5 ways to get along with people you don't get along with
You know the feeling you get when you realise you’re going to have to spend time with someone with whom you have nothing in common? Or, even worse, someone with whom you disagree about something, or even someone whose values differ from yours?
Many of us can’t choose the people we work with. Sometimes it’s someone in a club we’re in, or who takes part in the same activities we do. We might even be related to them!
And, for many people, this can bring frustration, stress or even anger. Sometimes this can come out in 'acid communication', as described by Italian psychologist Francesca D’Errico and philosopher Isabella Poggi (2014).
Can you relate to this? Signs that you have someone like this in your life could include;
- Thinking about this person, even when you’re not with them, and replaying your last interaction with them, possible rehearsing different endings to your conversation.
- Anticipating the next time you’ll spend time with this person and becoming anxious about it, or possibly feeling angry in advance.
- Wishing the person would change; 'If only they didn’t do...', or 'if only they would just...'
- Telling someone else your feelings about this person in the hope that they’ll agree and feel the same, thus validating your views.
Now, I’m not saying that we can, or even should, like everyone we come across. Our world is diverse in so many aspects, and people and personalities are just one of those areas. And, it’s unfair to expect everyone to behave in the way that we would. So, how do we get along with the people we’ll inevitably meet that will never be our best friends?
5 ways to help strengthen relationships
Find something positive about the person every day
This could be as simple as liking the way they’ve dealt with something, or that they’ve spoken kindly to someone. You might even admire their knowledge of a subject. Some days this might be harder than others, but dig deep.
Find an alternative reason why they might behave in the way they do
Have you ever considered that they may be very tired for some reason? Or that they have a previous experience in similar setting that has made them wary in some way? Perhaps they’re completely unaware of the impact they’re having on the people around them? I’m not saying you should necessarily ask them, but these questions may help you be more compassionate.
Discover what you have in common
If we approach a situation through a filter of 'what’s different', that’s exactly what we’ll find. Try looking for 'what’s right' instead and notice common areas. If nothing else, you’ll have some 'safe' areas for conversation.
Notice their strengths
Are they really good at organising things? Are they the one that ensure that no one is left out? Do they have a great imagination? What can you appreciate about them that complements your strengths? There are a number of ways you can find out about your strengths too.
Really listen to them
Without making assumptions and judgements, really tune in to what they’re saying. This is hard work, and many of us are busy thinking about what we’re going to say in response and can sometimes miss nuance and details. As Stephen Covey says; 'Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply'. Be the one who listens to understand.
None of these things will make a difference on their own, and neither will a one-off effort make lasting change. As with most things, relationships take effort, and usually the more we put in, the more we’ll get out. It may be that you’ll never really warm to the person you have in mind, but if you have to be around them regularly, try these ways of making the contact you have with them smoother. If nothing else, you’ll be left with a better feeling for yourself.