I’m Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea, And That’s Okay

April 17th, 2012 by Laura Longley

I’ve been dealing with some situations over the past several days where others have been angry or upset with me. I get a visceral reaction to others being upset with me: my heart races, I feel like I want to throw up, and my mind immediately goes to what I did wrong and how I am to blame, and of course how I can fix it.

I feel threatened, as if my life depends upon appeasing whoever is upset with me and making sure they know I didn’t mean them harm. Given this strong reaction, it’s no wonder that I feel a sense of urgency to set things right immediately.

As I was pondering (i.e. obsessing about) the latest instance of someone being angry with me, it occurred to me that at the core of my reaction is a belief that how others view me is the correct view, the way it really is. If I have acted in a way that seems fine to me, but someone else is upset by it, then I must have acted incorrectly.

Intellectually I know that this is not true, that it is a matter of perception and of our own filters and preferences. But in my gut it feels as if it is absolutely true. And not only do I believe that I have acted incorrectly when someone else is upset by my behavior, but I also believe this bad behavior on my part says something about my character, about who I am as a person. It says that I am bad, or uncaring, or mean.

With this understanding also came the understanding at a deep level that just because someone does not agree with how I acted, or something that I did, doesn’t make them right and me wrong, just as it does not make them wrong and me right. This is where “agree to disagree” comes from. Again, I have understood this concept for a long time, but somehow I suddenly got it at a different level.

In disagreements I always feel attacked, and this feels like an attack not on my behavior, but on my character, on the core of who I am. In these situations I have vacillated between feeling like the worst person on the planet and feeling outraged that the other person was blaming and attacking me.

Now I see that there is another way. I can agree to disagree. I can feel and express compassion for the other person’s viewpoint without becoming defensive and without acquiescing.

Of course there will be times when the other person has a valid point and I should apologize or I should make a change in my behavior. Doing this also becomes easier when I believe that making a mistake does not mean that I am a vile and worthless human being.

Another realization I had is that the times when I am most upset and feel the most threatened, is when the other person’s demand for my apology or admission of wrong-doing goes against my authenticity. Seeing this at play in the most recent situation is what led to this revelation.

How can I apologize for something I don’t believe is wrong, and still be authentic? Obviously I can’t. But I can tell the other person that I’m sorry that they are upset, because as soon as I stop feeling like I need to defend myself that is true and authentic.

So, to summarize, the key for me is first of all to check in and see if I think the other person has a valid point. If I believe they do, then I can sincerely apologize and correct my behavior. Whether or not they accept the apology is beyond my control, but I am at least acting from a place of authenticity.

If I decide that I don’t agree with their assessment then I can still express to them that I feel badly that they are upset without saying that I did anything wrong. My experience is that frequently this will not be enough and they will demand that I agree with their viewpoint. If this happens I can again express compassion for how they are feeling while firmly maintaining my own perspective.

In the end what it comes down to is that I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and that doesn’t mean anything about me as a person. We are all different; we all have preferences and filters. The best I can do is to be as authentic as possible and to act from a place of compassion and caring. If they don’t like me, they don’t like me. And I’m still a good person.

3 Responses

  1. wendymc12 says:

    You have a gentle heart and just want to feel accepted. I get the same way. The ridiculous thing is that when I was young, I used to have no problem liking some people but not others, you know personal preference. It would upset me horribly though if someone didn’t like me. I would terrorize myself trying to figure out why. It took a long time to understand that its not just my choice who I like, but that everyone has a right to their opinion.

    • You see me, Wendy; thank you. And even though intellectually I get that I don’t like everyone and not everyone will like me it is (obviously) still something I’m struggling with. Hopefully this has been a breakthrough that will make the reality easier to deal with.

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