Personal Reaction, a Reflection of Dislike in Yourself?

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.” Herman Hesse’s, Demian

Hate may be a strong word, but all of us have experienced that feeling of instantly being repelled when meeting someone. They just “rub us the wrong way,” right? Well, not exactly. It’s actually a reflection of something we dislike in ourselves. 

Consider this: an executive client kept going on and on about a female direct report who was not cutting the mustard. Every time she came to the logical conclusion of firing her (justly, trust me), she pulled back. When I pointed out this pattern, and asked the cause, her answer was: “I just think I can help her see the light and change.” Often, as leaders, this is our fall-back. But in this case, it’s not true. 

I then asked, “what of yourself do you see in her?” Her first reaction was, “we aren’t anything alike.” I let her articulate this and when she finished asked again. Now she actually contemplated it for a moment. As she fumbled for an answer, I suggested she pull up a level to see it from a wider perspective. Then she said, “ah geez, she’s just as driven to succeed as I am, thinking her ideas are best.” WOW. What an eye-opener! 

As leaders, we lead with what we think is most effective, which is usually our strength. When that strength is overused, we don’t realize it, except when it’s mirrored back to us in what we see and hate in another. 

This can be easy to see in places like our biological family, right? But it’s far less obvious at work, which is the purpose of this blog. Use this to become aware when you feel yourself pulling back from someone. 

Stop and ask yourself, “what’s causing me to pull back from this person?” Then, jot down the attribute you just thought of.

Next, jot down your answer to this question: “what of myself do I see in them?” Write it down too. It is truly a mirror to how you are showing up, like it or not. 

Last, modulate your behavior to how you prefer to show up. It will take an active change and you may have to keep working at it. Take this final point into consideration: if you are like this person, once you realize it, you may have a greater understanding of each other on which to build a relational bridge easily. I can honestly say this is the starting point of several (now) very strong professional relationships.