“If you can’t be with the one you love honey, love the one you’re with”

Stephen Stills

In my previous post, I had a little fun with my sarcastic take on why it’s better when you don’t like your teammates.  While it’s true that liking your teammates is less important than communicating effectively, trusting their motives, and engaging in productive conflict, it’s still something worth striving for.  Heck, you have to spend the majority of your waking hours with them—you might as well learn to like them.

But what if you find yourself stuck with teammates that you just don’t like? Well…I recommend that you learn to like them…at least sorta’ kinda’ like them.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to learn to like someone. It just takes a little effort. After all, you own whether you like them or not…nothing they do will make you like them if you choose not to and nothing they do will make you dislike them if you choose to like them. First, choose to like your teammate and then try these tactics over the next few weeks—they will validate your decision.

  1. increase the amount of time you spend with the person you think you don’t like. Turns out that we don’t know what we like, we like what we know. Familiarity breeds liking.  Unfortunately, we tend to stay away from people we think we don’t like and therefore provide little opportunity to change our minds.
  2. think about one thing that you admire about the person—even if sometimes it’s an “over-strength.” Does the person advocate on their own behalf well (many of us could benefit from a little more self-promotion)? Is she a passionate advocate for cost containment? Does he do really well with your customers? Pay more attention to the positive.
  3. have empathy. Many (probably most) of the bad behavior on teams is not intentionally destructive.  In most cases, it’s self-protective.  Figure out what the person is trying to protect.  Does he have fragile self-esteem? Is she worried about something? Dig deep. Figure out what’s beneath the behavior. Once you understand this, you’ll be much kinder and your kindness will be reciprocated.
  4. make a connection. Find a time and a way to break down the wall between you.  You can be direct about it “I feel like we got off to a bad start and I’d like to change that” or indirect “I’m really struggling with this new project, how’s it going for you?”  Somehow you need to signal that you have decided to like the person.
  5. do the little things. Walk up and say goodnight before you leave the office. Offer to grab something for the person when you are going to Starbucks. Make eye contact in meetings.  All of these very small actions will signal that you are part of the same tribe—and we’re hardwired to like the people in our tribe.

Some of the people I like most in the world used to rub me the wrong way. Once I decided to like them, I focused much more on the great things about them than on their quirks. Over time, I found lots of evidence for why they are very likeable. Go pick one person who you will choose to like from now on.

Further Reading

How to Change a Teammate’s Bad Behaviour

How to Deal with a Teammate that Drives you Nuts

Have you Ever Posted Beef about a Teammate?

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