With all the best intentions in the world, there will probably be at least a few people whom you don’t particularly want crossing your path. Sometimes the reaction is unconscious, sometimes it’s overt because of the way the person comes across to you. Whatever the reason, disliking someone is a subjective response and it is always a good idea to do your best to be respectful. Depending on the situation, there are different things to consider — whether it is a professional or social setting, for example — in order to help you determine if you should avoid someone or respectfully confront them. Keeping things respectful avoids drama and shows that even through dislike, you can still maintain dignity.
Avoiding People at School or Work
- If you get to choose what projects you work on at work or what groups you are in at school, actively choose an option that doesn’t involve the person you don’t like.
- If you are placed on a team with someone you dislike, you might consider respectfully asking your boss to move you to another team. But make sure you keep your focus on your work/productivity, not just on your personal feelings. Try saying something like, “I think I could be much more productive if you would consider placing me on a team with Sam instead. We have already proven to be an effective team when working together.”
- In cases like these, keep conversations as brief as possible. Don’t engage in small talk or ask questions about the person’s personal life.
- To end a conversation gracefully, have an exit line ready. Try saying, “I’ve got a lot of work to do, so I don’t have time to talk right now.”
- When possible, choose to correspond via email or over the phone rather than face-to-face.
- Before you start rearranging your life to avoid someone, take some time to evaluate what is important to you. Is it worth it to rearrange your schedule just to avoid this person? If you cherish every last second of sleep in the morning, ask yourself if it’s worth sacrificing that time to go in early just to avoid someone annoying. Think about if there is a respectful way you can assertively deal with the person that doesn’t require you to alter your entire schedule.
- Start coming in to work a little early so you can finish your day a little bit earlier if it will help you avoid them.
- Try to find out what classes they are taking and choose different classes.
- This may be a good idea if you are already looking to branch out and try other things, but before you stop your activity, you need to consider what you are giving up to avoid this person. Are you willing to sacrifice a hobby or activity you really enjoy? If you start avoiding all the things that you enjoy in life to get away from a temporary discomfort/dislike, you may end up creating a life that is unfulfilling. Carefully consider what is worth giving up just to avoid this person. Consider taking a more assertive approach rather than avoidance.
- If you are in the same yoga class and you want to avoid the person, try going to Pilates instead. If you both go to the same trivia night at the local bar, try trivia night at a different spot. If you are both rushing for the same sorority or fraternity, consider joining a different one.
- If you are in the same study group, try to expand your social circle and find a new study group to join.
Avoiding People Socially
- If you notice your nemesis standing by the bar, head towards the patio instead.
- Don’t make eye contact with them because this could invite them to approach you and begin a conversation.
- It may not always be possible to avoid the person — they may approach you anyway or join a group conversation, and you may want to gracefully remove yourself from the situation. You can chat with the person for a moment and then say, “Well, I hope you enjoy the party! I’m needed by the food table.”
- Try not to answer the phone when they call. If they do catch you on the phone, try getting away respectfully by saying something like, “I wish I had more time to chat, but I have a lot of things to get done at the moment.”
- Avoid family gatherings that you know they will be attending. You could try planning a vacation during the holidays. This way, you can spend time with your immediate family while limiting your responsibility to attend other, more stressful gatherings.
- Don’t add them on social media. This will give them access to your life and more things to try to talk to you about. Or add them, but manage your privacy settings so they can’t see your posts.
- Again, you may want to consider whether avoidance is the best strategy. Is it really worth missing out on seeing the rest of your family just to avoid that uncle you don’t like? Consider finding an appropriate time (i.e. not during a big family gathering) to address your issues with the person. One uncomfortable conversation may be worth it to save yourself a lifetime of opting out of family gatherings.
- Avoid hanging out near the door or talking to someone with the door open.
- If your nosy neighbor won’t leave you alone, try asking them respectfully by saying something like, “I am really quite a private person. I would actually prefer it if you could please give me a little more space.”
- Take a step back if you are feeling crowded. Or try to come up with an excuse to step away from the situation for a moment, like that you need to use the restroom or grab something to drink.
- You are perfectly entitled to make a request for more space in a polite way. For example: “Thanks for your concern Mr. Close, however, I would feel more comfortable standing further apart.
- Perhaps you could even talk about your feelings with your friend later to get an idea of how you might better approach the disliked person next time.
- Pay attention to the moments when you have no patience for this person. Your stomach may tighten up, and you may start having thoughts that sound like, “I can’t believe they… Don’t they realize… How can they be so incompetent….”
- Once you have identified what you dislike about the person, ask yourself if there is something behind this. For instance, is the trait that annoys you about the person actually a reflection of a personal trait you don’t like about yourself? Is it a reminder from the past — something a family member or former partner used to do that now sets you off?
- One way to increase patience is to rethink discomfort. When you find someone irritating, it’s often natural to want that person to change or to avoid them, but the real issue is with how your mind is set. When you are around someone you don’t like, try thinking to yourself: “This is uncomfortable but not intolerable.” Remember that growth is not easy and can be uncomfortable.
- Being assertive means advocating for yourself instead of avoiding the situation and becoming resentful and hanging on to those negative feelings. Assertive communication is respectful, clear, and diplomatic.
- For instance, maybe you dislike your uncle because at every family event he brings up something embarrassing you did when you were five. Instead of avoiding him, you could talk to him one-on-one and say, “Could you please stop bringing that up? It’s embarrassing and I don’t like it.”
- Being assertive helps you realize your own power and the control you have over your interactions with others.
- You can try giving a regretful excuse such as, “I’d love to stay and chat but I have to go take care of something.” Or you could say, “Unfortunately, I promised myself I would finish this work project tonight. I better be going.”
- This doesn’t mean that you have to be over-the-top nice to the person you dislike. Instead, try being very matter-of-fact whenever you are speaking with them. This kind of behavior shouldn’t mislead them into thinking you like them, but it also won’t come across as overly rude.
- If you leave it up to the other person to set the boundaries, you might not like the outcome. So take the initiative and make it clear how you want to interact with them.
- For instance, be clear about what is and is not okay to talk about, how you would like to be talked to (i.e. names, nicknames, voice level, etc.). You might say, “Sandra, it makes me uncomfortable when you talk about your family like that. Can we stick to other topics from now on?”