How To Deal With People We Don’t Like?
The problem with being positive.
There was a time when I used to try to like everybody.
If someone made me uncomfortable and I disliked that person, I would feel equally uncomfortable for not liking that person. I had this ideal “I must like and love all.” Perhaps my interest in spirituality had something to do with it. It made me believe “If I want to evolve spiritually then I must be loving and accepting of everybody.”
After trying hard to live up to the ideal of “love all” I have realized, it’s easier to accept the fact that there are some people whose energy will not resonate with mine. I will come across some people who I find judgmental, manipulative and patronizing. And it has nothing to do with me. It is just the way they are, at the moment.
Earlier I would find it difficult to even acknowledge these qualities in others. I would feel I am judging them. Or I would feel these are qualities in me that I am projecting onto others. I would tie myself in knots, simply because I wanted to be positive and see positive. I was afflicted by the ‘B+ Syndrome’. This created a lot of conflict and strife whenever I came across something negative.
It makes me wonder why do most of us find it difficult to see the negative? Both, in us and in others. Why are we so fixated on wanting to B+ ? After all everything in nature has dual aspects — day and night, light and dark, birth and death, spring and winter.
Recently I came across someone who made me feel uncomfortable. I found him opinionated and judgmental. Over a period of time this feeling got further validated. In my earlier avatar of ‘being positive’ I would have tried to dismiss what I felt. Go out of my way to be friendly, to compensate for my dislike. Try to overlook my discomfort and find good qualities in him.
Having done enough of that in the past and seeing that it does not work, I dropped the desire to be an unconditionally loving human being. I acknowledged my discomfort. I did not resist it, indulge it or try to change it to something else. Just noticed what was happening.
I was aware that what I felt was not just about the other person. It was also the reaction of my mind (ego) to this person. Others may have experienced this person differently than I did. At the same time that did not invalidate how I felt.
Over a period of time I have come to accept the fact that I have an ego. Just like I have an arm, leg, nose and eyes; I have an ego. An abstract entity called ‘me’ created by thought. Unless we are an enlightened being, we all see ourselves as a separate person. To say “I don’t have an ego” or “My actions are not driven by ego” is also an expression of ego.
Even though the ego is an abstract entity, the feelings it creates are compellingly real. Especially when someone behaves rudely. In such circumstances, rather than whitewash the discomfort and the behavior of others under the bright paint of ‘being positive’ it’s important to acknowledge what is happening.
What one does after the acknowledgement may depend on the nature of the relationship. There is no fixed template for dealing with people we don’t like. With some we may want to limit our interaction, with others we may want to express our feelings and with some we may just stop relating to protect ourselves. It is better to invest emotions in a relationship that matters, where the other person has the maturity to be authentic.
With the person I did not like I did not talk much, because it didn’t seem natural to talk much. Neither did I stop talking, because it didn’t seem natural to stop talking. Our conversations were mostly cordial. Given the discomfort, that seemed a comfortable space to be.
Another thing I realized when I do not ‘force’ myself to be understanding, loving and kind, I am able to glimpse a state of natural empathy called Compassion. For both of us. For our shared humanness. For our helplessness to disidentify with our egos.
It’s like wearing a bifocal lens that enables us to be nearsighted and farsighted simultaneously. Nearsightedness is the personal reality that acknowledges how we feel and draws boundaries. Farsightedness is the transcendental reality that acknowledges our inherent Oneness.
As we evolve our vision naturally becomes more farsighted. But if we try to force our way into positivity, it is a contrived expression of the ego wanting to be egoless. This leads to hypocrisy and delusion. It obstructs clear vision.
When I heard that the person I disliked is no longer going to be around, my ego heaved a sigh of relief. Our karma for now had come to an end. But our interaction had taught me something valuable. To inhabit a relating space that was neither too hard (not talking at all), nor too soft (trying to be friendly).
In this middle ground of not trying to be this or that, I found I could just be.