We all know it's almost impossible to be liked by everyone you know and meet in life, and it's futile to even try. When we have to interact with a person we know doesn't like us, it leads to uncomfortable feelings and often taps into our deepest insecurities. As a result, we tend to do one of two things: We either question ourselves and do our best to make them like us, or we get angry and indignant and dislike the person right back. Either way, we miss the point of it all. We miss the lesson.
Every time we meet someone who we feel doesn't like us, there is an opportunity to go inward and do the most important work we can do in life - the work on ourselves. That doesn't mean the other person is right in what they feel, but the experience gives us the chance to take a deeper look and ask ourselves if they see something we actually need to work on, or if we simply need to work on being okay with our less-than-perfect selves. Instead of getting caught up in the pain, we need to delve deeper into what we can learn from it.
If there is someone in your work or personal life who you feel doesn't like you, it is important to take some time and ask yourself a few key questions:
1. Is my perception accurate? The feeling that someone doesn't like us isn't always right. Many of us engage in what author and therapist Matthew McKay calls "mind-reading" in his book "Self Esteem." We tend to create entire perceptions of ourselves in the minds of others, and we fully believe them. We may assume, for example, that because a new colleague is quiet and disengaged that she thinks she is better than everyone else around her. Or, we assume that someone who has more money, prestige or intellect thinks less of us because we don't have the same things in life. While these perceptions may be true, they often come from our own insecurities.
Take a little time to observe these people to see if they behave similarly with others. Often times, their behaviors come from their own perceived shortcomings and have nothing to do with you.
2. Why does the feeling bother me? There are some people whose opinions you simply do not value, and you truly don't care either way if they like you or not. Often, however, that is not the case. If it's your boss, a colleague or someone with whom you have to have a relationship in your personal life, the dynamic can eat away at you. In that case, it is important to stop pushing the feeling away and ask yourself what insecurity or need this experience brings up. Often the feeling of being disliked taps into old feelings of not being accepted either by parents, teachers or even peers. Exclusion at any age in any situation can feel completely debilitating and isolating. It's important to make sure you are clear that this one person isn't the be and end all, and that the good news about being an adult is that you can give to yourself what was not given to you earlier in life.
3. Is there anything I am doing or saying to create this dynamic? Often times we don't think about our own behaviors because they come so naturally to us. Part of the way we can understand our impact on others is by staying in tune with how they react to us. If, for example, you tend to have strong opinions and no trouble sharing them, pay attention to how people react with their body language and words when you speak. It's not a bad quality to be outspoken, but sometimes it can intimidate or frustrate others. Although we are not responsible for the way other people feel, we can certainly try to be sensitive to their needs and perceptions, and we do this not only for them, but for ourselves. Taking ownership of and accepting our shortcomings is not giving in, it's liberating.
Though it doesn't feel good to be disliked by anyone, it can be one of the most valuable and insightful experiences we have. The key is not to get stuck in self-criticism, or in anger, but to use the opportunity to do the work you need to do to be happier in life.
Eliza Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For more information, contact her at 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.