“You’re not a $100 bill. Not everyone is going to like you.”
I don’t know to whom I should attribute the above quote, but whoever you are out there, you’re 100% right. We all want to be well liked. We want our coworkers, friends, and family members to have nothing but nice, positive things to say about us. Unfortunately, having everyone like you all the time just isn’t feasible. People are going to get angry, and sometimes, people just don’t click. I know that there are certain people I’ve met who I don’t necessarily like, and upon thinking about it, I can’t really tell you why.
As a perfectionist and a people-pleaser, I can’t stand when people don’t like me. I’ll begin analyzing everything that I do around the person, hoping to win them over or at least bring them back to neutral ground. But sometimes, it just can’t be done. Sometimes, people just don’t like other people.
I’ll give you an example. This past weekend, I was at my pottery class. For the first time since I’ve been going there (which has been for at least 3 months), a bit of a fight broke out. Before you get too excited, nobody threw any clay, broke any pots, or did anything crazy, but some harsh words were exchanged and the awkwardness of it hung in the air for the entire two and a half hour class. From an outsider’s perspective, I could not for the life of me understand how the fight had started—neither party did anything offensive or insulting, but I guess that’s just how I interpreted it. What resulted was a loud and far too long conversation (at least for a group environment) in which one party continued to berate, mock, and just generally hate on the other. The other party was reasonably upset. After I’d had about enough of the whole mess (I mean seriously, a group pottery class is not the place to discuss your personal feelings about someone), I intervened, asking the two to “take a pause.”
I don’t consider either one of the arguing parties to be mean or hateful people. But I do think that their argument quickly went from focusing on potentially constructive criticism to saying irrelevant, rude things to hurt one another’s feelings.
Now, the pottery class example may seem sort of silly, because, well, it’s a pottery class that consists of a few college kids and some middle-age women—not exactly a high stress environment. But I took two important things from this encounter. First, sometimes there is no reason at all for someone to be angry with you or to dislike you. You can both be the two of nicest people in the world, and your relationship might never progress past a small smile you pass one another in the hallway. The second lesson from this pottery class tussle is that negativity from others can fill an entire room. There were eight people in the classroom that day, and although only two people were arguing, the weight of that argument quickly came to rest on every student’s shoulders. In the workplace, you can’t stand in the middle of the cubicles and yell at each other. Your coworkers shouldn’t have to put up with that, and frankly, your fellow pottery class students shouldn’t have to either.
What I’m taking away from all of this is the importance of respect. I don’t care if you hate someone with the passion of 1,000 burning suns—you don’t need to share those feelings in front of an audience. Not everyone is going to get along, and arguments have the potential to be extremely productive in working through issues. But, you know those arguments whose comments focus on anger, trying to hurt feelings, and result in public confrontation? Those are the ones that I think we could all try to avoid.