Difficult “Dislikers” into Active Advocates

14 Apr

We all have the pleasure of dealing with difficult people.

In fact, sometimes, we may be the difficult people that others have to deal with.  (Ouch.)

The hard truth, that no one tells you as a child (but you figure out pretty quickly in school), is that not everyone in the world will like you.  In fact, there will be people who actively dislike you and you can do nothing about it

Part of being a savvy adult is knowing when you can change peoples’ opinions of you, when you can’t, and when it matters. I’ve found in my own experience that people can be broken into one of four categories:

It’s really only those who actively dislike me, yet I have to work closely with, that I need to convince otherwise. That’s my “improvement” category. It’s unrealistic to assume that everyone will like me.  It’s unrealistic to assume that I can even change everyone’s opinions in that particular quadrant.  But that is where I have chosen to exert effort.

And it has paid off.

At my current job, there were 4 people in that category.  4 people with the exact same initials.  In fact, those same initials were identical to the 2 people who disliked me in a previous job.  Weird, huh?

But nearly three years later, those 4 people are some of my biggest advocates.  In fact, I’d completely forgotten that they disliked me so much early on.  Until this piece of paper fell out of a work journal (where I note my personal accomplishments, goals for performance reviews, any interactions that went poorly and I want to learn from).

How did I turn difficult “dislikers” into active advocates?

First, I listened. I learned that some of them didn’t personally dislike me. There was past hurts and issues left over from a previous time period. A lot of it had nothing to do with me.  This helped me not take the dislike personally.

Second, I acted on what I’d heard. I respected the individuals who disliked me. I attended to their complaints, I fixed processes, I actively engaged in anticipating their needs in advance. I followed through. I finished projects ahead of schedule. I went above and beyond what was asked of me.

Third, I didn’t speak badly of others. I didn’t listen to gossip, I politely excused myself from bashing sessions, I refused to discuss the negative traits of others. I gave everyone the same respect rather than forming allegiances and alliances.

People aren’t dumb. They know when you are being genuine. When you are working hard. When you are confident in yourself.  And they will respect that. Even if they don’t see eye to eye on your personal preferences or opinions, they won’t be able to help but respect your ethics.

It’s not a far jump from difficult “disliker” to passive participant to active advocate.  It can be done.

And if you are ever going to lead anyone, ever going to work with someone, ever planning on meeting new people and making new friends, this is a skill you can’t afford to neglect.  So don’t.


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