We've all worked with that one person who just seemed to get under our skin in every way. No matter what they did, what they said, they seemed to know how to push every single one of our buttons, and then some. Typically, you're not the only one affected; they can be toxic to the whole environment.
Before you clicked on this article, the title probably made you conjure up a face or two in your mind. Perhaps one image more intense than the others. If you're fortunate, maybe no one came to mind.
In an ideal world, we want to be capable of working anywhere, with anyone, in a harmonious and productive manner. When conflicts arise, we quickly resolve them without letting them fester. Ultimately, we wouldn't have this problem in the first place, because we'd all be capable of letting go, and relaxing in the face of unruly coworkers. While that's a lofty and important goal to strive for, what about some more immediate steps?
What do you do if there's someone at work who bothers you so much that you can't even look at them clearly anymore?
Obviously, this isn't a productive attitude to hold around the workplace, but since most of us are good human beings, we don't show that resentment outwardly. Instead, we hold it in, bottle it up, and of course, act like nothing's wrong. Underneath, however, there's a storm brewing, and this storm is not good for you, or anyone around you.
So how do you deal with it?
Years ago, early on in my professional career, I was having a particularly hard time with a certain teammate on a project. It was so bad that I couldn't stand to look at them. I wasn't the only one having trouble with them either. They were downright difficult. But, there was no escaping being on that person's team, at least for a short while. I had to figure out what to do.
So, what was I to do? Was I to hold in all my anger, and keep letting it build up? It was only a matter of time before I burst. I couldn't keep taking that anger home with me, and then showing up with it to work the next day.
I then went to someone I loved dearly - an individual I could trust - and asked for some advice. What they then told me was shocking, to say the least.
"Imagine they have a terminal illness and only have six months to live," they said.
Oh my. That was not what I was expecting. "That seems like a bit much," I replied. But then I thought about it and decided to give it a try the next day.
Sure enough, when I first greeted that person the following morning, I saw right through whatever bothered me, and saw a person who was dying. Immediately, this freed up space inside of me for some patience and empathy. "Oh my goodness," I thought. "It actually worked!"
For the first time in weeks, I was actually able to smile at them. I had eyes of compassion, eyes that saw through any frustrations I had with that person.
What an immediate shift! I went from not being able to stand the sight of this person, to actually being able to look at them with loving eyes.
What if you tried this with someone you're having a really hard time with at work? I'm not suggesting you go about your office picturing death in the eyes of everybody you see, but for the few individuals that seem to bother you with everything they do, give this a try. Obviously, don't tell anyone you're doing it.
The point here isn't to go wishing morbid thoughts on your annoying coworkers. The point is to develop compassion for even the most loathed individuals. At times, as I found in my personal experience, you might imagine them with a terminal illness to help bridge the gap between anger and love.
Do it long enough, and you won't need to imagine them with an illness anymore. Being kind and compassionate to this person will come more naturally to you. Your frustrations will eventually dissipate, because you'll stop resisting every little thing they do and say. Your pent up emotions will have room to escape.
The next time it happens to you - and trust me, it will - try looking past whatever garbage you think is coming out, and into whatever pain they might be experiencing.
Let me know how it goes!
Live with substance!