It’s not reasonable to like everyone all the time. Sometimes we just don’t like people, and we don’t always know why. Sometimes we know exactly what we don’t like about them. With some people, it doesn’t matter what you do; that dislike is never going to turn to like.

Are you the same? You just need to see that one person, and instantly your hackles rise, your back straightens, and you’re ready for battle. Without realizing it, you become argumentative, feeling the need to take control and creating a tense situation that you both recognize.

As you know, this is dangerous for you and your professional reputation. It causes you to react negatively, judge them quickly, and send negative communication signals. You become a judgmental communicator. 

The good news is that you can mitigate this response with a little effort.

Fake your expression

Some people are like an open book—they’re easy to read. The look on their face is clearly one of disgust, impatience, or judgment. As you can imagine, the other person can see that. If this describes you, and a smile is appropriate, then smile. If an interested expression is what’s needed, then tell yourself to look interested.

Trying to display a neutral expression is difficult to do for most of us. Instead, we unintentionally show the eyebrow raise, the sneer, or the distracted gaze into the sky, all of which send the signal to the other person that you don’t like them.

Uncross your arms

We have all heard a thousand times that crossed arms send the signal that we are defensive, not listening, or not engaged. However, it isn’t always true—it could mean that you are comfortable or simply cold. However, crossed arms send a very negative signal when there is tension in your relationship (and if you dislike the other person, there is tension in your relationship).

Check your personal space

We know, especially in times of Covid, that we need to be six feet apart for social distancing. That amount of space is understandable when we are having conversations at work. What isn’t understandable is when you set too much distance between the other person. They will feel like you are trying to avoid them instead. The tension in your relationship will often cause you to create a physical distance, which is reflective of your relationship.

I’m not saying you should step in close to them. But you should ensure that you aren’t too far away from them, either. 

Don’t try too hard

Sometimes we know that we are sending negative messages, so we try a little too hard to pretend we like that person.

Bob: Rhonda, we need to have a conversation about next week’s meeting.

Rhonda: Absolutely, Bob! I would love to catch a coffee together and talk about how we can do that (big smile, overly eager voice).

Bob: How is Monday at 9 a.m.?

Rhonda: Oh, I am so sorry! I’ve scheduled another meeting at that time. Too bad, because I would enjoy our meeting so much better. How is 3:30 instead?

You are trying too hard, and it feels fake. The other person knows you are fake, and that can push tension levels even higher. While you do need to fake your expression, you don’t need to exaggerate it, either.

Don’t be overly fake. A smile is not a full-on face grin. Interest doesn’t mean you need to go over the top either. Fake doesn’t mean exaggerated.

Recognizing that you dislike the other person is the first step to correcting your communication with them. Disliking them is fine—communicating that you dislike them is not fine.