Have you ever met someone and just thought to yourself, no, I’m good? Whether it be the sound of their voice, their mannerisms, or just their vibe in general, it wouldn’t make a difference to you if you never saw them again. If you’re writing this off and saying it doesn’t apply to you…you’re a liar. Sorry, but there’s no way that you’ve liked every person you’ve met in your 20-something years. So dig deep through the file cabinets of your memories.
I’m not talking about the middle school prankster who made you the butt of every joke, the ex who piled on reasons for you to grow to hate them, or the girl in high school who bullied you. I’m talking about the mutual friend whom you met and knew you never wanted to hang out with again; the coworker who has never done anything malicious to you but with whom you dread being in the break room; the neighbor you see in Target but dart down another aisle to avoid. I bet some people came to mind as you read this.
The idea that not liking someone is predicated on intentional meanness is simply untrue. We’re adults now. It’s time to dispel the need to be liked by everyone, as well as the need to like everyone. It’s not realistic. After all, there’s a difference between being cordial and straight-up pretending to like someone. Let’s abandon this notion (that I probably got from Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill) that there needs to be drama attached to the reason why people don’t vibe. The truth is, we just don’t form connections with everyone we meet.
Society—and, more specifically, social media—relishes drama, trying to spin webs of conflict for headlines. From reality TV to celebrity feuds, publishing secrets and disagreements is a million-dollar market. Many people do this in their own lives as well, thriving off drama and creating issues where there don’t need to be any.
But instead of attempting to explore the reasons behind why we dislike people, I think it’s more important to address the ways in which we manage feelings of dislike, as the line between niceties and fraudulence often gets blurred. There’s a difference between saying hi to someone at the office and asking them about what they did over the weekend, knowing damn well that you don’t care. Don’t lead people on—you can make it clear there’s no friendship (whether it’s because you have nothing in common, you don’t vibe with them, or they just annoy you) without being rude. Although it’s human nature to yearn to be accepted, there’s a glow-up that comes with just not caring.
The pandemic has put many things in perspective. Since we were catapulted into isolation, distanced from the human connection to which we had become accustomed, relationships have become so much more important and intentional.
For a lot of us, work from home has become the new normal; we haven’t been grabbing coffee with friends and we rarely see people outside of our households (no, Zoom doesn’t count.) This has changed the dynamic of our relationships: we’ve realized certain people were in our lives because of mere circumstance and proximity and, in turn, have drifted from people who weren’t really our friends, but simply people we saw every day. There’s nothing wrong with that—some people are just acquaintances, coworkers, or colleagues. There are undoubtedly people we don’t like, but simply tolerate. Our innate need for acceptance and inclusion oftentimes has us wanting to be liked by everyone, and when we aren’t, we feel rejected. So we try to prove to ourselves that we’re worthy, by being likable and keeping an invisible tally of how many friends we have.
The absolute key to respectfully disliking someone is maintaining indifference. We have to stop caring about people-pleasing—it manifests in our inability to distance ourselves from people we don’t like, but who clearly like us. We also need to set boundaries with people we dislike. Being compassionate doesn’t mean faking intent; defining the relationship (or lack thereof) is instrumental in avoiding unwanted interactions. So often we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, but honesty really is the best policy in this case.
For a long time, I struggled to say no to people. In my 30 years, I’ve found myself hanging out with or talking to someone I didn’t like on more than one occasion; the reasons for this have ranged from a sense of obligation to not knowing how to decline the invitation. Now, I no longer surround myself or talk to people I don’t like. It really is that simple. Why would you? You don’t owe people your time and energy. You don’t have to give people access to you if you don’t want to.
There’s stress that comes from constantly having prolonged interactions with people we don’t like. I block people online and in real life. Given how the past year has shown us the fragility of everything, it’s important to live with purpose, to spend your time how you want, and to do so with people you like. You can’t get that time back. So, I’m not sorry. I’m not being mean. We don’t have beef. I just don’t fuck with you.
By Chelsie DeSouza
Visual by Hunter French for Vice