6 ways to get along with people you don’t like

Learning to tolerate and even respect people you don’t naturally gel with can be not only useful but life-changing, too

By the time you’re an adult, you’ve hopefully got clarity on the type of people you naturally get along with and those you find annoying. And some people are so irritating that you may actually spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about just how much they irk you.

Well, here’s a reality check: right now, someone is probably thinking the same thing about you.

That’s the thing about us humans – we’re complex social creatures with our own values and embedded beliefs about how people should behave and interact.

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Interestingly, we can dislike someone without even knowing why, and then look for the evidence to prove ourselves right. In other situations, we have plenty of reasons stored up to support why that person shouldn’t be trusted.

Instinct and intuition all play a part in the experience we have of others.

There’s plenty of psychological research to explain why some relationships are easy, while others make us want to stab ourselves in the eye.

And when conflict occurs, it’s natural to think that it’s because there’s something wrong with the other person.

A challenge that many leaders face is that they want to recruit and fill their team with people who are just like them. And while parents aren’t meant to acknowledge having a favourite child, they often secretly tell their best friends about the child who is easiest to parent.

Guess what? The favourite child, the chosen one, is normally the one most like them.

One thing we executive coaches know for sure is that the most successful and happy people find healthy ways to work with those they wouldn’t choose to have in their life – professionally, socially and within their own family.

They are very aware of how they invest their energy in terms of relationships.

So, if you want that colleague in the office to be less obnoxious, or you want to stop feeling anxious whenever you see a certain family member who makes your blood boil, you need to take a look at yourself!

Being able to have healthy and respectful conversations and interactions with all types of people is a valuable skill. The key here is to have empathy when it comes to connecting with people as individuals, rather than their opinions.

Imagine how different life would be and what you would do with all the time you currently spend being frustrated. Appreciating behavioural styles and opinions that are different to your own could even give you new perspectives.

Consider implementing these tried- and-tested strategies the next time a relationship feels hard.

1. Be the grown up

People can’t make you feel a certain way – you get to choose what you think, which in turn determines how you feel. Consciously choose the meaning you’re giving the situation and the person.

Rise above the child-like behaviours and identify a solution, which may be as simple as removing yourself from the situation.

2. Respect everyone

Find what you can appreciate about the person and try not to just focus on the negatives, or what they’re doing wrong.

Deliberately start positive conversations about topics you can both contribute to. In other words, differentiate between the person and the behaviours you may not like.

3. Be strategic

Consider the outcome you want and do what’s required to achieve that. Perhaps you need to compromise or let something go.

4. Remember that you are just one side of this relationship

Just in case you weren’t clear on this, the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Learn to acknowledge that sometimes you may be the one in the wrong. Everybody you meet and know is in the middle of their own story.

5. Pick your battles

There are certainly some fights that are worth fighting.

If something that you highly value has been wronged, then constructively find a way to share your view and speak your truth. But not all battles are worth it. Make sure you know which is which.

6. Choose to be kind rather than right

We grown-ups so often need to be right. It’s OK – it’s ego and we all have one. We want to look good and show people we’re adding value.

But there are occasions in life when showing compassion, empathy and flexibility in your own thinking is much more important than proving you know better.

No, not all relationships can be saved

Let’s be clear: these tips are about getting along with people you don’t naturally click with or find difficult for some reason.

If the person slept with your partner or stole from you, they clearly need to go.

But for relationships with all other people, you can absolutely find a way to make it work without being besties.

Indeed, we can – and should – respect people we don’t like.

Lisa Stephenson is a high-impact executive coach and founder of The Coach Place,