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Social Rejection: What to Do When Someone Does Not Like You

It can be hard when you find out that someone does not like you.  These situations are very common and happen to all people.  Learning how to cope with social rejection is a big step towards a more meaningful life.

When I was 10-years-old, I remember being the one girl in my class not invited to a classmate’s birthday party.  I was incredibly hurt.  I cried a lot while my mom talked to me and gave me lemonade at the kitchen table, offering comfort where she could. I had a hard time going back to school the next day, knowing that I was the only one who was not invited.  I felt like I didn’t belong.

All people can probably identify a situation like this in their lives.  A time when someone doesn’t like you or leaves you out.  Or a time when people say mean things on social media or criticize something you’ve done unfairly.  As people, we are social beings and dependent on others for survival.  We have a need for social connection.  As a result, when people reject us, judge us negatively, or leave us out of things, we react with sadness, worry, or even depression. Sometimes, we are even surprised when people DO like us.  Many people can remember Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech of, “You like me, you really like me.”  As humans we care a great deal about the reactions of others.

The ability to move on without a strong emotional response is something that requires practice and patience.    Although manageable, you will need to learn skills for handling these situations, as well as how to go forward.

Here are some helpful tips if you find yourself in a situation where someone does not like you:

 Sadly, nobody is liked by everyone

Human beings are incredibly complicated.  Everybody has people who they just don’t mesh with.  For example, if you asked a room of people about individuals they liked, the consensus is often poor.   There would be very few actors, musicians, politicians, or even teachers that people could agree upon.  Often people use the phrase, “I don’t like them,” to describe their opinions about their music, beliefs, or behaviors.  But, do they really “know” the person?  Probably not.

When we look at the situation on a deeper level, it is often not about how much people like US

It may much more likely related to our ideas, or how we are presenting ourselves. Not who we are at the deepest level.  One thing that you can ask yourself is, “Is this really about me?”  “Is this a purposeful rejection of me as a person?”  Many times, people’s opinions are not based on anything related to us.  It has more to do with them.  Their past relationships, their family environment, their peer group, and their current emotional state shape how people treat you.

Another thing to consider is that people can be verbally impulsive

They may not have meant any harm.  Or they spoke without thinking.  In these circumstances, if you can look them in the eye and kindly ask, “Did you mean that as a criticism?” or “Did you mean to do that?” You may find the other person responds with, “What?!  No!  That’s not what I meant.”  This can be particularly true for electronic communications.  If misunderstandings happen electronically, don’t try to solve it electronically.  Make the time to work it out in person.

Be aware of your own social sensitivities

Are your feelings easily hurt?  Could you be overreacting?  If that’s possible, take note and adjust.  Some people, particularly those who have been hurt before, are primed to feel more hurt when faced with mean or insensitive comments.  If this is you, think about a loved one who is LESS sensitive (but that you respect), and ask yourself, “How would they respond?”

Be aware of your own behavior

There are times that we may need to work on ourselves. One idea that people often learn in therapy is, “We can’t change other people, but we can change ourselves.”   Maybe this is an time to self-reflect and improve where we can.

Sometimes people don’t respond well to us because we act in ways that turn them off.  For example, you may be trying so hard to please someone that you come across ingratiatingly.  Or you, may have a habit of yelling at people, or interrupting them often.  Maybe you have a habit of talking about yourself too much.  Or maybe you obnoxiously voice opinions that are unpopular.

For these reasons, you need to be aware of how you are presenting yourself.  You may ask a trusted friend or colleague for feedback.  (And if they are kind enough to be honest, listen earnestly without defensiveness).    If you think you’re causing someone to react negatively, use the feedback constructively.

Decide how to think about the situation

How you think about the interaction is particularly relevant.  If you are upset, ask yourself, “Is it worth letting them upset my life, my health, or my happiness?  Resist the urge to be perfect or redo the interaction.  Just accept it, breathe, and move forward.

Furthermore, consider the thousands of social interactions that we have each day, each week, or each month. Remember that many, many more go well than the one that has just gone poorly.  Remind yourself that no one and nothing is perfect, and be thankful for all the other good interactions that you’ve had, as well as all the kind people in your life.

Use Self-Compassion

One of the fundamentals of self-compassion is to treat yourself as well as you would treat a friend.  Can you imagine telling a friend something like, “What’s wrong with you that they don’t like you?”  Of course not.  You might tell your friend something like, “I’m sorry.  That’s so hard.”  Or you might say something like, “I’ve had similar things happen to me too.  Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense.  But I’m here for you.”  Try saying those words to yourself.  Remember the words, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I be at peace.”

Reach out for support

If you need to, feel free to reach out to other friends or loved ones for support.  Talk to them about how you are feeling.  You can ask for feedback, or you could ask them to remind you that they care about you.  It’s ok to ask for what you need.

If it is relational aggression, or another form of an unhealthy relationship, it is time to move on

Social Rejection

Sometimes, you may find yourself in relationships where there is an abuse of power or where people mistreat you.  For example, people may call you names that you don’t like or demean you.  Additionally, some people become routinely upset when they don’t get their way.  Furthermore, some people are unpredictable, responding with drastic mood changes or emotional outbursts one day, and then tears and remorse the next.  Finally, some people may be mean in a group, but seem fine individually.  All of these types of interactions are problematic.  They will erode your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.   If the other person can’t treat you with respect, they aren’t being fair to the relationship or to you.  In these cases, it may be best to find other friends or people your truly care about you.

Use Compassion for The Other Person

Rather than returning dislike with mean words or actions, you will likely find yourself a whole lot happier if you can use compassion.  Remember that people who say or do hurtful things are likely hurting themselves, possibly at a very deep level.   In these situations, you may offer up some words of kindness for them, such as “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you be at peace.”  Then move forward with dignity, and be kind to others.

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