We’ve all been there: things are starting to go pretty well in your social life—you’re hanging out regularly, meeting new people, enjoying conversations more—but there’s just that one person who you do not gel with. No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to enjoy that person’s presence.
What do you do? How do you tell someone that you don’t like them?
It’s an awkward situation. You don’t want to upset or hurt this person . . . but you definitely don’t want to spend any more time with him than necessary, either. In the meantime, you’ve also been working hard to become more bold and authentic . . . but harshness isn’t your style.
In this situation, Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty, would tell you to say whatever you want and to be honest without hiding or holding anything back. That might work for some people—but for others (myself included), that may seem unnecessarily hurtful or blunt.
So, what are your options?
Firstly, and most importantly, you must understand that this situation does not make you a bad person.
It is perfectly normal to have bad chemistry with someone every once in a while, and it’s perfectly healthy to want to move away from that person and toward those who make you feel good.
Secondly, if you want to communicate a difficult message about someone without hurting his or her feelings, the best thing to do is make it about you—not about them:
“It seems like you’re interested in spending a lot of time together, but there are a lot of people here who I’d like to spend time with and connect with tonight, so I’d like a little space to be able to do that.”
In this case, you’ve made what you want very clear, but you’ve also found a way to make it about what you want, thereby taking the pressure off the other person.
Let’s consider another example. Imagine there’s someone at work who’s been bothering you (this may not be so hard to imagine for some of you)—this person interrupts you a lot, talks too much when you’re not on break, and invades your workspace nonstop.
What’s your next move?
Interestingly enough, I had this very issue come up with a client recently. Prior to coaching, his method had been to be short and sort of passive-aggressive. I’m sure you can guess how well that worked for him.
As an alternative, I asked him what he wanted (or didn’t want). His response was that he wanted to focus—or, in other words, he didn’t want to be interrupted.
GREAT! The next week, he let his coworker know that he had certain times of the day in which it was very important to him that be able to focus—AND that if his coworker had a question or something to talk about, he should save it for a non-focus time. From then on, he explained, whenever anyone saw his headphones on, that would mean that it was his time to focus and not be interrupted.
This is a great solution for any space issues at work. Simply have a signal to let people know when you are or are not available to talk, and make that signal known to everyone: a picture is flipped down, there’s a sign up, your special bobble-head doll is out—whatever.
As long as you’ve made your expectations clear to your coworkers, it’s fair to expect them to respect your wishes for space and time to focus.
The point here is that you have to be clear and direct. No waffling, hemming, or hawing: This is what I want (or don’t want), and this is how I think we can achieve it.
I know this is about the time when some of you are having a mental breakdown worrying about whether this will offend the other person. Don’t worry—it won’t ruin his life.
Just like you, this is a fully-functioning, capable, grown-ass human being. Don’t do him the disservice of assuming he’s anything less.
Just as you have learned recently through all of your hard work, rejection is not a bad thing. It can teach you multitudes; it can open your mind to other possibilities; it can prove to you that you are powerful and capable of more than you imagine.
You don’t need to babysit anyone else’s emotions. Take charge of your life and make your needs known. Yes, it will be hard (and, at times, awkward), but announcing your needs does not make you a bad person . . . and it will pay off infinitely in the long run.
Thank you for joining me today! As always, I ask that you please share your thoughts and questions below. What changes do you need to ask for in your life? What is holding you back from making the necessary request? What tips do you have for making a tough conversation less awkward? I always enjoy hearing from you and learning from your experiences.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.