Do You Get Irritated When Someone Tells You Something You Already Know?

 In Negative emotions, Relationships

The other day, my husband and I were taking our dog for a walk, enjoying the fresh morning air. The road past our house doesn’t have a shoulder or sidewalk, so we walk on the road. It’s a quiet backroad, but after a while, I could hear the noise of a car approaching. 

“A car’s coming.” my husband said as if I couldn’t hear it myself. What was he thinking? That I’m deaf or stupid? I could feel my irritation, and my instinct was to come back with a snide remark, “No kidding!”

When someone tells me something I already know, I can get defensive. Does this ever happen to you? Deep down, I know they aren’t saying these things to be mean or condescending. They just care about me. So why do I have such a strong, negative reaction?

What I’ve learned is that my irritation is connected to the fact that the threat response in my brain has been activated. Research shows that if we perceive someone’s comment is challenging our status – in this case, my status of being smart enough to get out of the way of the car – we feel threatened. This is true whether it’s our social status, job status, friend status, etc.  

Knowing why I get so triggered by such a harmless remark has totally changed my response. I can still feel that instinctive defensiveness kicking in, but I recognize it now and have developed a fast, easy, and sincere comeback, “Thank you!”

Are there certain things people say that trigger your defensiveness? Tune into your frustration and try overriding it with a simple, “Thank you.” 


Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, and founder of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to teaching organizations and individuals the power of positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.

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