Do I have to like my colleague to work with them?
You are reading this article...so you probably care enough to make a change, if this is a situation that you are finding yourself in.
So that itself is an opening.
As adults we get it. We get that not everyone will like us, or that we will necessarily like them. And at another level, we share a deep humanity, that when it comes to the crunch, we are all one. But that may not help you when, turning up at the office every day, your heart sinks the moment you see this colleague. The one who irritates the @*%* out of you.
But what will help you, is that word…YOU.
You have to figure out how this ‘relationship’, feeling towards your colleague, affects you? Your happiness. Your wellbeing. Your performance. If it is affecting you and these things are important…well, as the wise ones have reminded us, you can’t change the other person, but you can change yourself. That may be choosing to remove yourself from any toxicity or using it as a gateway to knowing and liking yourself more.
It is always a good exercise to remind oneself that we have options. Here are some to consider:
Ostrich it: Ignore them and the circumstances you have trapped yourself in. Resolve "just to get on with it" and give them no attention. This sounds possible, but it is a relatively short term strategy because it won't make you feel good, even if it becomes a 'normal way of being'. You will probably die slowly on the inside, trapped in a victim or a persecutor role.
Manage it: This is probably what you are doing already, managing it by minimising the time spent in the company of your colleague. Now do it with more curiosity - what is it exactly that you don't like? What are the feelings they trigger in you? What happens when you see them with a 'beginner's mind'? (as if you have never seen them before?). Be your own forensic investigator.
Meatloaf it: As in "2 out of 3" isn't bad. You may not like them, but you can find a way to respect and trust your colleague at least? Moments of trust are enough to make you feel like you're getting on better.
Confront it: Plucking up the courage and compassion to have a conversation about what is bothering you, to see if they are also ready to explore a better way of relating. Maybe you need to ask a third person, someone who likes both of you who can find ways to feel better about each other.
Maximise it: Rather than minimising your time in each other's company, try maximising it. Generally, the more time we spend with a person, the more we like them. It provides an opportunity to learn more about them, find things in common and create mutual understanding.
Leg it: Change roles or change the organisation. Whilst this is an extreme cleansing strategy, you can rest assured that you will meet someone similar again...just in a different place.
Ponder it: Is it them or is it that they remind you of someone else from your past? This requires some deeper self-awareness in order to fully understand. Could it be that this person you have a strong reaction to is because you are transferring feelings and expectations of significant people from your past on to them?
Learn it: Connected to the above point, as Carl Jung wrote, "everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves". So consider this person as a teacher. What we like or don't like about others may tell us what we like or don't like about ourselves. Our own unconscious behaviour can project or transfer what is going on for us onto the other person, so it appears to us that these qualities actually exist in the other. As the saying goes, "it takes one to know one". Being mindful of what we pay attention to in others and how we react and respond, can offer us valuable insights and teachings about ourselves. They are our mirrors that help us see clearly who we are and what we need to address for our own transformation.
Fake it till you make it: Practice loving, kindness, practice sending them warm thoughts, that they are peaceful and happy. Practice seeing their goodness and vulnerability, and seeing them the same as you - a human being who wants to feel safe, heard and loved. It may feel false for a while, but strangely this 'deep acting' touches us, and you will soon begin to feel differently towards them. A beautiful healing practice is the 'Hoponono', which is grounded in the philosophy of 100% responsibility...repeating the phrase whilst thinking of the person..."I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you".
So there are lots of options.
May you like finding new ways to like yourself…and others…
Penelope Mavor is a Consultant at Impact Italia.