Skip to main content

How to Coexist When You Don't Like Each Other

More understanding, more liking.

More understanding, more liking.

Maybe you’re not even sure why, but you feel slightly queasy when you see this person, hear their name, or even watch them walk into the room.

Maybe the other person just doesn’t like the colors you wear, your hairstyle, or the attention that you get.

Whatever it is, your smiles disappear and your joy diminishes in each other's presence. Before your next unsettling episode, try these suggestions. One of you has to take the initiative, and it might as well be you.

Take Control

In a quiet moment, visualize you and the other person seated in armchairs facing each other. Accept that the reason for your dislike, resentment, jealousy, or any other negative attitude is purely speculative. Make the effort to discard your opinions. Then consider these three facts:

  1. There is something about that person you do not understand.
  2. Somebody dislikes you (the same way you dislike that person) for the same reason: he or she does not understand something about you. Consequently, you share something in common with that person sitting across from you; you are equals.
  3. Since lack of understanding is a sign of your human limitation, you are allowing your human weakness to rob you of your oomph (energy and love of life). Decide to change that.

By now, you’re ready to forgive yourself for sabotaging your own happiness. The next step is to transform the person, for your own sake, from the threatening figure of oomph destroyer to the friendly face of oomph builder.

Your aim is not to become bosom friends, though that is possible, but rather to take back the power you have previously given that person to bring negativity into your space. In the process, you may learn more and understand enough about the person to actually like something about him or her.

You have the control as you lean (in your imagination) toward the person facing you. Ask the following questions.

1) How Can I Empower You?

Actually, you're asking, "How can I empower you to empower me?" Everyone including your former oomph destroyer has qualities, talents or skills worthy of admiration. If you haven’t noticed any before, clear away your prejudice and stare at the replays of your previous encounters until at least one virtue appears.

Based on the strengths you notice, rehearse one or two compliments that you intend to speak to the person, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it is worth the effort to help you change your attitude toward him or her.

Affirmation, encouragement, approval, or any other form of verbal support, gives the receiver a reason to put forth his best behavior. You will begin to look for and notice other positive traits as you begin to feed the person’s sense of worth. Your response to the person’s presence will change for the better, and attitude change is contagious.

2) What Can I Learn from You?

Recognizing that someone has the ability to share with you helps you accept that person. Your self-imposed discomfort or dislike may be obstructing your view of noble actions you can imitate.

There once was a single mother who worked for low wages and who had more children than she could seemingly manage. Her living was substandard and her well-to-do executive neighbor ignored (disliked) her—until the day the unassuming woman taught her a valuable lesson in parenting. The poor woman watched as one of her neighbor’s two children playing in the backyard shouted to the mother that she would like to have a soda pop. Knowing that the other child would soon ask, the mother came to the door with two soda pops.

Summoning her bravery, the onlooker addressed the mother of two, and asked, “What happens when you only have one bottle of pop? Give the pop to the child who asked, and give her an opportunity to share.” The generous mother was surprised and impressed. She had never thought like that, but it made sense.

The person you dislike for one reason or another may have the answer to your question or the suggestion that might make your project a success. Treat him or her like someone who has as much value as you have. Your self-worth is reflected in the worth you place on others.

Nothing inspires care for others like willing service.

Nothing inspires care for others like willing service.

3) How Can I Serve You?

Nothing inspires care for others like willing service; not necessarily scheduled hours of duty, but small acts of kindness. When you supply a need for assistance, the other person often responds in expressions of gratitude, and similar kind gestures. In the end, the good feeling boomerangs.

Offer to lend a book or movie, share a recipe, bring a gift of fruit or flowers from your garden, or simply ask what assistance would be appreciated.

Service calls for humility, the antidote to arrogance which develops when someone justifies a reason for dislike or disrespect. People think about you long after you serve them, and the good thoughts they think, surface in their actions toward you.

Before long, two people who do not like each other will transform into two people who discover likable qualities where they were not obvious before.

© 2013 Dora Weithers