Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting Everyone to Like You All the Time

I hope you didn't click on a link to this article really thinking I could teach you how to become universally likeable. Sorry. There's far too much variety in the world for anyone to be attractive to everyone.

I worked for an engineering firm as a secretary while I was in school. I was constantly frustrated there because I could never anticipate what my employers wanted. Evidently my personality was as different from theirs as it is possible in a group of people without a serial killer or two in residence.  I could never figure out what they wanted in sales letters, reports, even in client interactions. I had worked in sales positions frequently before this post, and had always been well-loved and respected. I could not figure out how to both be a productive employee and get these strange engineer people to like me. Not surprisingly, I did not stay at the job long, but before I left I literally made myself sick trying to find a me that would fit into their world.

While it was not the first time I had not understood the people around me, it was the loneliest time, because everyone else in the office seemed to get along fine. Being an information  geek, I read everything I could find on personality types. Interestingly,  I found one (and I cannot remember the name of it, more's the pity) that said my personality type would find these engineers' personality puzzling. And they would find mine disturbing. Not odd, not incomprehensible--disturbing. So it was.

It took me several years to realize there was not a lot I could have done to save that job. We were just a group of people who did not go together. Now I begin to grasp that life is short; if after several tries I cannot get along with someone, and I have done my best, I am willing to let them go in peace. I haven't lost many friends, clients, or even acquaintances with my new-found self-acceptance. I have lots of friends who are drastically different from me--different likes, dislikes, politics, religion, eating habits--terribly unlikely alliances fill my life. But we all are comfortable enough in our skins that we can celebrate our differences--or at least not bring them up when we're together. We may have to talk to each other. We have to be assertive enough to say "your music drives me nuts" or "could you not put your leftover filing on my desk?" but the people who stay in my life care enough to make a comfortable place there--and I do the same for them.

So if you are having a constant struggle with someone or someones, take heart.  If you get along with most people, and there are just a few that you rub the wrong way for no apparent reason, maybe you're just different people. Decide if you need to get along with them. Would they be unhappier without you around? If not, consider cutting ties. If they are important to you or vice versa (it's always fun when it's family that doesn't play well together!) have a talk. Try to find some common ground where you can all live peaceably. If you have any tips for getting along with people who aren't bad people, just different from you, please mention it in the comments!

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