Last year Holly (name changed) took a workshop from me on “dealing with difficult people.” At the end of the day she confided that the big take-away was that she is a difficult person – not her clients. With remarkable candor she confessed that she doesn’t like people. What made Holly’s revelation surprising is that she’s a psychotherapist in private practice.
She explained that she’s fine for the fifty minutes insurance pays for, but it’s the few minutes prior and after the session that she dislikes. She asked if I could teach her to “like” people. Given that she’s a therapist, this was one of the oddest requests ever asked of me! However, because of my own family story, it was easy for me to empathize with Holly as she tried to make sense of her impatience with and dislike of people.
Both my grandfathers were dead by the time I was born. My paternal grandmother, who was the great love of my childhood, was a prison guard for thirty-five years. My maternal grandmother was such a miserable creature that not even her own cat would sit on her lap! Neither grandmother had any friends.
My parents were fun, funny people who had no friends because people were not to be trusted. My brother and I weren’t even allowed to go trick-or-treating as my parents viewed it as a form of “begging.”
Although my parents and grandmothers didn’t have any friends, they all loved to sit on park benches or by a window and just watch people. They enjoyed imagining what kind of lives people lived (most were deemed unhappy).
As a child I learned about people from a distance and from that distance I longed for the chance to like people. Because I spent most of my childhood on a park bench, I could have grown up to become a hermit or a people-loathing therapist! Instead, I traveled the world, embraced adventure, entered ministry, and became a teacher, coach, and speaker.
I’m fascinated with people and, yet, in my communication coaching I’ve encountered scores of individuals like Holly who claim to not be interested in people.
I wasn’t able to give Holly a tip-sheet on “6 Easy Steps to Liking People.” While I could tell her why she should like people (success in life = the people you meet + what you create together – thank you Keith Ferrazzi), I couldn’t tell her how to like them.
In our coaching sessions I worked to help Holly develop a curiosity for people since curiosity is at the heart of liking. Next week, I tell you what I did to help Holly confront her dislike of folks – and if she grew to enjoy people!
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