into the walls and just having 0 regard for the fact that we can hear and feel (quite literally) everything they do. I’ve complained to the landlord a few times and he’s just been forwarding our complaints so nothing is really being done. I even had a conversation with the older son, who is the cause… Read more »

Jean Greenfield
1 year ago

I am happily an available mom. The issue is that my daughter, now 16, has an issue of not allowing me to have a rhythm. Meaning I am getting ready for the day and she is not, she is blocking, talking, etc and i am unable to cook, shower, make calls, think of needs for self and her.Then we argue,then we take time to recover and try again. Now hungry but needing groceries so running on empty trying to function. If she hears me, sees me she engages me.. while I’m on phone, on way to bathroom, on way to… Read more »

scott
1 year ago

So I’m a 37 year-old male, I’m married, to a wonderful caring women that I truely, at this time in my life do not deserve. I have a 16yr old dramma Queen from a previous marriage and a 2yrold Lil princess from my marriage now. I have been battling a serious opiod addiction since I was 19-20yrs old. I have been in jails, institutions, and have even experienced death, from overdoses. I just started talking to a professional, not a psychiatrist, he tells me I need to start loving myself and and I stopped developing emotionally when I started using.… Read more »

Sweety
1 year ago

What a great article. It has everything I was unconsciously looking for. Being an Indian I live with my family. Mother father, brother and his wife. My issue is that I can’t see someone not value things like I do. I can’t see things getting wasted but they (my brother and his wife) loves to do it. I like cleanliness but they likes to leave the kitchen dirty. They are irresponsible in a lot of matters which really angers me. All these things, boils my blood and ruins my mood. I feel so helpless and unable to focus on my… Read more »

Mad
1 year ago

there’s a guy online that stalks me in a mutual game we play. I can’t stop him and I’ve told him to leave me alone before but he just keeps bothering me. The minute I log into this game this guy immediately messages me. If I ignore it he tries to find out who my other friends are to say bad things about me to them (in a stealthy way) just to get a reaction out of me because I am ignoring him. Unfortunately, in this game which I also made RL side money, the developers won’t let you truly… Read more »

Jill
1 year ago

I realized that nobody can help me because monster I am dealing with is real monster- Zombie, I mean it. Black mafia family.
I have never met or heard anything like this. No therapist can help me, because, as I said, normal people can not imagine what exists.
I feel that I have “evil eye”, but nothing I can do