They are everywhere. We meet people at work, in our personal lives and in everyday interactions who rub us the wrong way. Granted, this may not happen often, but eventually we all meet and have to deal with people we simply don't like.
Take a moment to think of one such person in your social or professional life whom you have to deal with on a regular basis. Try to list at least four or five reasons for your negative feelings about this person. Is he dishonest or arrogant? Try to pinpoint what bothers you specifically. If you do this, chances are you will start to feel some negative emotion -- frustration, annoyance, even anger -- just thinking about them.
The most important thing to realize about not liking people is that it is perfectly fine. Many of us feel guilty or wonder if it's our fault when we meet someone we don't like. The negative feelings bother us and we want to get rid of them so we can be at peace. Disliking people is as normal as liking them. The point is not to get rid of the dislike, but to stop the feeling it produces in us.
Here are three things you can do to help you deal and communicate with these people:
1. Look for the cause. You've read in past articles that it is crucial to understand why people behave poorly if you want to separate yourself from their actions. If, for example, a co-worker tries to embarrass you in meetings, it's important to understand why this is happening. That doesn't mean you have to ask him directly. Just think about it. He likely feels insecure about himself, is envious of you or has a bruised ego. It could be a combination of these things.
Why is this important? Most negative behaviors stem from a lack or a fear. Recognizing this in people you don't like helps you understand that their behavior is ultimately about them - not you.
2. Refuse to fight fire with fire. You may be able to beat a person at his own game, but he'll find another one to play. This doesn't mean you should be passive, either. The best you can do is call the person on their behavior when it happens, every time, and remind yourself that it is simply a manifestation of that person's misery. When your co-worker tries to embarrass you, simply call him on it, by saying something like, "I think that's an inappropriate comment and I have to ask you not to do that," or "that kind of statement is really uncalled for. Let's talk about it after the meeting so we don't waste time here." Similarly, if someone raises his voice with you, raising yours will only escalate the situation. Don't be passive and shrink away, just remain calm and civil.
3. Look for alternatives to face-to-face communication. Often the sight of people we don't like is enough to stir us. Yet avoiding them is impossible and requires a lot of our energy. Instead, find ways to communicate that gives them less of a chance to misbehave. E-mail is excellent for this, and telephone communication is also an option. Sometimes it's useful to communicate through someone else, especially in a team situation.
The bottom line is that we all have to do one thing with people we don't like: Accept them.
Don't confuse acceptance with approval. Acceptance means you give up trying to change people, and come to expect the behavior you don't like. It is truly the rift between our expectations of how people should and do behave that causes our frustration. Stop expecting something different, and instead, understand the behavior, separate yourself from it, and plan for the reality of the situation.
Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For more information, contact her at 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.