Faking it
February 16, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I need to learn how to fake my feelings better around people I dislike.

My gut-reaction towards being in the same room as people I don't like is to run away now!!!!! If I can't manage that, I just clam up and go very polite but distant and take the first opportunity to run for it.

I'm never overtly rude or anything, but it really is kind of rude; and different enough from my usual relaxed and chatty demeanor to be very noticeable to others.

I don't want to cause drama. I just want to negotiate casual social or work encounters, some of which may involve people whom I don't get on with, in a grown-up way that doesn't involve me running away and them being offended.
posted by Ziggy500 to Human Relations (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What's your working relationship with them? Are they your boss, colleagues with the same position, subordinates, support staff, ____ ?
posted by John Cohen at 7:43 AM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: All you need to do is be polite. You don't need to worry that you are offending someone by being polite, if distant, and not prolonging your interactions with them. Everyone is not everyone else's friend, particularly not at work. What you need to become is comfortable that some people will be offended by you or dislike you, even when you have not given them any cause to. Give people no cause to be offended and then let them worry about whether or not they choose to be offended.

Remember people's names, even if you don't like them, and when you pass them in the hallway, get onto an elevator with them, or end up next to them on the couch at a friend's party, say "hello." Carry a few bits of innocuous conversation in your head (the weather, the new big project at work, the local highway project that's annoying everyone) that don't require more than a few sentences from each person. Then, practice smiling, looking people in the eye, and saying "excuse me, i have to get back to work/say hello to Bob over there/refill my drink/" or just "excuse me" and walk away with a "Nice talking to you" before you're dragged into a conversation you don't want to be in.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:49 AM on February 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

Become an actor. Don't be so concerned with being YOU, but playing the part of role in a particular situation. Make it about the role, not your particular feelings about people. If it helps, take an acting class or two.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:50 AM on February 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Polite and distant is fine. Just smile a lot. People who don't know you well really won't notice.
posted by something something at 8:03 AM on February 16, 2011

Hmm...why do you dislike them? There are good reasons like they are ( manipulative, greedy, conniving, etc.), bad reasons ( wrong religion, wrong 'part of town', not wealthy enough, etc.) or no reasons ( try to figure out why...).

I suppose the quesiton is: do they have the problem or do you?

I myself had dislike for people who were tattooed and wouldn't bother to try to get to know them. Now, though I will never get a tattoo, I don't think this way anymore. Sure, some are bad people, but some aren't.

Now that I reflect on it, one problem I had was that I felt that if I became friendly to someone then learned that there were things I don't like abou them and wanted to disenguage, I felt I couldn't. That isn't true for me anymore.

Now then, it is fine to be polite to those who you dislike. That is what I do.
posted by CodeMonkey at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2011

Why do you have to fake anything? Is it that hard to be courteous to others? Everyone doesn't have to be your friend. What have these people done that's so egregious that you can't be in the same room with them? Some people are boors, some people are irritating, some people are liars and cheats but that's life. You mostly ignore them but when socially or professionally necessary, you make generic small talk and move on to people you actually want to talk with. In other words, act with civility. Everyone will not like you and you will not like everyone.
posted by shoesietart at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To piggyback on althanis's advice, there's an old classroom management trick for dealing with your most troublesome students that works here: spend 3 minutes (no more, no less, 3 shall be the number of the minutes) a day talking to the person who annoys you the most about something other than work. It would be a little weird to do this every day in a professional setting and would look a little odd, so I might scale it back to 2-3 times per week as circumstance allows for natural interaction.

This method works best if you don't have a very specific reason for disliking them (like they keyed your car or were trash-talking you to the boss), but I have found it pays dividends outside of the classroom. It's harder to completely dislike someone if you've gotten to know them. They may have what my dear departed great-aunt used to call "unfortunate personalities", but as you get to know them, you may learn why this is so and find a little pity or compassion to make it easier to put up with their attitude and not take negative comments/actions personally.
posted by smirkette at 9:31 AM on February 16, 2011 [16 favorites]

Related to what althanis and smirkette said: keep in mind that people you dislike may become people you like. Or, to be more mercenary, people you need. Try being friendly (not "hey, come over for dinner" friendly, but friendly like you'd be to somebody you just met) and thinking of the person as somebody who might at some point be a friend, member of your social circle, or someone you'll need to ask for a favor.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2011

The Ben Franklin effect has been the most effective mental hack to overcome my own feelings of dislike where there is only a minor basis for the dislike.

For cases where the dislike is based on more deep-seated, on-going behavior, consider talking it through with a workplace mentor on how to give them effective feedback to change the behavior.
posted by Exonym at 12:33 PM on February 16, 2011

Best answer: It's gonna depend on situation. Specifically: how frequently are you gonna see this person? If it's a one time creep at a party, it doesn't really matter much. Be polite and book it when you can is fine. If it's a creepy coworker you have to see every day, on the other hand.... well, be polite, but you won't be able to run really. Try to treat them the way you would a stranger you don't feel creeped out about. Polite but not "hey, let's hang out," but not running screaming either. Force yourself to stay in the interaction until you can tactfully/gracefully leave ("I've got a meeting," you say after 5 minutes, not "I've got a meeting" after they said hi in the hall.)

If you're drastically noticeably less friendly at work with people you don't like, you're going to have to figure out how to fake being more friendly, I'm sorry to say. Try to treat them the way you would someone you don't hate. Make polite conversation if you have to spend time with them, try not to be rude about it, fake a smile here and there. Just don't be conspicuously antagonistic or antisocial with that ONE person compared to everyone else.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:29 PM on February 16, 2011

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