Derek, what is the best way for me to respond when someone says something harmless, like “It is so annoying when that happens! Right?”
I know from your teaching that it would not be in accordance with the Tao to feed into such emotions. As I gain understanding of the Tao, I view things from a much different angle, so what is annoying to my friend is really not annoying to me personally. However, I know this is not the answer for my friend. He is not ready for such insights, and it is not my place to impose my views on him. So, what should I say? He is looking to me for some kind of answer. What would be a proper response?
Sometimes, personal communication can be like a maze. You want to be truthful, but that can be perceived as arrogant. The way to navigate through this maze is to look deeper into it, through the eye of the Tao. Your friend is not really trying to make you feel as annoyed as he is. What he is hoping for in that moment is that somebody understands how he feels. Therefore, the best way is to indicate that you do understand: “Yes, I can definitely see how incredibly annoying that would be for you.”
Usually, this is enough. An indication of your understanding may seem like a little thing, but to someone having a tough time, it make a huge difference. Letting people know you understand what they are going through is a gift of compassion you can always give.
The conversation can go further, of course. For instance, your friend may say, “How about you? Doesn’t it annoy you just as much?” This brings us back where we started. It’s a direct question, and you are still on the spot to provide an answer.
My suggestion would be for you to respond with something like the following: “I think it would’ve gotten to me once upon a time, but now I try to deal with it with more calmness.”
You are not saying the annoyance can’t get to you because you are spiritually superior — that’ll alienate people for sure. Instead, you are being totally truthful when you say you are doing your best to process the annoyance in a better, smoother way. This may lead to a discussion on how annoyances can be managed in general — a discussion that can benefit all parties involved.