How Smart People Deal with People They Don’t Like
By David K. William 毛川 选 王维 注
In a perfect world, each person we interact with would be nice, kind, considerate1, mindful, generous, and more. They would get our jokes and we would get theirs. We would all thrive in a convivial atmosphere where no one was ever cross, upset, or maligned.2
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Some people drive us crazy, and we (admittedly3) drive a few mad as well. Those we dislike are inconsiderate, rushed, malign our character, question our motives, or just don’t get our jokes at all—but expect us to laugh at all theirs.
You might wonder whether it is possible to be fair to someone who ruffles4 you all the time, or someone you’d rather avoid eating lunch with. You might wonder if you should learn to like every person you meet.
According to Robert Sutton (a professor of management science at Stanford University), it’s neither possible—nor even ideal—to build a team comprised entirely of people you’d invite to a backyard barbecue.5
That’s why smart people make the most out of people they don’t like. Here’s how they do it.
1. They accept that they are not going to like everyone.
Sometimes we get caught in the trap of thinking that we are nice people. We think that we are going to like everyone we interact with—even when that’s not going to happen. It’s inevitable you will encounter difficult people who oppose what you think.6 Smart people know this. They also recognize that conflicts or disagreements are a result of differences in values.
That person you don’t like is not intrinsically7 a bad human. The reason you don’t get along is because you have different values, and that difference creates judgment. Once you accept that not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone because of a difference in values, the realization can take the emotion out of the situation. That may even result in getting along better by agreeing to disagree.
2. They bear with (not ignore or dismiss8) those they don’t like.
Sure, you may cringe at his constant criticism, grit your teeth at her lousy jokes, or shake your head at the way he hovers around her all the time, but feeling less than affectionate to someone might not be the worst thing.9 “From a performance standpoint, liking the people you manage too much is a bigger problem than liking them too little,” says Sutton.
“You need people who have different points of view and aren’t afraid to argue,” Sutton adds. “They are the kind of people who stop the organization from doing stupid things.” It may not be easy, but bear with them. It is often those who challenge or provoke us that prompt us to new insights and help propel the group to success.10 Remember, you are not perfect either, yet people still tolerate you.
3. They treat those they don’t like with civility11.
Whatever your feelings are for someone, that person will be highly attuned to12 your attitude and behavior, and will likely reflect it back to you. If you are rude to them, they will likely throw away all decorum13 and be rude to you too. The onus, therefore, is on you to remain fair, impartial, and composed.14
“Cultivating a diplomatic poker face is important.15 You need to be able to come across16 as professional and positive,” says Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist. This way you won’t stoop to17 their level or be sucked into acting the way they do.
4. They check their own expectations.
It’s not uncommon for people to have unrealistic18 expectations about others. We may expect others to act exactly as we would, or say the things that we might say in a certain situation. However, that’s not realistic. “People have ingrained19 personality traits that are going to largely determine how they react,” says Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD (psychology professor at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey). “Expecting others to do as you would do is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration.”
If a person causes you to feel exactly the same way every time, adjust your expectations appropriately. This way you’ll be psychologically prepared and their behavior will not catch you by surprise. Smart people do this all the time. They’re not always surprised by a dis-likable person’s behavior.
5. They turn inwards and focus on themselves.
No matter what you try, some people can still really get under our skin20. It’s important that you learn how to handle your frustration when dealing with someone who annoys you. Instead of thinking about how irritating21 that person is, focus on why you are reacting the way you are. Sometimes what we don’t like in others is frequently what we don’t like in ourselves. Besides, they didn’t create the button, they’re only pushing it.22
Pinpoint the triggers that might be complicating your feelings.23 You may then be able to anticipate, soften, or even alter your reaction. Remember: it’s easier to change your perceptions24, attitude, and behavior than to ask someone to be a different kind of person.
6. They pause and take a deep breath.
Some personality characteristics may always set you off, says Kathleen Bartle (a California-based conflict consultant).25 Maybe it’s the colleague who regularly misses deadlines, or the guy who tells off-color26 jokes. Take a look at what sets you off and who’s pushing your buttons. That way, Bartle says, you can prepare for when it happens again.
According to her, “If you can pause and get a grip on your adrenaline pump and go to the intellectual part of your brain,27 you’ll be better able to have a conversation and to skip over the judgment.” A deep breath and one big step back can also help to calm you down and protect you from overreaction, thereby allowing you to proceed with a slightly more open mind and heart.
7. They voice their own needs.
If certain people constantly tick you off28, calmly let them know that their manner of behavior or communication style is a problem for you. Avoid accusatory language and instead try the “When you…I feel…” formula.29 For example, Cacaiola advises you to tell that person, “When you cut me off30 in meetings, I feel like you don’t value my contributions.” Then, take a moment and wait for their response.
You may find that the other person didn’t realize you weren’t finished speaking, or your colleague was so excited about your idea that she enthusiastically jumped into the conversation.
8. They allow space between them.
If all else fails, smart people allow space between themselves and those they don’t like. Excuse yourself and go on your way. If at work, move to another room or sit at the other end of the conference table. With a bit of distance, perspective, and empathy, you may be able to come back and interact both with those people you like and those you don’t like as if unfazed31.
Of course, everything would be easier if we could wish people we don’t like away. Too bad we all know that’s not how life works.
1. considerate: 体贴的，考虑周全的。
2. thrive: 兴旺，茁壮成长；convivial: 欢乐的，愉快的；cross: 生气的；maligned: 恶意的，敌意的，后文malign为动词，意为“诽谤，污蔑”。
3. admittedly: 无可否认地。
4. ruffle: 触怒，使烦恼。
5. 斯坦福大学管理学教授罗伯特·萨顿说，一个完全由你愿意邀请到后院烧烤的人组建起来的团队（即团队中全是你喜欢的人）既不可能，也不切实际。comprise: 包含，由……组成。
6. inevitable: 不可避免的；encounter: 遇到；oppose: 反对。
7. intrinsically: 本质上地。
8. dismiss: 不理会，不接受。
9. 当然，你也许会因为他频繁的批评而感到难堪，对她差劲的笑话咬牙切齿，或者对他整天围着她转感到不屑，但是不喜欢别人也许并不是什么坏事。cringe: 感到难堪；grit one’s teeth: 咬牙切齿；lousy: 差劲的，糟糕的；hover: 徘徊；affectionate: 亲切的，充满爱意的。
10. provoke: 激怒；prompt: 激励，促使；propel: 推动，激励。
11. civility: 礼貌，礼仪。
12. attune to: 使协调，使合拍。
13. decorum: 礼貌，得体。
14. onus: 责任；impartial: 公平的，公正的；composed: 沉着的，冷静的。
15. diplomatic: 老练的，有策略的；poker face: 面无表情，指喜怒不形于色。
16. come across: 给人……印象。
17. stoop to: 屈尊，堕落到……。
18. unrealistic: 不切实际的，不实在的。
19. ingrained: 根深蒂固的，原有的。
20. get under one’s skin: 使人生气，令人讨厌。
21. irritating: 令人恼怒的。
22. 此处使用短语push one’s button，意为“惹恼某人”。
23. pinpoint: 查明，精确找到；trigger: 诱因；complicate: 使恶化。
24. perception: 感觉，看法。
25. set off: 激起，引起，此处指“惹恼”；consultant: 顾问。
26. off-color: 低级庸俗的，有伤风化的。
27. get a grip on: 了解，掌控；adrenaline: 肾上腺素；pump: 泵，此处指分泌。
28. tick sb. off: 使某人气恼。
29. accusatory: 指责的，控诉的；formula: 方案，方法。
30. cut sb. off: 打断某人讲话。
31. unfazed: 不苦恼的。