Pet Peeves: Small irritations that can really annoy

You are in a restaurant or café and suddenly the person at the table next to you starts eating their food with loud noises. You instantly get triggered and irritated. That’s a pet peeve!

So what is a pet peeve? A pet peeve, pet aversion, or pet hate is a minor annoyance that an individual finds particularly irritating to them, to a greater degree than would be expected based on the experience of others. Pet peeves aren’t things that are so inappropriate and rude that they necessarily warrant taking action, but they’re generally bothersome in a way that will make one roll their eyes in frustration. While pet peeves are essentially trivial, hence the name, they are an evolutionary remnant of human beings’ survival skills. The feeling one gets when they are peeved was the body’s way of alerting a person to danger in the past, that something is wrong, triggering a flight response. They’re not as life-threatening anymore in modern society, but the discomfort remains.

The noun peeve, meaning an annoyance, is believed to have originated in the United States early in the twentieth century, derived by back-formation from the adjective peevish, meaning “ornery or ill-tempered”, which dates from the late 14th century. The term pet peeve was introduced to a wide readership in the single-panel comic strip The Little Pet Peeve in the Chicago Tribune during the period 1916–1920 and was created by the cartoonist Frank King, who also created the long-running Gasoline Alley strip. King’s “little pet peeves” were humorous critiques of generally thoughtless behaviours and nuisance frustrations.

In their book Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us, Joe Palca and Florence Lichtman explore the history of research behind pet peeves. According to the authors, the three U’s are how we identify annoyances. The three Us are Unpleasant, which is the annoying stimulus is something we don’t like, Unpredictable because we have no way of determining when the annoying stimulus will happen and Uncertain Duration because it is repetitive and will continue for an indefinite amount of time.

The three types of annoyances are social annoyances which are caused by the violation of social norms, environmental annoyances which come from the sounds and smells of our environment and interpersonal annoyances that are caused by individuals around us, especially those with interact with frequently.

But why do we become annoyed in the first place? The truth is science hasn’t quite figured it out. According to some scientists, it could be a remnant of the evolutionary response where our brains are shocked into a focus mode when we become annoyed and we become more aware of our surroundings and pay greater attention to the stimulus that is annoying us which is nature’s way of protecting us, something that ancient man needed more than today’s humans.

Everyone has some pet peeve or the other and here is a compilation of some of the most irritating habits that trigger most people and includes some of my pet peeves.

  • Loud chewing, people chewing with their mouths open or generally making any noises while eating.
  • Chronic lateness. As someone who is always on time, this tells me that my time is not as important as theirs. Of course, sometimes things happen, but if they don’t let me know they are late, it is even more irritating.
  • People who shuffle their feet while walking
  • The screeching of fingernails on a blackboard.
  • People who block the entrance to the train or bus and do not allow others to board or alight.
  • Those who cough or sneeze without covering their mouths.
  • People that clip their nails at work, while sitting at their desks.
  • People who walk slowly or stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk.
  • People who cut queues. This is not an issue in Singapore, but when I am in India, this makes me want to grit my teeth in frustration.
  • People who take ages to get through airport security and don’t know the rules even today.
  • People who stand on the left side of an escalator. Right is for standing! Left for walking!
  • Misspelling my name when it’s right there in the email staring you in the face.
  • Online stores that charge for shipping.
  • People who talk over you when you’re still in the middle of the sentence.
  • Passive-aggressive behaviour. If you have something you want to say, just say it.
  • People on public transport who will not use their headphones and instead choose to let the whole bus or train carriage their choice of music or personal conversations.
  • When people repeatedly hit the elevator button, as if that’ll make the elevator arrive sooner.
  • The reply-all that asks to be taken off of an email thread.
  • Receiving emails from a colleague with the boss copied.
  • People who abbreviate things that don’t need to be shortened.
  • Excessive public displays of affection.
  • Micro-Management at work
  • Staring at someone’s Phone
  • Standing too close to another person.
  • Talking to someone who has headphones on
  • Cracking knuckles.
  • Pushy salespeople and especially those salespeople who accost you while one is walking.
  • Being constantly pessimistic.
  • Looking at the phone during a conversation.
  • Leaving the toilet seat up.

In a perfect world, everyone would be mindful of their actions and habits not to be annoying. Sadly, some people don’t care about others and continue with their irritating ways. Instead of perpetually complaining, there are measures you can do to keep pet peeves from affecting your mood and disposition. The first thing you can do is admit what is bothersome. Being in denial and dismissive about what’s wrong will only delay the inevitable anger and frustration. It’s better to take the bull by the horns and be honest, even if it’s with yourself. Next, you can address the source of the pet peeve and open the lines of communication. This is important if the person who annoys you is someone you live or work closely with. Remember to be kind and polite when telling them. Sometimes, people are unaware of their quirks and are willing to accommodate your request. Lastly, you can choose to accept the situation that you can’t control everything. Take deep breaths when it happens or remove yourself from the area. Don’t let a simple pet peeve ruin your day.

So what are your pet peeves? Did they make my list?

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