When I Don’t Like Someone

I’m about to share something of which I’m not particularly proud. It’s a truth about how my mind works that took me a long time to even admit to myself.  Because this was hard for me, I think that there are other people out there who need to hear this too and, for that reason, I’m coming clean.

Sometimes I don’t like other people.

There, I said it.

Why is that a big deal you ask?  Well, I really enjoy it when people like me.  I know that the opinions of others are neutral in my life, but I also know that I generate a lot of thoughts about being liked that create positive emotions for me.  In turn, I like to see myself as the kind of person who likes others.  I want to believe that I’m the person who gives people the benefit of the doubt, but the real truth is that sometimes I don’t.

This came up recently when I was at work. There was a new staff member.  This person promises to be someone I will work closely with on a regular basis.  It was our first shift together and I felt so annoyed.  I left work the next day grinding my teeth at the proposition of working with this individual again.

There are certain physical sensations that I notice in my body that are clues that I need to do some thought work and figure out what’s going on in my brain. Teeth grinding is one of those clues.  I made a mental note to do a thought download on the previous night’s shift when I woke up.  If you’re new to this blog, a thought download is where you sit down and, for 5-10 minutes, you dump out everything that’s happening in your brain on to paper.

I’ve told you before in these blogs that one of the most important aspects of a thought download is honesty.  I do this work every day and I practice what I preach.  I did my thought download and, folks, it was ugly.  It was also abundantly clear why I’d been feeling so annoyed on shift and why I’d upset my dentist by grinding my teeth during the drive home.

I had created an entire narrative about this individual being overbearing, incompetent, and bad at their job.  I could point to different examples where I felt like they were riding the other staff members and where I was having to do things that I wouldn’t normally have to do to arrange for a patient transfer.  It was our first shift working together and my brain had set me up for many annoying shifts to come.

The first thing I do when I discover that my mind has woven this type of a tale about another person is I ask myself if this story I’ve created actually helps me in any way.  Do these negative beliefs about this other individual lead to any benefit?  Sometimes they do.  Even though I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, there are some people I’d like to avoid and a story like this is my brain helping me accomplish that.  In this case, however, this story was not going to help me work with this person for years to come.

The second thing I ask myself is whether I care enough about this other person to take the time to do the necessary work to reframe my thinking.  I don’t mean to imply that there are people I don’t care about, but I’m not likely to ever see that pushy person from the airport security line again.  While it can be an interesting mental exercise to reframe my story about that pushy person, I’m not likely to get much lasting benefit from it so I will occasionally allow myself to indulge in a complex story about how annoying and horrible some people are and then leave it at that.

Finally, though, I ask myself if continuing to believe the story that I’ve created about this person could cause me harm.  This is a person I’m likely going to work closely with for years to come; therefore, it’s certainly worth the effort to improve our relationship. Remember, your relationship with another person is simply your thoughts and feelings about that person.  This means that you’re free to improve your relationship with anyone at any time.

In order to do that, I went back through my thought download and I reframed my judgements and observations.  I did this from a place where I lead with the assumption that this person was doing their absolute best and I challenged my brain to find the positive. 

My “observation” that this person was overbearing turned into a realization that they were actually double-checking orders to make sure that they had indeed been done.

My judgements around them being incompetent and bad at their job were tempered by a reminder that they had just started and were still learning.

By taking the time to really question each of my beliefs, I was able to completely retell my story of the night and I’m looking forward to our next shift together.  It doesn’t seem like much, but taking the time to do this reframing will lead to so much more enjoyment on my future shifts.

I would love to help teach you how to do this.  If you haven’t already, sign up for my free training How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  Then watch your email for upcoming opportunities to work together.