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by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


How to deal with noisy neighbours

My noisy neighbours are driving me insane. Why do some people have to be so loud? At home, on the train, in the supermarket, to their children. And doesn’t it just irritate the hell out of you when people send emails sprinkled with a million exclamation marks!!! With some words also in BOLD!!!

It’s like everyone is shouting. Please stop shouting at me. I’m a very quiet person. I don’t like noise that isn’t my own (so selfish then, as well).

I have this theory about how to deal with minor irritations. And it isn’t what you’ll find in most self-help books. Most self help authors suggest that the best way to deal with the potential build-up of anger that can all too often arise from minor irritations is to let it out. Punch a bag or a pillow. Imagine the pillow is the person that is annoying you. This works, apparently, because you’ll be violent to a pillow and not to yourself by holding in all that irritation. This is the "catharsis hypothesis" - the notion that it’s better to vent your anger than keep it bottled up.

Well, I just don’t agree. Not least because I’m also a non-violent (quiet, selfish) person. I really don’t want to punch even the idea of a person. It’s still violence to me.
I also never really understood the metaphor of bottling things up, but apparently if you do let things bottle up then one day, and soon, you’ll explode with the pressure of it all. What began as a minor irritation will eventually release itself in the form an aggressive rage. So beware!!! 

I really do think this is a rubbish hypothesis and hypothesis is all it is because I can’t find a scrap of evidence to support it. I looked all morning. 

What I did find was some fine research by Brad Bushman* which indicates that venting actually makes things worse. Rather than punching pillows, Bushman suggests doing something incompatible with anger, such as reading or listening to music. As he remarks, this won’t in any way address the cause of the irritation but it will leave you in a better state to do so.

This makes sense to me.

So what do I do when I become irritated by other peoples inconsiderate behaviour? Well, I become more considerate. Both towards the source of the irritation and towards myself.

I take care not to become irritated in the first place because I learnt early on not to wage war with the outside world on inconsequential things, and instead I now turn my attention inward towards myself. This simple shift of attention has changed how I experience my world, including all the outside irritations that used to drive me insane. As a result I am now more content and a whole lot more tolerant.

This is what I do:
  • When an irritating event occurs I stop and breathe
  • I pay attention to how I am feeling and what I am thinking. This allows me to recognise how my old habits work so that they now no longer control me.
  • I become aware of myself.
  • I then think of the people I love the most and I pour this love onto my irritation much as you would put balm on a physical wound.
  • I repeat these steps every time I face a difficulty
There is a space of time between what irritates you and your response. Don’t waste your precious feelings getting irritated. Save them for what really matters.

As far as noisy neighbours go - make friends with them. It’s always easier to ask friends to quieten down. The alternative is the prospect of having to live next door to people who end up loathing you, as much as you end up loathing them - not an all round good solution.

*Bushman, B, (2002) Does venting anger feed or extinquish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding’, Personality and Social psychology Bulletin, : 724-731

More advice on managing stress and dealing with difficult people in The Real Secret - available on and

Posted by Annabel

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