Thursday, September 13, 2012
Life would be great except for the people, eh? Who among us hasn't thought that from time to time. The conventional wisdom is that if someone rubs you the wrong way, it's because he reminds you of something about yourself that you don't like. Unless, of course, it's because the person truly is a despicable miscreant who betrayed everyone's trust, sold state secrets to the Russians, surreptitiously videotaped having sex with his wife to share with friends, cavorted with strippers on company time and no doubt clubbed some baby seals too. If that's what's getting under your skin, then this column from the Harvard Business Review blog likely won't help much. But if instead it is indeed that old self-loathing rearing it's ugly head, the advice that follows might help after all. It boils down to using those unpleasant interactions to help identify and change something about yourself that you don't like. Turning lemons into lemonade, as it were.
Consider, for a moment, the reason you don't like someone. Maybe you think they're greedy. Or selfish. Or dismissive. Or downright mean. In other words, they have some character flaw or disagreeable trait that bothers you. Like my view of Jeff as self-serving, egocentric, and self-satisfied.
Now — and here's the hard part — think about whether, in the dark shadowy parts of your psyche, you can detect shards of that disagreeable trait in yourself.
Can you be greedy, selfish, dismissive or downright mean? You really don't like that part of yourself, right? You wish you could distance yourself from that side of you. Just like you wish you could distance yourself from that disliked person.
In other words, chances are, the reason you can't stand that person in the first place, is that they remind you of what you can't stand about yourself.
Suddenly, working with people you don't like becomes a lot more interesting. Because getting to know them better, and accepting the parts of them you don't like, is actually getting to know yourself better and accepting the parts of yourself you don't like.
So the way to overcome your dislike of someone else? Overcome your dislike of yourself.
That's where the person you don't like can come in handy. Use him to understand yourself better. Consider why you have a problem with him. What does he do that bothers you so much? Move past his inability to run meetings or write a good email and get to what's really bugging you. What about his personality or behavior sparks annoyance or disgust in you? What do you hate about him?
Then, consider how your answers might be a reflection of you. This is a game and you win by finding that hated behavior in yourself.
. . . .
Think about times when you feel greedy or selfish or dismissive or downright mean. Can you see it? Can you feel your feelings of both attraction and disgust? Can you admit to yourself that it's not black or white? It's black and white. Can you live with the complexity of your humanness? That's the key to being compassionate with yourself.
You can (and maybe should) keep reading here.