This Genie is Not Coming Out
July 31, 2011 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I have a problem. When I decide I don't like someone, it's very hard for me to act as if everything is okie dokie especially if I have to work with them. I am usually bubbly and talkative but when I'm around an individual or a couple of people who rub me the wrong way, it's hard to hide my dissatisfaction with them so my mood becomes mellow and almost somber for the event or gig. How do I change that to become an enagaging, genuine person even when I have judged them to be what I feel they are to me? I'm kinda introverted too.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Human Relations (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
i'm the same way as you are when it comes to this. my advice? 1) ignore the person (especially if they give snarky remarks) and 2) realize that your mood affects the vibe between everyone in a specific setting. i'm trying to work on these things, it's difficult when the person is judgmental or rude, but try not to think of it as being "phony." instead, think of it as trying to improve the vibe in an atmosphere so that yourself and certain people that you like can benefit from this interaction.
posted by sincerely-s at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2011

Being introverted makes it really tough for you to take your initial indifference/disliking and spin natural curiosity about a person out of it. But I guess you could (as a sort of thought exercise) see every additional experience with such a person as an opportunity to try and find out even ONE thing that will make you feel understanding/compassionate/patient toward them -- maybe even like them. Each time you strike out raises the stakes for the next encounter, gradually inching you out of your familiar ways of interacting with people as you extend yourself.

And after a while if you still feel it's not worth it, at least you know you really tried.
posted by hermitosis at 9:33 AM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, hi, me too.

I struggled with this (as in, felt guilty about it) when I was younger. Now that I'm older, I've decided that it's okay not to like everyone, and there's no need to feel bad about it. It's also okay not to feel like you have to pretend to like everyone. Simply not necessary.

So here's what you aim for: Civil, polite. That's it. Bare minimum. No need to do anything more. Just don't be an ass.

There's no need to engage people you don't want to engage. Therefore, there's no need to be 'engaging.' At an event with lots of people, be engaging with the people you feel engaged with. Be polite and civil to everyone else if you're in the position of communicating with them.

That right there is the best way to be genuine.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2011 [16 favorites]

I think hermitosis put it nicely.

On the other hand, to deal with one particularly difficult coworker, I have been trying to adopt the brony "I'm Going To Love And Tolerate The Shit Out Of You" philosophy. Basically, being almost agressively nice. It reminds me that no matter how much of a jerk a person is to me, I can one-up them by being nice back to them.

Now if I can only stop whining about that asshole it might work... heh. But I am finding it a good mantra.
posted by maryr at 9:45 AM on July 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

what mudpuppie said: be civil and polite. just a clarification, don't ignore the person per say, but ignore the negativity that comes from that person.
posted by sincerely-s at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2011

my take is different. in my opinion the difficulty of these situations stems not from the underlying feeling, but precisely from the effort to deny that feeling. own it, hate the person's guts, don't try to hide it. maybe you're telling yourself that if you don't hide it, you will want to punch them in the face but, magically, you will instantly not be in conflict with yourself, not feel embarrassed about your own feelings, and the "problem" with the other person will basically vanish. that's how it has worked for me, anyway.
posted by facetious at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2011

PS: people always know when you don't like them anyway. don't you?
posted by facetious at 10:01 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may not be a direct answer to your question, but when I encounter this, it is because I am judging people and disliking them a 100% i.e. disliking everything about them. I have to try and remind myself that no one is all bad and that maybe I can dislike a few things about them, dislike 40% of them and like the other 60% which is a basic human with flaws. Also, I was once taught by someone that the people who deserve compassion the least, are the one's that need it the most.
posted by cynicalidealist at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't have to like everyone you work with, but I think accepting them and getting on with the job beats trying to force yourself into being wreathed with smiles whenever you interact with them. Be polite, be pleasant, be professional. Acknowledge your feelings to yourself and do what needs to be done. I finally figured out, after suffering through lots of jobs, that I don't actually need to act on my every emotional response and that I don't need to telegraph my feelings. Being impersonally pleasant isn't being a robot or unfeeling, it's just maintaining an even keel with everyone. I don't hide my feelings, I just don't let them dominate my actions.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Find one thing, no matter how trivial, you like about them (this can be tricky!) and focus on that when you think about them or have to interact with them.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2011

mudpuppie's got it.

The world doesn't demand that you lavish love and affection on everyone who crosses your path, especially if all that you have in common with them is the need to earn a living. It does require you to treat them courteously for the sake of social peace, if you are running in the same circle.

So be civil. Be polite. Talk with them about work stuff if they approach you. You need not disclose anything about your personal life. Keep the conversation brief and make a polite excuse when you're sick of dealing with them. They'll get the hint.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2011

You can't like everyone. It's a matter of taste.

If you don't like them, be civil and polite, nothing more.

It's actually quite shocking when it turns out that someone who's always been really really friendly towards you has never liked you at all and perhaps actively hates you.
posted by tel3path at 10:21 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

PS: people always know when you don't like them anyway. don't you?

Speaking from personal experience? No. And it makes me extremely paranoid.
posted by maryr at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Lately, I have been trying out the old idea that "Be kind to everyone you meet, for you never know what battles they are fighting" idea.

Sometimes it devolves into, "Good! I hope their battle kicks their ass!" But I am trying to at least let it cross my mind. It has somewhat tempered my reactions to certain people.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:51 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: tel3path, I don't want to be that phony smile in your face person whose real friendly but truly wants to pull your hair from it's roots. That to me is not the person I am or would like to be. But I understand being civil and polite which I do but I notice, I tend to treat the whole event that way because I don't want my bubbliness to be confused with "I'm open to your ass saying something annoying to me" thus, I'll end up acting very toned down from my natural, enthusiastic self with EVERYONE.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2011

Work on the Assumption of Good Will. And barring your ability to assume that people are generally good and trying to do the best that they can - work on Hanlon's Razor. You know that one. "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity." It is a lot easier to not let people interrupt your emotional balance when all they really deserve of your time is a moment of quiet pity and empathetic embarrassment.
posted by jph at 11:11 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think it helps to remember that we're all separate consciousnesses connected tenuously by distorted sensory perceptions of a shared objective reality, strapped to an inscrutable volatile roiling undomesticated beast of an unconscious mind, each of us doing our best to make it through the world, each with unique internal and external advantages and challenges.

The fact is, there are probably people who think you're an annoying jerk, and impossible to deal with. Try to figure out how you'd like those people to behave towards you, and do that. It's the best approximation of what you should do.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:18 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

My girlfriend is sort of like this. I find the difference between us is not that I can be phony more easily, but that when we have the same bad experience she judges the person as bad, while I (often unrealistically) am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

I endorse your desire not to fake enthusiasm for someone. But try to realize that you don't truly know everything about people you dislike--even if they're a jerk to you, maybe they have other redeeming qualities. Imagine that after they get done being a jerk to you they go home to take care of their disabled parents, for example. You can accept that you don't like them, and won't like them. But if you can refrain from seeing them as thoroughly bad, you probably won't have as much of a problem being around them.
posted by _Silky_ at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2011

Go the CBT route: change the way you feel about that person. Instead of feeling trapped because you dislike someone, choose to believe something different.
posted by gjc at 12:22 PM on July 31, 2011

Have you done Myers Briggs? My bet is that you're an INFP or an INFJ. Idealists are prone to seeing something in a person that, often, others miss; if that assessment is negative, they really struggle to maintain any conversation/acquaintance with them beyond basic civility. It's about having intuition about people and then acting accordingly; honestly, you're probably right, and you might find it frustrating that others don't see the things you see.

This is totally me too. What I've started doing is trying to get to know them on other levels. In most cases, it's much harder to dislike someone when you know more about them. Knowledge humanises people; in some cases, it doesn't matter if we share a common love for Red Dwarf or obscure sub-Saharan African authors, but usually I can find one or two "safe" areas of conversaton and I stick to those like a drowning man grasps a twig.

The other thing to consider is that they may also share your feeling. In awkward situatons, it's rarely one-sided. I don't know many people whom I dislike where they genuinely want to talk to me or like me. Sure, it happens. But not all that often. I say embrace your ability to see things in people that others miss. It saves you the OMGSHOCK!!11! when they turn out to be asshats down the line.

Memail me for some links about MBTI/personality theory if you want.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:25 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing I've found helps reduce my hatred for people is to imagine them at their happiest. Everyone laughs and smiles from time to time, everyone. Imagine this and your opinion of them might shift ever so slightly.
posted by hnnrs at 12:55 PM on July 31, 2011

Response by poster: These are great answers! Thank you. I'm afraid this might not work for moochers though. In my life, I've dealt with people who have used me for their advantage and I spot them from a mile away. I refuse to engage with them when I know I'm going to feel bad in their presence. Should I have to deal with them too or is my judgement handy to protect myself?
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 12:59 PM on July 31, 2011

I'm an INFP, and I can't tell you how much I relate to this question. I think there is a difference though between disliking someone because they're, say, pretty bossy sometimes, and disliking someone because you've worked with them closely for quite a while and they've knowingly screwed you over or taken advantage of you multiple times. In the first case, it's easier to keep giving people the benefit of the doubt and kill them with kindness. In the second, it's a lot harder, and if basic civility is all you can manage, I'd say you're doing okay. If you can manage to find it in your heart to try to see them as basically good people with flaws, that is wonderful and you're a way better person than I.

As long as you're polite and your contact with the other person is limited, don't worry too much about how it appears to other people. They probably don't even notice. There are two women in my office who absolutely hate each other and I never would have known if someone else hadn't told me. Basically, they're polite to each other when they have to be and avoid the hell out of each other all the rest of the time.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:26 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's perfectly okay to not like people or to not like people's behaviour and to not lie and profess something other than that.

It is your intuition/judgment protecting you and while I'm sure they would prefer it if you went along with their plans and pretend they're lovely, you're under no obligation to do so.
posted by mleigh at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2011

So once upon a time, my brother told me that he just wished that someone would tell him what to do and give him an ordered schedule for his life. And he genuinely thought that was a really good plan, which would prevent him from slipping into his bad habits. So I pointed out to him that a plan like that might mimic success, but isn't actually success itself. After all, he wouldn't have to develop any of the good habits or self-control that would be true success.

So if your concern is avoiding mooches, you need to learn how to deal with these people and not how to avoid them. Clearly that's not working for you because in shutting down any connection with them, you're shutting down other fruitful connections. If you aren't interested in getting some therapy to learn some coping strategies for dealing with these personality types that drain you, then I suggest getting very interested in etiquette. Part of social grace is knowing exactly how to remain pleasant and engaging to everyone, and still shut people down in the process. A great example of this is the standard line that MetaFilter loves to suggest to people: "I'm afraid that wont be possible."

Knowing how to shut down a needy person or an emotional vampire is a very important skill for anyone who wishes to be social. If you don't have that skill naturally, then by all means there are ways to learn them!
posted by jph at 6:53 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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