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When Someone Doesn't Like You

During one of my first days ever on radio, a woman called in and ripped me apart: "You are stupid!  You don't know anything!"  I was a once-a-week co-host for a show on KABC Los Angeles at the time.  I was 28 and, quite frankly, a little shy.  As she yelled and yelled, I just sat there listening and watched the main host's eyes getting bigger and bigger.  I don't remember how he handled it because I was too busy crying and sobbing in my mind.  Tears were silently pouring out of my eyeballs, and I felt horrible.  Even though nine months to the day later that same woman called back and apologized, I'll never forget how it felt getting personally attacked in front of such a large audience for the first time.  

No matter who you are, we all care if people like us.  We are social creatures.  Feeling love, affection and belonging is very necessary to us.  If you really want to torture somebody, isolate them.  That's probably one of the worst kinds of torture.   

Unfortunately, nobody is liked by everyone (except for maybe Carol Burnett).  Everybody has their detractors.  The pope. God. Everyone.  And most of the time, it is not based on anything concretely objective.  Probably 90 percent of someone not liking you has very little to do with you.  It has more to do with their perceptions and their inner emotional world.  When someone hates you, it's usually because you tickle something inside of them that they really need to deal with.  Envy and jealousy often play a big role.  They may be resenting a number of different things about you - your age, intelligence, occupation, success...whatever.  It may come across as personal and it may feel personal, but you have to realize that it may have nothing to do with you.  It might simply be your point of view that they can't tolerate.  A lot of you experience that when you stand up for your values or your family (e.g. you speak up about a young person who has a grand party after they get knocked up out of wedlock, and everybody digs in to you as if you were Charles Manson). 

Another thing to keep in mind is that people sometimes say stupid things.  They may not really mean any harm, or you might have simply misconstrued what they said.  We often misinterpret things as criticism because of how they are worded.  It's hilarious when you take a second and ask, "Whoa, wait.  Did you mean that as a criticism?," and the other person says, "What?!  No!  What I meant was something completely different."  However, if you don't communicate with them and just assume the worst, you're not going to get clarification.  When you hear someone make a negative comment about you, first ask yourself, "What was the intent of the comment?  Did they really mean to harm me?"  Usually the answer is "no." 

However, if the other person did mean for their comment to be negative and you truly believe that he or she doesn't like you, the next important question to ask yourself is, "Why do I give a damn?"   Are you really going to let that person's judgment (no matter who they are) impact your entire life?  You have to resist the urge to try and fix them or change their opinions.  Just move forward with your life.  Sometimes you simply have to let that helium balloon of negativity go.  You have to think, "They don't like me, and they're saying bad things about me...So what?!"  The only people who are going to believe the bad things said about you are the ones primed to not like you in the first place.  So, after you've assessed whether or not a person dislikes you, you should do your best Clark Gable and say, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Now, of course there's an exception to this rule.  Sometimes people don't like us because we are indeed behaving in an unlikeable manner.  For example, you may be trying so hard to please someone that you come across as obnoxious instead.  For this reason, you need to be aware of how you are presenting yourself.  

If you think you're causing someone to react negatively toward you, take the criticism constructively.  Another part of being social beings is that we need people to talk to us, listen to us, and even challenge us.  We need that interaction.  We don't realize our potential in a vacuum - we recognize it in situations with other people. 

And yet, by the same token, you can't be too hard on yourself.  Although it's a normal part of people's psyches, you have to remember not to be self-deprecating.  Of course it's good to be reminded that you are human and to give yourself a good smack upside the head every now and again, but you also have to make a conscious effort to tell yourself not to be negative.  It's good to have trusted friends and family around for moral support and to remind you of your strengths.  That way, you can work on yourself but also learn the skill of allowing things to roll off your back.

You have to consciously balance your need to be liked with the reality of the situation.  A lot of folks have trouble with this, including me.  If you feel you are not being treated right in a relationship with a friend or family member, don't let your desire to be liked eclipse common sense.  You always have to ask yourself, "What is true?"  One of the things I used to do with couples who complained about each other in therapy is ask, "Do you believe he/she acted with the intent to hurt or humiliate you?  Do you think they thought it through and made that decision consciously?" 

More often than not, I would get a "no."

Tags: Friendships, Relationships
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