Some people are part of your life, whether you want them there or not. What if you don’t have the warmest of feelings for your boss? your mother-in-law? your next-door neighbor?
It’s easy to come up with a mental catalogue of all the ways in which that person could change to be less annoying, domineering, passive-aggressive, arrogant, etc.—but fact is, you can’t change anyone but yourself.
Here are some tips about how to help yourself cultivate more friendly feelings. It’s quite a strain to hide feelings of dislike; if you can manage to change your feelings, you’ll be much happier. It’s hard, but not impossible.
1. Seek contact. You may feel like avoiding that person, but because of the psychological phenomenon known as the “mere exposure effect,” we tend to like people better the more we see them.
2. Do nice things for that person. “We prefer to see those to whom we do good than those who do good to us.” La Rochefoucauld.
3. Give that person a brief touch. “Subliminal touching,” i.e., touching a person so unobtrusively that it’s not noticed, increases people’s sense of well-being and positive feelings.
4. Lighten up. Joke about whatever annoys you, and if you can manage it, laugh about it with that person, or poke fun at your own reaction. Nothing neutralizes bad feelings like a good laugh. This can be tough, however.
5. Act friendly. We think we act because of the way we feel, but often we feel because of the way we act. So act the way you want to feel. This is uncannily effective—just try it.
6. Resist criticizing that person. When you voice your complaints, they assume a solidity in your mind that’s hard to eliminate. When your thoughts remain unspoken, they can more easily be changed.
7. Remember happy shared experiences. Recalling good times elevates mood and will help warm your feelings.
8. Be grateful. Reflecting on reasons to feel grateful, instead of reasons to be angry or annoyed, will help change your view.