Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How do you play nice with someone you'd rather kill?

Famed humorist Will Rogers once said, "I never met a man I didn't like."  

Notice he didn't say - immediately?  I think what he was trying to say was that you can find a reason to like anyone, even if you have to work at it.  You have to want to do it, though.  Which is what I'm talking about today - liking people despite first impressions or instant dislike, and disregarding what you may have heard about that person, or even the words that may have come from that person's lips.  I'm not talking general prejudice here, dislike for a group or type of people, which is just wrong on every level.  But learning to like even the most outwardly unlikable person imaginable, the one you swore you'd despise forever.  It can be done, and it should be done - not simply for the obvious reasons, that as people we all need to get along, but because in the long run, it's really good for everyone, especially you.

We all know them, that person in our lives who gets on our nerves for whatever reason.  It might be a co-worker, or a neighbor, a friend, or a relative, someone you wait on at work, or somebody who waits on you.  They get on your last nerve.  They rub you the wrong way.  They say stupid things, or they behave stupidly - at least in your eyes. You don't like them, don't want to deal with them, don't want to talk to them.

It's human to feel this way.  I have, you have, we all have.  And yet is it necessary?  Is there a better way to deal with these people?  There is, I'm firmly convinced of it, and it's all just a matter of mindset.  If you're determined to get along with everyone - and by get along, I'm not saying they have to become your bestest buddy or anything, but you drop them from your people I can't stand category - then you can do it.  But you have to want to do it.

Before you ask, yes, I've tried this theory out myself.  At one time I was a checker for regional grocery chain here, and their motto emphasized their friendliness.  I was not exactly outgoing when I got the job, but when you're a checker, you learn how to talk to people - lots of people.  I was determined to fulfill the company's motto, to be the friendliest checker I could be.  But sometimes customers just get in the way of that.  Like the lady who complained when I commented on her more than 20 items in the less than 20 item lane (I even checked her out, simply pointed out to her that she was over the limit so she would know for next time, and she accused me of being a racist).  That was a one time incident, I'm not sure I ever waited on her again.  Maybe I didn't recognize her when she wasn't complaining.  But I had a regular customer, a woman who, no matter what, complained about something every time she came in.  There was always something not to her liking.  It got to where other checkers would avoid her.  But I was determined to be friendly, so I would take her, and I met every surly comment or criticism with nothing but friendly attitude and sympathy. Right before I left that job, I found out she thought I was the best checker there, which made me feel good, although I wished I'd known before the day before I left.  Another customer was a bit of an odd duck, with odd habits, and again the checkers tried to avoid him.  But I found a common interest with this person in the form of books, and we actually had discussions concerning them, once I put aside my attitude of thinking he was weird and not wanting to deal with him, and I began to enjoy his company.

In each case, I didn't let the other person's attitude affect mine.  You can only control what you do, not what anyone else does.  (Not even your children, trust me).  So decide ahead of time that you are going to like this person, no matter what.  They don't have to like you back, although it would be nice if they did.  If you are in a customer service oriented position, then that should be a given, it's what you do.  I've noticed a sad trend which has grown over the past several years or so where some people in public service jobs think they have the right to treat their customers as they see fit.  They're totally wrong!  If you don't like what you do, get out, or better yet, change your attitude - and you'll discover that your job isn't as bad as you think it is.  Don't endure, enjoy.  And if you're the one standing in that customer service line, remember that the person who is waiting on you is human too, and may not have all the answer that you want.  But if you work together, you'll get farther than by pulling apart.

So Will Rogers had the right attitude - never meet a man that you can't like.  It may take time, it will take effort, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it.  I gave up hate from my vocabulary a long time ago - hate is an emotion that only hurts the one who possesses it.  Love makes everyone feel good.

Give it a try - focus on someone in your life that you think you don't like.  Look for reasons to like that person, whether it be common interests, a personality trait that you were unaware they possessed, or something you find interesting about them, or the way they dress or talk.   Whatever.  Don't give up until you stop disliking him or her.  You'll be glad you did.

Now, if we could only get everyone in the world to adopt such an attitude!


  1. I always try to see something nice in people. Why waste energy focusing on the bad. I worked in retail and believe me, people are horrible lol One guy threw a very heavy curtain in my face. I just stepped over it and walked away. Now that takes inner strength lol

  2. Exactly! And yes, they expect an awful lot, don't they? But it does work both ways. More and more are not willing to give the customer service they're paid to give!

    That took a lot of inner strength! lol