In an ideal world, everyone we meet would be nice, kind, considerate, mindful, generous, and more. They'd get our jokes, and we'd get theirs. We'd all thrive in a friendly environment where no one was ever irritated, upset, or maligned.
We do not, however, live in a perfect world. Some people drive us insane, and we (admittably) drive a few people insane as well. Those we dislike are inconsiderate, rushed, malign our character, question our motives, or simply do not understand our jokes — but expect us to laugh at all of theirs.
You may wonder if it is possible to be fair to someone who constantly irritates you or with whom you would rather not eat lunch. You may be wondering if you should learn to like everyone you meet.
Building a team entirely of people you'd invite to a backyard barbecue, according to Robert Sutton (a professor of management science at Stanford University), is neither possible nor ideal.
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That is why intelligent people make the most of people they dislike. This is how they do it.
1. They recognize that they will not be able to please everyone
Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that we are nice people. We expect to like everyone with whom we interact, even when this is not the case. It is unavoidable that you will come across difficult people who disagree with you. Smart people are aware of this. They also recognize that conflicts or disagreements are the result of value differences.
That person you dislike is not inherently a bad person. You don't get along because you have different values, and that difference leads to judgment. Accepting that not everyone will like you, and that you will not like everyone because of a difference in values, can take the emotion out of the situation. By agreeing to disagree, you may even find that you and your partner get along better.
2. They tolerate (rather than ignore or dismiss) those they dislike
Sure, you may cringe at his constant criticism, grit your teeth at her bad jokes, or shake your head at the way he hovers around her all the time, but feeling unloved by someone may not be the worst thing in the world. According to Sutton, “from a performance standpoint, liking the people you manage too much is a bigger problem than liking them too little.”
“You need people who have opposing viewpoints and aren't afraid to argue,” Sutton adds. “These are the types of people who prevent the organization from doing stupid things.” It may not be easy, but they must persevere. Those who challenge or provoke us are often the ones who prompt us to new insights and help propel the group to success. Remember that you are not perfect either, and yet people tolerate you.
3. They are civil to those they do not like
Whatever your feelings for someone are, that person will be acutely aware of your attitude and behavior and will most likely reflect it back to you. If you are rude to them, they will most likely disregard all decorum and be rude to you as well. As a result, the onus is on you to remain fair, impartial, and composed.
“It is critical to cultivate a diplomatic poker face. “You must be professional and positive,” says Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and author of The Blame Game. This way, you won't have to stoop to their level or be sucked into acting like them.
4. They scrutinize their own expectations
It is not unusual for people to have unrealistic expectations of others. We may expect others to behave exactly as we would or to say exactly what we would say in a given situation. That, however, is not a realistic option. According to Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, “people have ingrained personality traits that will largely determine how they react” (psychology professor at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey). “Expecting others to act in the same way you would is a recipe for disappointment and frustration.”
If a person consistently makes you feel the same way, adjust your expectations accordingly. You will be psychologically prepared as a result, and their behavior will not catch you off guard. This is something that smart people do all the time. They are not always taken aback by a disliked person's behavior.
5. They withdraw and concentrate on themselves
Some people, no matter how hard we try, can still get under our skin. When dealing with someone who irritates you, it is critical that you learn how to manage your frustration. Instead of focusing on how annoying that person is, consider why you are reacting the way you are. What we dislike in others is frequently what we dislike in ourselves. Besides, they didn't make the button; they're just pressing it.
Identify the triggers that may be complicating your emotions. You might then be able to predict, soften, or even change your reaction. Remember that it is much easier to change your perceptions, attitude, and behavior than it is to ask someone to be a different type of person.
6. They take a deep breath and pause
According to Kathleen Bartle, some personality traits may always set you off (a California-based conflict consultant). Maybe it's the coworker who consistently misses deadlines or the guy who tells inappropriate jokes. Examine what irritates you and who is making you angry. That way, you'll be ready if it happens again, according to Bartle.
“If you can pause and get a grip on your adrenaline pump and go to the intellectual part of your brain, you'll be better able to have a conversation and skip over the judgment,” she says. A deep breath and a large step back can also help to calm you down and protect you from overreaction, allowing you to move forward with a slightly more open mind and heart.
7. They express their own requirements
If certain people consistently irritate you, calmly inform them that their behavior or communication style is causing you problems. Instead of using accusatory language, try the “When you… I feel…” formula. Cacaiola recommends telling that person, “When you cut me off in meetings, I feel like you don't value my contributions.” Then, pause for a moment to await their response.
You might discover that the other person didn't realize you hadn't finished speaking, or that your colleague was so enthralled by your idea that she eagerly jumped into the conversation.
8. They leave enough space between them
When all else fails, smart people put some distance between themselves and those they dislike. Please excuse yourself and continue on your way. If you're at work, go to a different room or sit at the opposite end of the conference table. With some distance, perspective, and empathy, you may be able to return and interact with both those you like and those you don't like as if nothing has happened.
Of course, it would be much easier if we could simply wish people we disliked away. Unfortunately, we all know that is not how life works.
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