Why Don’t You Like Me?

Via Ann Nichols
on Oct 19, 2013
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Photo: Frédéric de Villami, Flickr

I was six years old, I had broken a vase. My cheeks were hot and I wanted to be rescued.

There is this woman at work. She is tall, slender, imperiously elegant, and she hates me.

Well, at the very least she doesn’t like me very much.

There is something in the way she looks at me, rather as if she had discovered the leavings of an unhealthy Great Dane on the bottom of her patent leather flat, something that summons the keenest pangs of my desire to please.

I want a breakthrough, a redemption, some acknowledgement that I am good in some, small way. I say Metta for her, wishing her safe, happy, and joyous. (Really, secretly, I am hoping that there will be some sort of karmic boomerang effect and that if I extend love and compassion to her, she will like me in return).

I would settle for a watery smile, but what I really want is that moment in a romance novel when the Guy She Hates from the Start but Who makes Her Feel All Tingly abandons his icy hauteur and admits that he is crazy about her. The walls come tumbling down, juices flow (so to speak) and there is usually a kiss. I want a breakthrough.

Yesterday was an annual event put on by a fleet of women at the church in which I work. She is one of them. My job was to make them enough coffee and tea to fill Lake Michigan.

For a variety of reasons neither germane nor particularly interesting, I found myself needing to empty part of my gigantic 1960s coffee maker into a bucket so that I could make a new batch. As the steam from the coffee fogged my glasses, I heard Her voice behind me: “What are you doing with that coffee?”

No one has ever asked me what I was doing with the coffee. In general, as long as they have it when they need it, they would prefer not to be in that particular loop. “Well,” I sputtered, “it’s complicated, but I was just—”

“Do you have any more regular?” she pointed a manicured finger at one side of the machine.

“I’m sorry, I don’t. That’s why I’m doing this. I can have some made in about five minutes, and I’d be happy to bring it to you, but I—”

“Never mind,” she waved briefly and dismissively “we’ll get some from another table.”

I had clearly failed spectacularly, and wasted coffee, to boot.

After the event, the cleanup committee began the process of clearing the tables, wrapping up the centerpieces, and distributing leftover cookies. As I climbed on a stool to clean out the inside of my antique coffee machine, I was thinking that my feet hurt, that the event had been a great success, and that I really loved the sweet, wise older women who stopped to give me a hug or tell me they would have preferred my muffins to “store bought.”

She slid into my peripheral vision. She did not look sweet.

“Ann, what’s being done with those pots that are piled up in the kitchen? They need to be cleaned. They’re expensive pieces of equipment.”

“It’s okay,” I assured her, “they’re going to be recycled. The guys just haven’t taken them yet.”

“Those are perfectly good pots—why aren’t they being cleaned and used?” I was six years old, I had broken a vase. My cheeks were hot and I wanted to be rescued.

I decided to go with disarming candor, which often works really well for me.

“We tried to clean them—my first week doing a lot of cooking here, I wasn’t used to the stove and those pots have really thin bottoms. A couple of people tried to get them clean, but we decided since there were so many of them we could—”

“People could use those pots.”

People could. They could use them as planters, or to hold umbrellas near the front door. They could not, under any circumstances use them as vessels in which to cook food in my licensed kitchen. I regret having destroyed them, but they came into the church kitchen around the time I learned to use a cup without handles, they served a long time, and I had, until that moment, felt okay about the fact that they would be recycled and lead another life.

“I, uhm, we—”

If you’re just throwing them away, may I take one to use at my cottage?”

“Yes” I managed, trying a smile. “That would be fine. Take as many as you can use.”

“Well I can’t possibly use more than one” she replied, as if I had suggested that she wear colored nail polish or do something whimsical in her garden.

She walked away, leaving me to look at her erect, regal back as I sunk deeply into a thorough understanding of my failings. I had wasted coffee, wasted valuable equipment, and no matter how many people told me I was doing a great job, it was all smoke. I was a loser. I laid a little Metta on myself.

I’ll never know what I did to offend her. It may be my status as The Help, it may be my black nail polish or my lug-soled, lace up Granny-in-Combat boots. Possibly, it’s the fact that everything about her bespeaks elegant restraint and the refusal of excess, and everything about me says that I enjoy food, and drama, laughing too loud and talking too much.

It may be the fact that she smells the need to please, and that I let her push my buttons while I shuck, jive, step and fetch.

Maybe, she’s just not very nice and I need to stop worrying about her.

Do you think she’d like that?


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Ed: Cat Beekmans



About Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols has been everything from a cellist to a lawyer, and is currently a Buddhist who gets paid to cook at a Protestant church. She lives in a 100-year old house in Michigan with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals. You can hang out with her by joining the Facebook group “Metta-Morphosis.”


38 Responses to “Why Don’t You Like Me?”

  1. Brad Henneman says:

    Thank for for opening yourself up like this…I am also a vulnerable, kind hearted, people pleaser, that is often disliked by those that just "don't get me"…I've heard it said that the greatest pain is to be misunderstood…all too often, it seems, people make a life out of intentionally misunderstanding others…the evolution of our species sure is a slow process

  2. kimberlylowriter says:

    I loved this! I've been there and felt this more times than I care to remember. Thank you.

  3. jeanne says:

    Or, maybe, she's read one of your lovely pieces and is jealous and not dealing with it very well.

  4. radiogirlnyc says:

    Be an ice queen next time. Perfectly polite but nothing more. I have met more than my share of these women. Had I been told, "I can't possibly use more than one", I would have smiled an icy smile and simply said, "then just take ONE", and then turned my back on her. I have learned to be dismissive of these women.

  5. imagineannie says:

    Thanks, Brad. I'm hoping, maybe, that since she is literally old enough to be my mother, evolution is heading in the right direction?

  6. imagineannie says:

    You're welcome – and thank you for reading!

  7. imagineannie says:

    Aw, thanks Jeanne. But I don't think she reads me, and if she did she would think it was too much "dirty laundry." 🙂

  8. kaya10 says:

    Very nice! I love this!! Yes – I am a people pleaser too. Thank you.

  9. imagineannie says:

    Ah, radiogirlynyc, if I have it in me next time, I will. I was raised with lovely manners, and am familiar with "the cut direct" which is what you advise. So if Miss Manners could do it, I can…right?

  10. jaimefranchi says:

    OMG Ann, your last line made me laugh (too) loud. I'm a pleaser. I need everyone to like me and the one who doesn't makes all of my likers irrelevant. Now that you said as much, I think you'll be able to let her go.
    I like you enough for both of us.

  11. Denese says:

    I am a pleaser too, even to people, usually women, who are dismissive, rude or even abusive to me in the workplace. I should give-up on them but my mnd keeps cycling around strategies I might choose to make her be nice to or even like me.

  12. alligatorfox says:

    She probably would like that.

    We don't have to like everybody. Some people just rub us the wrong way. As long as she's being authentic and not straight up mean (the words up there weren't particularly rude or mean… she's just communicating directly from the sounds of it), then why does it matter to you if she likes you or not? You're not going to be liked by everyone, and maybe that's the lesson in this? Don't internalize her dislike for you, chalk it up to different energies/personality mis-match and move on.

    As someone who works with someone who needs to be liked by everyone, I have to say there's nothing more annoying than the constant push to connect with me, and what she views as "mean", I view as simply not letting her in, because she exhausts me.

  13. Meg Gee says:

    Beautifully written. Yes, there are some best forgotten about, because perhaps they are not aware that their behavior is standoffish or, what the heck, just plain smelly?

    Some people DO rub each other the wrong way, for no real reason, which is fine. I think you wrote a great post about a very human experience that many go through. Good job.

  14. Vince says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. Please forgive my knee-jerk-read-it-on-the-web-but-I-really-don't-know-you post but it seems to me that you give these situations the power they have over you. I council my 3 daughters to never find their self-worth through the actions or attitudes of others (especially men). It would certainly try my Buddha nature to act without disdain towards this person but you give the power her actions have over you. This is a movie reel in your head…your cloak of unworthiness (a la Tara Brach). Learning to love your self would negate the impact of this person.
    Warmest regards

  15. Leslie says:

    lovely just beautiful and oh how i could relate!

  16. Leslie says:

    I spit my coffee out at the end . hilarious 😉

  17. Lisa says:

    It would appear that she doesn't waste time thinking about what other people think of her. Similarly, it doesn't occur to her how to phrase something in a way that would be more diplomatic and less innately judgmental. It's not you. It's her. I wouldn't waste another moment on it. Your good enough, smart enough and people like you. Just not her. 🙂

    There's a guy I know that was mean to my husband and to me. My husband prays for him. I'm not the praying kind, but I might say namaste to him if the opportunity were to present itself. Maybe.

  18. Wheels says:

    I think I would much rather be friends with YOU than her. I would hope you would not find me too inelegant. I've always been more of a loner, an observer. The few friends I have have been friends for a long time, and they are EXCEPTIONAL women in terms of intelligence, kindness, humor. They are also very beautiful, but I think a only some of that has to do with how much I like them. To be quite honest, I don't think this woman you are talking about is worthy of YOUR friendship.

  19. Loren says:

    So humbly written… Thank you for sharing this! This is the first time I've left a comment. I couldn't move on without recognizing your humility. <3

  20. caro says:

    Agree with Vince on all accounts. Thanks for sharing with such honesty. Perhaps her behavior towards you has little to nothing to do with anything you have ever done, in which case there isn't much you can do to "earn" kindness or approval from her.

    May sharing your story set you free from any worries about her….<3

  21. debradeangelo says:

    I'm going to be a bit rough on you here… the problem here isn't her. It's YOU! She is essentially abusing you, and you are allowing it to continue. You have developed a dance with this woman, and are willingly doing the correct steps. STOP IT! You need to summon up a little outrage, and decide you are a wonderful, valuable person, who is volunteering her time, for heaven's sake, and HOW DARE anyone speak to you like that!!! Match her energy…. and you will protect your wonderful self from an abuser, and possibly giver her a valuable lesson that you can't just go around walking all over people! This story hit a nerve for me. I have a job wherein I catch a lot of flak from people, who feel they can just let rip on me verbally. I have learned a line that always stops them in their tracks: "Who do you think you're talking to?" – said more like a statement than a question… it sets a boundary… puts them back on their heels… and gives me a moment to formulate an assertive response.
    My suggestion for you is that you DECIDE you are a lovely, kind person, and NOBODY gets to talk to you that way, or treat you that way!

  22. Leigh Anne says:

    Sounds like you have come across an "Empress." That's my name for those who walk through the world with imperious behaviors. I am intimately familiar with them since I was raised by one. I applaud your efforts at working on your loving kindness for yourself and for her (a little more for you might help), and, as I am sure you realize, she is providing you with an opportunity to practice. Perhaps you can be thankful for that and perhaps she is there to aid you in releasing the grip of pleasing. I find it so difficult when dealing with people who push one of my buttons to remember that they might be suffering and that they are there to teach me. So I practice too. I have realized that narcissists are fundamentally impenetrable so I do not waste my time or efforts on them. I spend my time on trying to look at what they trigger in me and how I can unravel my tangled up response. Thank you Ann for posting. Namaste.

  23. imagineannie says:

    You are most welcome!

  24. imagineannie says:

    Jaime – <3. And I wouldn't actually have guessed that about you,

  25. imagineannie says:

    Yeah, us pleasers do that. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading!!

  26. imagineannie says:

    alligatorfox, you may have missed the fact that this post was a little tongue-in-cheek. I really do know that not everybody likes everybody; I don't always like everybody. The post is mostly about my understanding that, as you suggest, "moving on" is the best response.

    It was just kind of odd that this particular person seemed to take an instant dislike. I don't suck up to her, or try to "connect" with her, my practice is just to keep being civil and do my job.

  27. imagineannie says:

    Thanks so much, Meg!

  28. imagineannie says:

    Vince (and caro), thanks so much for reading, and for your concern! I think maybe my tone confused people, here. I was kind of exaggerating my response to make the point that I was baffled by people like the woman in question. I am really pretty clear on the fact that it's something about her, and not me. I lose no sleep over it.

    I do think that what you teach your daughters, especially about men, is AWESOME. That trap, trying desperately to please men, was one I fell into all through my twenties. Fortunately, I recovered in time to marry a great guy who thinks I'm fine the way I am. 🙂

  29. imagineannie says:

    Thank you Leslie. <3.

  30. imagineannie says:

    Lisa, you are absolutely right. I do pray for her, and it's actually incredibly helpful. I have come to feel a lot of tenderness towards her because I think she must be kind of unhappy – I cannot otherwise imagine feeling the need she feels to distance herself from humanity. (It's not just me).

  31. imagineannie says:

    Wheels, thank you! I am certainly a lot more fun. 🙂 Part of the issue is that because of the job I have, she is really more like a customer than a peer – I am the cook/hospitality coordinator at a huge church, and she is a member of the congregation, and had been (literally) since before I was born. She mostly sees me as "the help," which makes me want to prove myself in some primal way. I want to scream "I have a law degree! I went to a great college! I can read big words!!!!!!" (See – told you aiwWas more fun).

  32. imagineannie says:

    Thanks, Loren – I'm honored to be your first comment!!

  33. imagineannie says:

    debradeangelo, you remind me of my late mother. That's a good thing. 🙂 She wouldn't have let anybody treat her that way, and had a personality that just kind of wouldn't allow it to happen. As I've written in earlier replies, she is MUCH older than I am (almost old enough to be my grandmother, actually) and although I can't say "who do you think you're talking to," I have, since i wrote this, been much more direct with her when she's being ridiculous. Now she just ignores me, but I can totally live with that.

  34. imagineannie says:

    Leigh Anne, that is a PERFECT word to describe her. She is an Empress at the place where i work, and in this community in general. I do think it comes from a place of great unhappiness and insecurity on her part. And yes, Metta helps – and you are absolutely right that more Metta towards myself is kind of essential. I'm on it. Thanks for reading!!!!

  35. Vince says:

    It's funny that as many crazy things as I have read on elephant….this is what prompted my first comment. Good stuff Anne! Thanks for a stimulating and thought provoking post.
    Love and light to you and yours 🙂

  36. debradeangelo says:

    Good for you!
    1) Who NEEDS this person in her life? (That snooty, icy gal)
    2) I already like you better than her, and I am WAY cooler than she is. 🙂

  37. purpleghost says:

    I feel this way a lot. I have found that the moment I stop caring (if i can and with much effort)….the dynamic changes. And if it doesn't….well, I don't care anymore so I don't know what happens. But more often than not, I find out, I wasn't quite right about the person in the first place. It was my insecurities and need to be liked that created a monster of a person in my head. Of course, she sounds like a real monster, in which case, kill the monster with your kindness. And remember the beautiful people who lift you up instead. Also remember, the way other people treat you has nothing to do with you.

  38. Cherie says:

    Love you ann. Would love to have you as a friend:) perhaps this woman needs more than one pot… She probably needs ONE friend. She just doesn't know it yet.