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Find the Commonalities

§ August 2nd, 2010 § Filed under communication, training § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

“We can’t overcome anger and hatred by simply suppressing them. We need to actively cultivate their antidotes – patience and tolerance.” – His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

Last month, I provided some ideas for dealing with demanding people. This month, I want to talk about how to get along with people you simply do not like.

We all have them – family members who irritate you, old friends who rub you the wrong way, coworkers who get on your last nerve, even people you have just met who you instinctively distrust. Avoiding the person works only when you can go your separate ways, but in many cases, you will find yourself confronting these people over and over again.

What can you do? Here’s my prescription. Think about that person. What do you know about him or her? Find something that the two of you have in common. It may be allegiance to a particular sports team. Maybe both of you are grandparents or parents of teenagers. There is camaraderie in the joy of grandchildren and the pain of having teenagers.  We all have commonalities, no matter how small.

I once worked with a man for whom I had very little respect. His world view was very different from mine. He distrusted the employees he supervised and had a particularly autocratic style. However, after working with him for a number of years and during a time when my son was gravely ill, I discovered that he was dedicated to his family and supportive of any employee who had a family member in the hospital. I would not have guessed that he was capable of that level of empathy, but found that I could focus on that quality any time I had to work with him.

When you come in contact with the person, think about that common interest. Say a prayer or meditate on the connection that the two of you have. As I suggested last month with the demanding types, visualize the two of you being able to work or coexist peacefully without rancor or irritation. Imagine what that lack of animosity would look and feel like. Hold onto that image of harmony between the two of you as you interact with the person.

I won’t tell you that this process is easy. It takes a concerted effort to redirect your inclination to dislike someone, but over time, you may find more to like about him or her. More importantly, changing the way you react to these challenging people will benefit you and reduce your stress. Try it and let me know what happens.