Over coffee, a friend related a remarkable recent interaction she had. She was at an event, chatting with a friendly acquaintance she had known and admired for many years. Suddenly, she realized the friend was speaking to her with clipped disdain and narrowed, “steely” eyes. He clearly disliked her and held her in contempt. He expressed complete disrespect for her professional worth and work. My friend has long admired this man and his work, and she has often chimed in when his name came up in conversation, when people spoke of how valuable his work was. She has referred clients to him. She liked him, until this moment of sudden realization. She was shocked to realize the intensity of his disdain for her. While she knew she had never done anything to the colleague or made negative remarks about him, he had formulated very negative views and feelings about her. She was tempted to feel terrible. Wisely, she left the room for awhile, then chatted with others until the end of the event.
I congratulated my friend on leaving the room, shifting the energy. If the man hates her, she doesn’t owe it to him to take in more of his hatred. I asked her if she had done a few complete breaths. She said yes, that was her second strategy, and it felt good! Later, either journaling or hitting the treadmill would also help discharge her emotions about the negative encounter.
So what about the best ongoing strategies? If people have been making up negative stories to tell this man, and that is why he has been so negative to my friend, there is little she can do to counter those stories. Making up stories is a time-honored human habit. It is so common it is even mentioned in the Bible. Rather than trying to dig into the cause of the negativity, it is much better for her to be her best self and let her accomplishments and true character shine. People adjust quickly to positive changes we make. Even those who held negative beliefs about us can forget those when they have new, positive experiences with us.
My friend plans to steer clear of the colleague as much as possible, stop referring clients to him, and keep the most positive thoughts and friends. She wisely believes she cannot control anyone else, their thoughts, or their comments. But she can control where she puts her attention and energy.