When I go to the gym to workout, I want to untie the knots and jelly beans in my back and shoulders, unhook from the day’s residue of stress, release my brain’s “feel good” chemicals and build all-over body muscle power. I don’t want to deal with difficult people. Do you?
When you go to work, it’s the same thing. You don’t want to have to deal with pain in the neck, distracting co-workers. You want to produce, serve, sell, manage, create, repair or whatever it is you are getting paid to do and are passionate about.
Throughout many years coaching people on how to get their minds right to derive the maximum benefit they can from their physical workouts, and at work to perform at a superior level, one of the more common questions I’ve gotten is, “Michael, so and so is killing me and ruins my workout—or is so disturbing while I’m trying to work. Help me deal with her or him.”
I’ve culled my files and have picked out what I consider to be three of the most annoying co-workers or fellow gym goers. These three types cause unnecessary stress and disruption, and need to be dealt with wisely. Never, ever, let these people take up space in your heads though. They aren’t paying rent there, and you have no obligation to include them in your life.
1. The Covetous Comparers
These green-eyed, jealous and envious, insecure and often fearful people “should on themselves” and others constantly. “I should have what you have!” is their most common mind-echo. You do three more heavy reps, they are pissed-off as much that they can’t, as that you can. Getting a promotion? Same thing. They believe it “should” be theirs, not yours.
What do you do? Think of them like you might a follower on Twitter. Nothing you can do about what they tweet. You can either continue to follow, or not. Don’t take their bate. It’s not your monkey, and it’s not your circus. It’s their resentment. Stay professional, pleasant, and don’t defend or offend. Don’t fuel the flames, certainly, and stay unflappable and polite.
2. The Prying Pests
You’d think they have no plan to workout, or in the workplace, to work. It’s as if their only task is to watch you, meddle in your business, be a nuisance and a pest. These are the “experts” who don’t mind telling you how to squat or life with better form, know all about how to do your job responsibilities better and more efficiently, and are continuously chattering away about their accomplishments and the deficiencies of thers while all you want to do is get your work, and your workout, done.
You might suggest to this person that you find it easier to focus on your workout, or work, with less distraction, let her/him know that while you appreciate their input and know they are well meaning, you are comfortable with your approach, thank them and turn away. Offer to talk with him/her later, when you are not so focused on your task and time at hand.
3. The Whining Wailers
Is anything right at the gym, the locker room, the office, the parking lot, the cafeteria, the rest room or the computer system? Anything??? These folks can’t walk by you without objecting about something and commenting on the negative. I swear, these people can turn a rainbow gray. They rarely have solutions that would realistically work, complain that nobody ever listens to them, and yet are filled with so many grievances, criticisms, grumbles and moans that it’s surprising they ever get anything done. Perhaps they are just perfectionists? Nope. They are unhappy, picky, disgruntled folks who feel inadequate to the core. Who wants to hear what’s wrong constantly?
Don’t waste a moment trying to convince them of anything. It won’t work. Listening to these protesters is bad enough, but avoid any comment that might sound like you agree or disagree. Ask them if they’ve spoken to management and you’ll surely hear, “Ahhh, that doesn’t work—they don’t care.” You might—might—want to consider a one-time, “You know you don’t want to be known as a complainer do you?” Problem is, you’ll likely get back, “Hey I stopped caring about that long ago—they don’t obviously care about what I think so I don’t care what they think.” See? Hopeless. Best you can do is to let them know that you choose to see the positive in your gym or office. All else fails, speak to management and let them know about this distraction.
Bottom line is to remain optimistic, upbeat, non-judgmental and positive. Your task is to stay hovering above their expressions of personal unhappiness. Set boundaries for yourself with headphones, immediately say you are sorry but “can’t talk now,” staying away from the “water cooler” (or wherever these types hang out), and learn to continually deflect. Your goal is to free up from drama.
Mother Teresa observed, “Peace begins with a smile.” Keep that in mind next time one of these three step into your space.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry. After 40 years of diagnosing and treating mental illness, he has retired from clinical practice---and as he describes, is now “reFired” and “reWired.”

He provides advanced behavior science coaching for sustainable strategic outcomes in mindful, values driven and positively adaptive ways to business leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes, individuals, families and organizations to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives.

Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise. He travels the world speaking with fitness and health professionals to provide the most current thinking and tools for behavior change. He has been a member of SAG/AFTRA since 1981, having appeared regularly on Good Morning America, as well as numerous talk shows and weekly appearances on TV and radio news.

Michael is an Organizational Advisor to Fitwall, Rock My Run, amSTATZ, speaks for Rancho La Puerta and the Asia Fitness Conference and Expo, in addition to numerous other fitness-health organizations throughout the nation. He is interviewed frequently for fitness and health magazines including Details Magazine, Men’s Health USA and UK, Women’s Health US and UK, Weight Watchers, Shape, Natural Health, Real Simple, Women’s World, MetRx, Better Homes and Gardens and a host of others in the health/wellness/fitness world. He has written for, and spoken for the International Council on Active Aging, the Medical Fitness Association, Athletic Business, IHRSA, and a host of other professional organizations in the health and fitness fields. He has been a keynote speaker for the University of California FitCon and UCLA “Stress Less Week.”

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff,” and his 1996, “Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace.” Heis listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.” His fourth book is due out soon.