Are you familiar with that feeling? That you’re ‘allergic’ to someone? A family member, an in-law, someone at work. The way that person talks and behaves annoys you no end? How do you become ‘allergic’ to someone, and what can you do to improve the situation?


It has everything to do with your own personality versus that of the other person. More specifically, the qualities each of you have. Qualities differ from person to person. They’re a part of your upbringing, you develop them on your own or copy them from others throughout your life. Imagine that you’re very decisive and consider that to be an important quality in yourself. If you come across a person who is very passive and takes a wait-and-see approach, it clashes with your world. You don’t understand how someone could behave that way, you would NEVER do that! Another example: you like to show a bit of humility during conversations, you listen a lot and talk little. Then you find yourself at the Christmas dinner table, sitting next to your aunt, who just won’t keep her mouth shut. The type that talks your ears off. That creates the first annoyance, or even irritation.


Irritation often arises when dealing with opposite qualities. And when people go too far in their qualities. Indeed, your quality can become a problem if you take it too far. A precise or meticulous person can become nitpicky or pedantic. A decisive person can become pushy, a helpful person can become meddlesome, a courageous person can become a fanatic and an optimist could become naive.


The extraordinary thing is that opposite qualities are the things you focus on. You have an antenna for people who are your own mirror image. If you are a meticulous perfectionist, you immediately notice when people are careless or chaotic. If you’re someone who always keeps a straight back and sticks to values, you have an eye for people who behave like a chameleon and face whichever way the wind blows. Let’s be clear though, the person you can’t stand is just as annoyed by you as you are by them


What can you do about this? First, it’s a good idea to realise what your qualities are and when you’re being excessive in them. It’s also fun and instructive to wonder, at the first sign of annoyance, what exactly it is that annoys you and how that relates to your own qualities. Going a bit further, you could try to understand that there are differences between people. In other words, there is no GOOD or BAD behaviour. Understanding differences gives you peace of mind. Understanding that the person you’re talking to has a very different approach to life could annoy you, but it could also amaze you. It might even put a smile on your face!


You could leave it at that, of course. You don’t have to get along with everyone. But, what if it’s really necessary for you to build a good relationship – for example, with family / in-laws you see regularly – or what if you want to cooperate better in a work environment? In that case, it’s worth adjusting your behaviour to come closer together. Are you precise, and the other person is a bit chaotic? Then your challenge is to be more tolerant. Think of running a household, and how two partners handle things differently. Are you an optimist, and the other person is a cynic? You could practise being more realistic. Are you decisive and dealing with a more passive person? Then practise being patient. Another positive result is that the other person is likely to tone down their behaviour as well. And what if you find yourself next to your chatty aunt at Christmas dinner again? Practise talking more and tell her a fun story!

Source: Bezieling en kwaliteit in organisaties (Inspiration and quality in organisations) / Daniel Ofman