That is not me. I think he might have something against me. Or maybe he just does not like me. I’m not sure what else I can do. I am not sure I want to do anything else.
These were the thoughts that flitted across my mind while receiving some unusually harsh, and undeserved criticism from someone, on behalf of someone else.
Sitting across from the message bearer, I stared unflinchingly into his eyes with legs crossed and torso upright and forward leaning; a physical habit that I’d adopted so that I could fully focus on the message, listen intently, actively, and empathetically; so that I could try to tease apart fact from fiction… truth from emotion.
Although I wanted to defend myself against what felt like character assassination and was growing more frustrated at the suggestion that I should continue to find ways to “win him over” given his position, I remained motionless and quiet, except for the occasional blink or reflexive head tilt to express my genuine disbelief and concern. When a natural lull in the conversation allowed me to respond, I calmly let it out:
“I am sorry, but asking me to try to ‘win him over’ is something that is a bit unfair. I have heard this feedback before and done all that I could do to flex my style to make him more comfortable with me and to try to build a relationship. I honestly believe that he simply does not like me because I break with the norm of what he’s used to; if I don’t agree with him, I voice it… and this does not sit well with him. So I have accepted that he may always dislike me, and you know what? I am okay with it.”
I went on to try to elaborate why I felt it was impossible to win this man over: he had an old-school view of women in the workplace; a cultural background that emphasized hierarchy pandering to the one individual at the top; a belief that people should only do what they are told versus challenge the status quo.
And while I understood the feedback, I was clear that I was no longer going to try to be liked by someone whose feelings I had no control over… because ‘trying’ would require me to completely alter the way I showed up in any interaction with him, quiet the natural curiosity that led me to ask questions in meetings that could illuminate a better way forward; and stop challenging when I felt like I had ample information or cause to do so.
I’d be lying if I told you that this was easy. It wasn’t. It was tough because I like people, and I like people to like me. I enjoy helping people and the teams that I work with, and want to bring a light, positive and we-can-do-this energy in all my interactions. So making the decision to stop trying to work on a relationship that only I wanted to see improve, took mental toughness and resilience.
So if like me, you’re not a natural ‘people pleaser,’ you will probably encounter similar situations at work and in life. It may hurt the first time you get word that someone doesn’t like you and that’s okay. You can’t ignore the feeling. But you can control your behavior and what you do next.
Your challenge will be to figure out: (A) whether the dislike that you’re experiencing is valid and needs your attention (because it causes discomfort, truly offends others, or is hurting the perception of your work); or (B) whether the dislike should be left alone and ignored (because it is directed to you the person and not your work or contributions, is isolated to an individual, and your previous attempts to build a relationship with the person has led to naught).
If it’s the former, then you have some reflection to do and I’d recommend seeking advice from your manager, a coach or mentor on how to address whatever the issue is. But if it’s the latter, then understanding that NOT caring too much – cause it saves your energy and allows you to not compromise who you are – could be the key to moving on.
For more insights on how to care less when someone doesn’t like you, check out this blog post from Refine the Mind titled, The Gorgeous Reality of Not Being Well-Liked by Everyone.
What strategies have you employed to deal with people who dislike you, either at work or in life? Please let me know in the comments section below!