I have a confession. It feels like an awful one to make, given that I work as a coach and it’s my job to provide a place of safety and ‘unconditional positive regard’, but sometimes I can take an instant dislike to someone.
And when I do, then I make all kinds of scathing judgements – and of course only notice the evidence that appears to support my judgement.
It doesn’t happen very often these days, I’m glad to say, partly because I have learned to try to look beneath the surface of behaviour or attitudes that irritate me.
I know that people behave the way they do for a reason (whether they are aware of it or not), and I’m often fascinated by those reasons. But it can still occasionally happen that I bypass this open curiosity and compassion and go straight to scorn or contempt!
I’m not proud of this – I like to like people, and have them like me too, and I’ve been on the receiving end of bitchy behaviour enough to know how damaging it is. But there are still times when it feels that people behave in a way that’s so contrary to the values that are important to me, I close my mind to the possibility that I may be wrong.
So today I’m feeling a little ashamed, because I’d taken a real dislike to a distant colleague on the basis of very little, and had made this aversion known to a couple of other colleagues by making some scathing comments.
They fortunately knew me well enough to be bemused by my uncharacteristically curmudgeonly dismissal of another human being, and instead of indulging me by joining in with a ‘bitch-fest’, brought gentle challenge to my harsh judgement, and, wise friends that they are, set up an opportunity for me to get to know this person a little better.
So, not a little dread in my heart, I spoke to him on the phone today.
It took courage on either side to do so, but we both came to the call temporarily setting our judgements aside and being open to the possibility that we’d made a mistake about each other. We genuinely listened, and ‘saw’ each other in our messy human imperfection and found a surprising amount in common.
I finished the call feeling open-hearted and pleased to have made a real connection – and astonished in the sweeping assumptions I had made before the call.
Reflecting today, I’ve realised my dislike had been prompted by nothing more than feeling hurt that this colleague had not sought out my view on a subject that was important to me – I’d felt dismissed, so in turn dismissed him.
My judgement was merely a reflection of my own insecurities, misunderstanding and failure to behave like a grown up and take responsibility for my own actions.
I’m so pleased I have such wise friends who gently pushed me to see the truth before the relationship deteriorated or any real damage had been done.
And I have admiration now for this colleague who had the courage to meet me in a place of open-hearted vulnerability, so we could give each other a second chance.