How to deal with people you don't like

I once was in the difficult spot of having to work with someone I didn’t like very much.  Then I realized we had a scheduled lunch together.

It was a relief there were two other people invited, but they cancelled last minute.


Maybe others were feeling the same way I did.  I reluctantly went to that lunch but underwent a mini-transformation, and by the end I was enjoying myself.

I even learned a few things and was so surprised by this experience I wanted to write about it to you today.

Although we didn’t see eye-to-eye on most things, we discovered common ground.   He eventually became an ally on one of the most important projects of my career.

Wow, I’m glad I went to that lunch.

It’s Important to Spend Time with People You Don’t Like

You may find yourself choosing to spend time with people who love you, make you feel good, share common interests, and agree with your perspective. That’s just fine.

But when’s the last time you spent quality time with someone you didn’t like?

You may say, I work with plenty of people I don’t like.  Yes, but do you really ‘know’ them.  Have you uncovered common ground yet?

It’s not always easy to spend time with people you dislike, don’t understand, or whom you disagree.  But, it’s often worthwhile.

This is the opportunity many people miss. These are the people you can often learn  the most from and broaden your perspective.

Three Steps to Enjoy Spending Time with People You Dislike

Admittedly, spending time with people you dislike can be intimidating at first. Try these steps, and you may discover joy in spending time with people you don’t like.

Step one:  Schedule time

Ask someone you dislike to coffee or lunch. You can always try a quick meeting, but it can be difficult to shift the conversation in a positive direction in a business environment.

Step two: Ask

After you say hello and order your coffee, simply ask:

“What do you like to do outside of work?”

Then follow that with either:

“Tell me more?”

“What else?”

Step three: Find common ground

The trick is to keep asking questions until you identify a “me too” opportunity.  This is the enjoyable part of spending time with people you dislike.

This may not occur in the first conversation, but you’re always listening for an opportunity to build a bridge of connection to the other person.   In my original example we found a few places of common connection in our life outside of work.

For instance here are connection points that came out of that specific situation:

Him: I enjoy traveling with my family.

Me: Me too! In fact, here are some of my favorite trips we’ve taken…

Him: I’ve recently starting getting back into tennis.

Me: Holy smokes, that’s my favorite game to play!

Caveat: Things to avoid when getting to know someone you don’t like

Avoid these few things in your conversation, and you’ll increase your likelihood of success:

  • Avoid religion or politics. – Bringing these up are a real gamble. You could hit a homerun if you discover you are of the same political affiliation; but if not, it could set you back even further in your relationship.
  • Avoid minimizing asking “Do you know ______?” – It can be fun to see if you know the same people. But, this can often a dead-end conversation that really doesn’t lead to deeper connection and relationships.  Yet, some people always default to this.
  • Avoid asking them to agree with you. – Do not attempt to persuade or convince them of your perspective. Just listen, connect, and enjoy.
  • Avoid pushing them. – They may not want to share much about their personal interests and that’s just fine. Try again another day.

Now who are you willing to get to know better and discover where you have a common ground?  Once you really know a person, it’s hard to dislike them.

What strategies do you use to get to know someone you dislike?  Please add in the comments below.