Being Constructive Around
People You Don’t Enjoy

Bad Date

The question of how to be constructive around people you don’t enjoy, but with whom you have to spend time, is a challenging question.

It’s easy to advise, “Just be positive.” Yet, it is critical to maintain a respectful and etiquette-ful attitude. How does one do that?

All-the-Time Tips

Each time you encounter people you don’t enjoy being around, you probably notice yourself tense up, feel a sense of dread, and your mind immediately goes to a place you’d rather be instead of where you are.

Try mindfulness instead.

  • Breathe deeply through your nose. But exhale without sighing.
  • Practice active, attentive listening.
  • Maintain your composure.

This method of breathing will help you relax and active listening will help keep you in the present moment and able to carry through with a conversation. And being present in a conversation will help you find a way to politely end it as quickly as you can.

Tips to Apply as Needed

While you may be looking for that welcome escape, the current conversation deserves your attention. The following tips can be used as needed to help get you through.

  • As you enter into the same space, make a positive statement, such as, “I hope your drive was pleasant.”
  • Find common ground or goals.
  • Change the subject as needed by employing a light touch.
  • Say “That’s interesting (or a variation),” often.
  • Look for supportive things to say.
  • Find things that you can appreciate about the person.
  • Notice when you think a negative thought and challenge your negative thought with a counter thought.
  • Find ways in which you can appreciate the person’s wonderful-ness and that you and others might have overlooked or taken for granted.
  • Maintain a professional attitude and treat the person with dignity and respect.
  • Never use course language.
  • Do not be confrontive.

Find Compassion for People You Don’t Enjoy Being Around

You never know when another person suffers from low self-esteem, social anxiety, or a feeling of not belonging. The bottom line is, we don’t always know another person’s story, although assumptions may have been made through gossip.

Even people you don’t enjoy being around have qualities you can appreciate. Spend some time in conversation to look for those qualities. Ask open-ended questions that may prompt an interesting anecdote, or a funny story from younger years. You may be surprised at the common ground you can find.

Keeping the focus is on being civil and polite, and, if possible, keeping interactions to a minimum, can help us get a grip on our own negativity. When we encounter people we don’t like, it can sometimes be because we see something in them that we don’t really like about ourselves.

Remembering that we are all doing our best in every situation we encounter might be helpful. And as individuals we won’t naturally handle things the same way, so giving a little grace is warranted. Because we are all perfectly imperfect.

“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.”

~ Shirley MacLaine

Many topics for The Etiquette Blog come from questions, such as this one, that readers pose. Thank you, Readers!

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