There is a co-worker in my office whose phone rings incessantly when he is not at his desk. For some reason, the calls don't roll over to voice mail. A ringing phone, especially one that you can't answer, is maddening. I don't really know this co-worker well, so I don't feel free to accost him in the hallway and tell him just how annoying his caller is. But I don't care to expend much emotional energy on this issue, either, so I pretend he has a relative who is mentally ill and who needs to contact him 24/7, sort of like the Laura Linney character's brother in "Love Actually". Then my quiet seething is transformed into Poor guy.
Several years ago, another co-worker spent a lot of time in our department conducting user tests on some new software. This woman tends to laugh - a lot - frequently to the point where she sounds like she is choking. It was rapidly driving me crazy. Again, I did not know her well enough to tell her to Shut the f*ck up! So instead, I pretended like she was my best friend. Oh, that Mary! There she goes again!
One more example is a contract worker who I considered a bit of a pompous asshole, but with whom I had to work on a regular basis. In order to calm my general crankiness toward this individual, I pretended his wife had cancer. Not that I wanted to wish her ill, but simply to generate a little compassion on my part. Give the guy a break.
I consider it part of my job to get along with my co-workers. Most of them are simply doing the best they can, sad as that seems sometimes. But occasionally I need to trick myself into being civil if not downright friendly, in order to get my work done.
Hey, it works for me.