I’ve learned in my business adventure and also in my life that being a people-pleaser and trying to keep people around you happy all of the time is a hiding to nothing.
This is not the same as wanting to ‘serve’ and wanting to have an ‘impact’, or wanting to make a ‘difference’. In having a ‘mission’ we have to accept that we will only do that for people who ‘get us’ and who resonate with us.
As life offers both light and shade, so does business, celebrity, fame, fortune, visibility and there will always be those who don’t like you and you won’t understand why — and those who don’t like you and you’ll know exactly why. This dislike can come from anywhere and from people you don’t even know.
I’m not talking here about people you have fallen out with, family members you don’t like and don’t have much to do with or arguments you have where you know what has led to that argument.
I’m talking about those who dislike you for no real reason that you can see or understand — or their attitude changes to you suddenly or out of the blue and you are baffled by it.
And here’s the shocker — there will be people you don’t like, you don’t know them, or you might have known them and you for no reason you can fathom, you just can’t stand them now and you won’t want to be around them. Everything they do or say will annoy or irritate you, especially on social media. There will be someone now you can think of, if you are really honest with yourself…
This ‘disconnect’ can start at school when you suddenly realise someone is whispering negatively about you, or giving you ‘daggers’ or even starts bullying you. It can happen at work, it can happen in your community and at any time.
I can think of several times this has happened to me and I’ve not understood what’s gone wrong or how it has come about. Now I realise in almost every case, it’s something I can do nothing about, nor do I want to. It’s almost always a jarring of energy, something which I have done or said which triggers something in someone else.
And this is not me saying I find it hard to apologise — I will apologise if something is explained to me and I realise I did something wrong, or occasionally, I’ll apologise (particularly within the family) to mend relationships even if I’m not really sorry or if I still feel I was right but being right is not more important than having a relationship. Many of us will have done that.
My first real experience of this, thinking back was a girl at primary school, who I knew but wasn’t a good friend, taking a dislike to me. I had no idea why and being a bit of a people pleaser at that time I sought to find out more. She, for some reason, thought I was after her boyfriend. I didn’t know this lad, had no contact with him at all and, as far as I know, had never met him. She kept saying horrible things and one day she hit me. I don’t remember the detail yet it happened so quickly and in an instant I hit her back. She never bothered me again.
At secondary school, it happened again with another girl who thought I was after her boyfriend. This time she had a bit more ammo as the lad in question was the school heart throb — and didn’t he know it. He never liked me, but he liked the attention. So a word here or there, a smile now and then was enough to keep a naive girl like me acting like a lovesick puppy. I had no idea if he had a girlfriend, but he did. Again this girl hit me in the dinner queue after weeks of looks and snide comments. I hit her back. She was younger than me but physically bigger. It all stopped and we later became friends.
In my adult life, I had a few people in my career who took a dislike to me and I largely ignored it. I was never afraid to stand up to bullies and fight my corner if I had to — something I learned from my dad. I had a deep abiding ability to stay in my own lane when it came to someone being horrible to me for no good reason.
However I do remember one friend who I met when having my children who suddenly decided to ditch me for no reason. I tried the people-pleasing thing of asking, begging, asking her partner, writing her a letter — with no response at all. To this day I don’t know what I did. Yet one day she started shouting at me across the street (I did see her most days because our children attended the same group of childminders) and I looked at her and told her to ‘eff off’ — I just didn’t want that in my life. You can only seek absolution for a while, especially when you know you’ve done nothing wrong. At some point you have to accept what you can’t change and remove yourself. Even with regret.
On my business adventure, these disconnects become apparent far more often, mainly because business requires you to be ‘out there’ a lot. So the potential is greater and it has proved to be the case. I now know this will happen and I’m ready for it.
Only recently, someone made a comment about me being ‘all about me, me, me, me, look at me aren’t I brilliant?’ after hearing me give a talk. This person, who is known to me in my business life but is not a client, or a supplier or a close business ally, said this about me to someone else. However as I work with that someone else, I saw that comment.
Initially I was hurt. Whenever I give a talk I try to add value and give usable hints and tips, I deliberately try to be ‘of value’ to others. I then thought am I being too arrogant, too boastful? I looked at the talk I gave which was largely a load of advice about how to use LinkedIn.
I then had a word with myself. Why on earth was I giving this any more thought. This guy meant nothing to me, my business or my life. I’d met him several times and still I don’t understand what he does and I don’t think many others do either.
I have no real strong feeling about him either way — somehow I’d triggered something in him on the day I gave that talk so deeply that he had to share it with someone else. That someone else didn’t tell me, that person didn’t have to — PR done well is very intimate and I get to see this person’s messages (with absolute permission) so unbeknown to him, he was talking directly to me about me, negatively. What a berk.
Every now and then, life reminds us that being humble and grateful is fundamentally a good vibe to maintain. However lovely you are someone somewhere won’t like you and you have to really accept that. Success, whatever it means to you, comes with light and shade and there’s no avoiding it.
Don’t worry about those people. Don’t engage with those people. It’s not your fault that you annoyed or triggered them. That’s their problem to deal with ignore, or whatever. Just move on quickly and focus on those who want to be part of your tribe. And if you want to be part of my tribe, feel free to join me here — https://www.facebook.com/groups/prtribe