It’s awful. That sensation as though you’ve been pushed back down the stairs.
A fleeting feeling of being in free fall and nothing to support me. My stomach somersaulted, my jaw clenched, and I found myself half-listening to conversations while keeping one eye on him in the room. I was fine until I saw him; a thousand shards of anger and annoyance rushed to the surface. It had been six months since I saw Jim, but the guy had disliked me from day one. Every conversation was filled with snarky comments or cutting words, and I knew he was always talking about me behind my back. There’s no escaping him now; I have to deal with this.
We can’t control how people feel about us, but we can maintain control of how we respond. Someone can dislike you for any reason, and in doing so, they make the chance of you building a working relationship much harder. Whether this is a work colleague, a friend of a friend or a partner’s family member, their view of you is decided within the first 30 seconds. If they’ve chosen dislike in that first instance, we have some work to do to unwind it.
We are eager for people not to dislike us because we all know that cooperation and getting along are significantly better for everyone. However, you may know people who like to be lone wolves and see it almost as a badge of honour for being challenging to get along with. This attitude gives you fewer opportunities to grow, connect, work, and generally thrive. Being a lone wolf is lazy; it takes serious work and personal competency to keep relationships sweet.
Now, that said, we need to understand there are limits. Some people won’t like you. You’ll need to make your peace with the idea that once you’ve done everything you can to repair and build a relationship, some people want to live in the dislike camp. But you are here because you want to try a few things before walking away. So, let’s put our best foot forward and look at some things I have found effective in rewinding dislike and rebuilding relationships of all kinds.
1) Check Your Emotions
When someone dislikes us, our emotions rise to the surface faster than we’d like. We can feel threatened, bothered, and hard done by. This is because our brain feels before it thinks. When we receive information from the world around us, it passes through the amygdala, where our emotions form and then into the cerebral cortex, where we analyse that information. This is why we often react before we respond. Our emotions are simply a response to that information, and we may not always be aware of other ideas connected to the emotion.
We need to sit with how we feel when someone dislikes us and learn what we can from that feeling.
Do you feel rejected or restricted?
Why do you think that is?
What can you do to change this situation?
Do you need to do anything?
What will you do with this feeling?
Sitting and asking these questions, we tend to react badly to being disliked. It shapes our behaviour, and we make choices not based on our values but on proving ourselves to the person who opposes us. You may recognise this as feeling off your game or out of sorts. So, don’t ignore how you feel. Instead, capture, feel, and decide what you think about it. Being aware of your emotions means you can funnel them through a sensible and efficient way of responding rather than reacting.
Additionally, it’s worth exploring why this person’s dislike for you bothers you so much. The answer to that personal reflection will tell you more about yourself than you’d imagine.
2) Maintain Your Composure
Think about how you behave with people with whom you are at ease. Now compare that to how you act when being with someone who dislikes you. With your emotions rushing to the surface, our composure can sink below, and before we know it, we’re saying things we retreat and heaping fuel on the relational fire.
Think about how you want to behave around this person. For example, how will you respond if they throw comments your way that are little digs and undermining phrases?
Don’t let your awareness of their presence distract you from all the good things happening around you. Imagine how you would behave if you were at peace with this person in the room. It can amplify the awkwardness if they visibly see that they are under your skin.
Come with an opposite attitude. It’s too easy to drop down a level and try to score points, but if you’re trying to rebuild relationships, then this only fuels resentment. Instead, try to speak to the better version of the relationship or, at the very least, maintain a civil level of conversation. If you’re into name-calling or negative comments, you’ve lost composure.
3) See Past Their Dislike For You
People are the way they are for a reason. I’ve had people dislike me for over a year because I looked like someone they knew who they hated. Think about that. The reason they disliked me had nothing to do with me. I’ve seen this often, where people project their past experiences on you. Then, in that short first meeting, they made their mind up because your name reminded them of bad experiences, hairstyles, or some other inexplicable feature.
Additionally, they may be going something deep and personal. They may not be emotionally aware, and they take it out on you or others because of their unresolved inner turmoil.
We all have drivers that make us behave in specific ways. Think about your drivers. Why do you get along with the people you do? Why do you dislike other people? Most of it is down to cause and effect and the values that drive us to behave.
I’m not saying their experiences excuse the behaviour, but it helps to know that it might not be entirely personal. They could be insecure, projecting unspoken tension, judging you through past experiences of others, corrupt by bad examples, physically ill, in emotional freefall and hundreds of other unseen pressures.
4) Behave As Though You Like Them
If it’s not too far gone, you may be able to demonstrate an opposite attitude that expects the relationship to be better in the cases where the person is unaware of some of the things driving them to dislike you; playing dumb might work. However, suppose you pretend to like them and respond in the opposite way expected. In that case, it can be confusing enough to change the relationship’s dynamic to a positive one.
Unless someone is toxic and abusive, it’s pretty difficult to dislike someone who shows you favour. However, behaving as though you like them sends a different message and might be enough to make them reframe the relationship.
If I mistreated you and you responded with positive comments and kept a light tone, I might begin to think I’ve misjudged you. But, at the very least, I’ll respect your character and self-control even if I don’t start to like you.
The old phrase is ‘kill someone with kindness. When all is said and done, and they still dislike you, it can’t be because of how you behaved because you were always kind!
5) Find A Connection Point
You may have to dig deep for it, but is there something you have in common with this person? A shared interest in which you can find time to bond.
When I was 14, this guy seemed to hate me. We would fall out every time we saw each other, which had gone on for so long that neither of us knew why. Then one day, we ended up on the same trip, and the last seat available was the one that sat next to him. So I spent four hours with a guy that hated me for no apparent reason. After two hours, someone talked about a movie, and we both liked it. The conversation opened up, and we started to connect over a common interest.
After the trip, we did not become best friends, but it was enough to repair the relationship, and the tension went away. They became an excellent acquaintance rather than someone I hated and wanted to avoid.
6) Ask Them For A Favour
Another proven method is to enter into a social contract. For example, asking them for a legitimate favour or helping you with a problem can make them feel you are indebted to them; therefore, they have a vested interest in the relationship.
The thinking is that because they had to help you, you will one day have to help them, so you are socially bound in some unspoken manner. So the favour needs to be legitimate, not a novelty, and the person needs to feel like they were asked because they are capable.
In asking them for a favour, you have demonstrated respect, appreciation and a willingness to build a relationship with them. Most healthy-minded people will be willing to enter this situation; if not, you learn something more profound about the person.
If you’ve asked them to do something helpful and they turned you down, you are not the one who looks unreasonable. What’s more is that even if they don’t like you, they probably like other people and want to be seen to do the right thing.
7) Enter Diplomacy
If your still not making any headway, or if you realise they are not the kind of person you want to like, begin asking how you can best get along. Diplomacy is not about letting someone get their way all the time or pretending to be someone you’re not. Instead, diplomacy is the art of negotiation and tolerable compromise.
Think about how you can create a win-win situation. Some people are so harmful that they will try to bring everyone down, or if they can’t get what they want, then nobody is happy. Diplomacy asks everyone to work out the best situation for all.
What does this person need to feel heard, valued and respected? If we can meet those needs, can we get them to do the same for others?
Or, it may be that giving each other a wide birth and not spending more time than necessary until things cool down is the best option. Are there things you’re willing to compromise on so everyone can be at peace?
8) Walk Away
Finally, if you’ve tried everything and you can honestly say that you did not fuel the negative aspects of this relationship and it still hasn’t improved – you may need to walk away.
But you do need to have made a sincere and deep effort to improve things. Although, of course, if they did not want to budge and stay in the place of dislike, then that is their choice, at least you can say you tried everything.
Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. You don’t need everyone to like you, but you do need to make an effort to get along with people. It’s to move on and try not to dwell on it.