Last week I told you about Holly (name changed), a psychotherapist client of mine who claimed she didn’t “like” people. In my coaching, I gave her a list of questions that I hoped would serve as a “whack on the head” to help her clarify her feelings of dislike and help generate her curiosity for people. Those questions included:
- Why don’t you like people? And since your first answer is just the superficial reason, what is the real reason? Which is another way of asking, what are you afraid of?
- What is the best conversation you ever had with a stranger?
- What makes a person boring for you?
- What makes you boring to people?
- Do you want people to like you?
- Do you have anything to give to people that would benefit them?
- In what ways is your life richer for “excluding” people? (Yes, trick question.)
- Who was the kindest person to you?
- Who was the nastiest?
- Who knew you the best – the kindest or the nastiest?
Through our coaching sessions, Holly realized she didn’t like people because she thought they wouldn’t like her. In one telling, throwaway line, Holly mentioned that her mother used to tell her that she was “an uninteresting girl.” Holly’s fear is that outside a professional setting, people wouldn’t find her interesting and so Holly pushes people away before they can push her away.
As Holly made her way through the questions, it became clear to both of us that she had an old-fashioned superiority complex and that’s why she erupted into condescending fits with people. Fear made her a harsh judge and judging gave her safety. But, it was a “safe” place that prevented her from being truly interested in people because if you believe you’re better than most everyone else why would you be interested in them?
Sadly, in the end, Holly admitted she was content not liking people. While this was a stunning admission for a therapist to make, as with many people, fear won out.
Here’s the thing – although I wasn’t able to tell Holly how she could like people, I can tell you that if you want to become more fully “you” then you have to want to know more about people.
You have to stand with your shoes off in the presence of the whack-a-do mystery of other people. You have to risk finding shards of your story in their story. You have to become curious. And when you become curious then you will find the boy on a park bench sitting alongside a not uninteresting girl. It’s the only way you can ever really hope to “like” people.
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