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Frances Ferguson

Glasstap Ltd

Training Design Manager

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Meeting your caricature? Meeting your opposite?


Have you ever met someone who made you feel uneasy? Someone who made you wary, unsettled, agitated? Someone who made you feel like you truly disliked them, but you didn’t know why?

Maybe they wound you up to the point of incandescence? Maybe they created in you the need to talk about them, talk about them and, still not satisfied, talk about them some more?

Maybe they were loud, unable to listen to others; focused entirely on their own views? Were they so quiet that they felt cold, aloof and judgmental? Maybe they were outrageous? Or were they so conservative, that they felt unbelievably boring?

Whatever their actions, the chances are that they did something that made you feel incredibly uncomfortable; eliciting a reaction as strong as it was irrational.

Think back to whenever you have had a really strong negative reaction to a person that you struggle to explain. Was it because they had a trait you wish you had or was it because they had a trait you wish you hadn’t?

The chances are, it will be one of these two options.

I was discussing this with someone in a coaching session; a person who was beginning to recognise what was causing their discomfort. It made for a fascinating discussion.

So how should we react when something that gets to the heart of our own self-esteem is played out in glorious technicolour in front of our own eyes? Like real-time reminders of the person we wish we could be.

All too often, our instinctive reaction is to judge the other person in a way that is almost impossible to judge our own behaviours. All too often, we seek to feel better by applying a harsh judgment on someone else.

We either over-emphasise their strengths or we find ways to amplify their weakness. Either way, what we are doing is hoping to justify our reaction and yet it rarely makes us feel better about ourselves.

Often, the other person knows they are “not getting buying signals” & they have no idea why. Initially, they often try that bit harder & the reaction they get is that bit worse. The almost instinctive response? Well it’s to react that little bit more…

So what is the best thing to do when we see either our ‘weakness-doppelganger’, or the person we aspire to be but know we may never be?

Maybe we should treat it as looking in a full size mirror and seeing ourselves from angles we don’t normally get to see; view ourselves as others see us (the Johari Window Blind Area).

If we can move away from our reaction, it is actually a brilliant chance to step back, watch & learn.

We can ask ourselves “what is it that this other person does that I can learn from”? “What can I do more of that would make me feel more at ease”? Or “what do I need to stop doing that winds up so many people, myself included”?

The list of questions we can ask ourselves goes on.

Answer them honestly and we may find that this person who makes us feel so uncomfortable has actually taught us some amazingly powerful things.

If we can build a proper working relationship with them, there is a good chance we can keep on learning from them; they may even become one of our favourite people to work with.

Author Profile Picture
Frances Ferguson

Training Design Manager

Read more from Frances Ferguson

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