Why it’s totally OK when you don’t like someone

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Several months ago, I was helping facilitate a multi-day business training. I didn’t know any of the other instructors, so when I showed up on the first day, I introduced myself to the training team.

I instantly got a weird vibe from the head trainer.

She ignored my introduction entirely and started spouting off everything that still needed to be done before we could get started. Her frantic energy was palpable, and I could sense it was putting the rest of us on edge.

“She’s probably just nervous about pulling off a great event,” I thought to myself. “Once everything’s ready to go, I’m sure she’ll settle down and be more personable. Don’t think too much of it.”

But once the students showed up and the head trainer started her presentation, my uneasy feeling only intensified.

Her exuberant positivity felt inauthentic and staged, and frankly, it made my skin crawl. She seemed much more interested in sharing stories of her own achievements rather than teaching helpful business concepts. And she would promise that we’d take a break in 10 minutes, but then ramble on for another 45, ignoring the restless energy in the room.

“Don’t be judgmental, Kristen,” I admonished myself. “Just because she’s doing things differently than you would doesn’t make her wrong. Maybe she’s overcompensating for some nervous jitters. Cut her some slack.”

Over the next few days, various things this woman said or did kept rubbing me the wrong way. And each time, I would chastise myself for being judgmental and try to keep an open mind about her.

Round and round it went for 3 days.

Until finally, toward the end of the last day, I admitted to myself, “I just don’t like this woman.”

Ahh, it felt so good to tell the truth! It was such a simple statement, but for me, it was a revelation.

… And then came the guilt.

IT’S OK TO NOT LIKE EVERYONE … AND TO NOT BE LIKED BY EVERYONE

Growing up, I was a serious people pleaser.

As in, I avoided conflict at any cost and wanted everyone to like me all the time. If a friend was annoyed with me, it felt like my world was collapsing. If I disappointed my parents or teachers, I was utterly devastated.

All of that meant that I frequently smiled, bit my tongue, and remained pleasant even when I was about to spill over with frustration, hurt, or disappointment. I told myself I didn’t want to “make a big deal of it” or cause unnecessary tension.

But really, I was terrified of people not liking me if I wasn’t perpetually pleasant.

When being liked by everyone is at the top of your priority list, it follows naturally that you assume you should like everyone else, too. So unless someone was undeniably terrible — mean, violent, cruel, that kind of thing — I believed I should like them.

And if I didn’t like them, then I was the terrible person for being judgmental.

I’M OFFICIALLY GIVING YOU PERMISSION … TO GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with some friends and recounting the story of how hard it was for me to admit, even just to myself, that I didn’t like that lead trainer. Most of them chimed in with their own similar stories of guilt and confusion about not liking certain people in their life.

We all had no trouble whatsoever responding to one another with things like:

“It’s totally OK that you didn’t like that person!” and “I don’t like the sound of that person, either!” and “Not liking someone does NOT make you a bad person,” and “You’re just sharpening your discernment muscle.”

It got me thinking … why is it so easy to give other people permission to feel how they feel, but we can’t seem to give ourselves the same permission?

I imagined a friend or client telling me the exact story I shared with my friends. I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second before validating their gut instinct and encouraging them to trust their intuitive sense about the person they were feeling weird about.

So I’m making a point to start giving myself the same permission. And for all of my fellow people pleasers out there — I’m giving you the that permission, too:

You are officially allowed to trust your gut instinct and not like certain people who rub you the wrong way.

JUDGMENT VS. DISCERNMENT

At this point, some of you may now be thinking, “So, you’re saying I pretty much get to judge and dislike anyone I want?”

Well … yes and no.

See, there’s a pretty huge difference between judgment and discernment.

Judgment is jumping to conclusions about someone based on very little or irrelevant information. It’s where stereotypes and discrimination and objectification and overgeneralizations come from. It puts people into hierarchies and creates unnecessary separation. It’s ugly and unfair and all-around gross.

Discernment, on the other hand, is an empowering skill worth honing. It’s when you take in all of the information with an open mind, and then decide, “Does this align with me? Does this clash with my values? What is my gut telling me about this?”

Judgment is, “Look at her expensive outfit. I bet she’s a real snob.”

Discernment is, “That person uses disrespectful language that I can’t condone. I’m not interested in sticking around to hear more of their negativity.”

Judgment labels things and people as “good” or “bad,” whereas discernment isn’t interested in praising or condemning — it’s simply seeking “alignment” or “misalignment.”

FREE YOURSELF AND EVERYONE ELSE

The more you let go of judgment and start to practice healthy discernment of everything — including, yes, the people — in your life, you’ll experience incredible freedom.

Imagine if, instead of viewing people, careers, opportunities, etc., as “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad” … you simply asked yourself, “How aligned do I feel with this?”

That small shift could be revolutionary.

When I look back on my experience with that instructor, it’s clear to me that I wasn’t judging her — I was simply recognizing that I wasn’t aligned with her attitude, behavior, and energy.

That doesn’t make either of us bad people — just not right for each other. No hard feelings, no reason to be rude or impolite, and definitely no reason to judge myself.

It’s also freeing to realize that, if you have permission to be discerning and not like people who aren’t aligned with you … you also don’t have to be liked by everyone else. As a recovering people pleaser, this is slightly terrifying, but also such a relief.

When you don’t like someone, it just means you’re not aligned. So if someone doesn’t like you, it also means you’re just not aligned. It’s as simple and impersonal as that.

I’d love to hear from you now! Are you a people pleaser? Have you felt guilty about not liking someone before? How do you feel about this whole “judgment” vs. “discernment” thing? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!

IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN YOU’LL ALSO LOVE …

How to find your tribe

The awfulness of feeling like a fake

Are you tired of pretending to be someone you’re not?

The truth about my 2015: Kristen

Much Love,

Kristen (& Rachel)

14 Comments // ADD COMMENT

14 comments

  • N

    What do you do when the person you do not like is your boss?

    • Kristen Walker

      Good question! It’s SO hard when the person you don’t like is also the person telling you what to do every day. I know lots of people can relate to this!

      There are multiple ways of dealing with this, depending on the specifics of your situation. If it’s just a mild dislike, you may be able to change your mindset (try to see things from their perspective, remember to not take things personally, etc.) so that it doesn’t bother you so much. If it’s a bigger clash in values, you may need to have some uncomfortable conversations about your boundaries and what you need to stay motivated & engaged. But if your dislike of your boss is SO intense that it’s making your workplace feel toxic, you may need to prioritize your own sanity, get out of there, and find a new job (or team) that’s more supportive and encouraging.

  • Michael

    I feel you on this one. I’ve had experiences like this that ended up being pretty bad for me, mainly because I not only didn’t allow myself to dislike others, I wanted to be every person I met’s best friend, so even when the person’s weird vibes started, I suppressed my discernment and figured I was just imagining things. I ended up thus being close to plenty of people who ended up stabbing me in the back, or the front, quite honestly, or making my life needlessly dramatic and complicated. So I would say not only is the discernment you’re referencing okay, it’s recommendable, because that discernment is probably a form of survival instinct, letting you know not to get too close to people who could be bad for you.
    Thanks for sharing your intellect and experience. I always enjoy reading.😀

    • Kristen Walker

      Couldn’t agree more, Michael! I was nodding along as I was reading your comment. I’m all too familiar with the unsavory & manipulative people who wheedle their way into your life when you suppress your discernment. Talk about needless drama and pain! I’ve found that, the more I flex my discernment muscle, the better, healthier, and deeper relationships I have all around (with WAY less drama!). Totally agree that discernment is a survival instinct, and one to be listened to. Thanks, as always, for sharing your valuable take on the subject!

  • Louise

    Thanks for putting the audio at the top! I kept forgetting it when it was beneath the article… 🙂

    • Kristen Walker

      One of our readers suggested it to us last week (shoutout to Janine! 🙂 ), and we thought it was a smart idea. Glad you agree!

  • Leslie McDaniel

    Oh, spoken like a true INFJ. 🙂 I’m the same way: people-pleaser, conflict-avoider, harmony-seeker. I also think as women, we’re sometimes taught (by society, parents, teachers, etc) that we must be polite and like others. If we don’t like others, there must be something wrong with us, not them. Like you said, though, it’s so freeing to just admit to myself that I don’t “blend” well with all other personality types. AND IT’S OK!

    I think you’re right on judgment vs. discerning. Discernment comes with finely tuned intuition, which means being aware of what’s happening in our body and mind and what we’re feeling when we meet someone.

    • Kristen Walker

      Oh yeah, this is especially tough for us INFJ women! 😉 Add in societal programming that you’re meant to always be polite and like everyone, and it’s no wonder so many of us are ignoring our gut instincts about people. Glad to know I’m not alone in this journey toward greater discernment!

  • Dawn B.

    Too funny, a co-worker and I were just touching on this subject, when I opened your email on this topic. I say, it’s confirmation to me of what I was feeling all along.

  • Alissa Hunt

    As a chronic people pleaser from way back this article really hit home. I am no longer a people pleaser – it’s amazing the clarity you get as you get older and become less tolerant of just putting up with stuff. Mind you it was not an easy journey and I did crash and burn a couple of times before I had my light bulb moment. I also needed to make some hard decisions and stop ‘shoulding’ myself into an unhappy, negative life. If you don’t like me – that’s ok – maybe I’m just not your cup of tea, but as long as I am living a spectacular, passionate, grateful, authentic existence then I can live with that.

  • AndreaF

    I wonder if anyone told that poor woman she was incongruent, out of integrity with her true self. My interpretation, from what you told, was that she was over-striving to be a rah-rah event leader.

    It’s wince-making, annoying, and painful for introverts. (INTP here)

    I know you had no obligation to give her feedback but I hope someone did.

    And I’m glad you honoured your feelings.

  • Michelle

    My husband has been giving me flack whenever I vent about the temp in my office. It’s not that I don’t like her- she’s a very nice person- but she is completely unqualified to be in the position she was placed in, and she’s making my job harder by being here. I resent her appointment, not her personally, but everyone says I’m being judgemental.

  • Cindy

    Kristen, I know you’re going to laugh when I tell you this… I would immediately have said, “Holy good god, this woman sucks.” I’d feel absolutely no remorse for it whatsoever, possibly challenge her shitty attitude, and THEN I’d go back and feel bad and worry that I wasn’t likable because I wasn’t sweet as pie. 😄

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