How To Get Along With People You Really Don't Like

The holiday season can be unbearable if you're forced to celebrate with those you dislike.

You know the deal -- it's the end of year and our social calendars have started to fill up with work functions, family gatherings, kids parties -- you name it. And while it's supposed to all be fun and frivolity, it’s also a source of dread for many of us who are now forced into social situations with people that we just plain don’t like.

Hello work mates. Love you.

But -- fear not -- it doesn't have to be a bad thing. Success coach and author of Read Me First, Lisa Stephenson, says most successful and happy people find healthy ways to work with those they wouldn’t necessarily choose to have in their life -- professionally, socially and within their own family.

Erm this is awkward. Hi, everyone.

"The reality is we will not like everyone in our world and we won’t be liked by everyone either," Lisa told 10 daily. "We dislike people for all kinds of valid reasons, the trick is to not use those reasons as excuses to be rude or hurtful. Just keep yourself emotionally safe by gracefully removing yourself from situations where emotions might take over.  There are always going to be people we don’t ‘click’ with and sometimes we have to cross paths with family and friends who have really hurt us or let us down.  It can be helpful to keep in mind that it takes far more energy to be angry than it does to be happy."

When it comes to family, of course, the saying goes you can choose your friends but not your annoying brother... or something like that. And it's made even worse when you don't like a partner's family. So how do you deal with a situation where an in law is driving you mad? (Asking for a friend).

"Do your very best to look for attributes in that person that you can appreciate.  Pick your battles and invest your energy only in the things that really matter to you.  There are certainly some things in life that are worth fighting for and protecting at all costs, but unless their behaviours or beliefs offend you to the core, there are probably lots situations when you can just let things pass," Lisa said.

Look after your primary relationship (with your partner) and keep your focus on what is in your control.  It will take discipline, but being an emotionally intelligent grown up means choosing how we react to and manage interactions we have with others."

There are actually some key things to consider when trying to make the best of an awkward social situation, says Lisa:

Remember it's you, not them.

"People can’t make you feel a certain way," she said. "You get to choose what you think, which determines how you feel. Consciously choose the meaning you are giving the situation and the person. Rise above the child-like behaviours and identify a solution, which might be as simple as removing yourself from the situation."

Respect (almost) everyone

They may seem like a self-obsessed narcissist who doesn't give a thought to others, but chances are you will find something that you can talk about. Even if it is, well, them. "Find what you can appreciate about the person. Don’t focus on the negatives and what they are doing wrong," said Lisa. Deliberately start positive conversations about topics you can both contribute to. "Critically," added Lisa, "differentiate between the person and the behaviours that you might not like.

Be strategic

"Consider the outcome you want and do what’s required to achieve that," suggested Lisa. If it's just keeping the day light and bright, then work towards keeping it that way. If you want to stop your partner from getting stressed out when you and someone from their family clash, perhaps you need to compromise or let something go.

You are not that important

The world does not revolve around you. Just in case you weren’t clear on this. Acknowledge that sometimes you might be wrong. Everybody you meet and know is in the middle of their story.

Pick your battles

"There are certainly some fights that are worth fighting," said Lisa. "If something that you highly value has been wronged then constructively find a way to share your view and speak your truth." Maybe a social situation isn't the place for that. Your call. It could be that you quietly tell the person involved you want to discuss an issue between you offline.

Choose to be kind rather than right

We grown-ups so often need to be right. It’s OK. It’s ego, said Lisa. "We all have one. We want to look good and show people we are adding value. But there are occasions in life when showing compassion, empathy and flexibilty in your own thinking is so much more important than proving you know better."

And finally, if someone annoys you in a situation here are some tips to stop yourself from snapping at them... and breathe....

  1. Take a deep breath and remember we really don’t know what challenges people are facing or what they are going through.
  2. When dealing with difficult people, choose really safe topics for conversations so that you don’t risk being the one who starts conflict.
  3. This might not always feel possible, but a small compliment can go a long way to keeping the peace.
  4. Remember that when we are tired or feeling ‘busy’ we are not at our best, so if you know you are going to be around annoying people prepare ahead by going into the situation rested and ready for the small talk!