A couple of months ago I was added into a WhatsApp Group whose members I went to school with. More than a decade ago many members of that group were my close friends, but you know how life happens and people start to grow apart. It’s been ten to fifteen years since the last time I met or talked to any of them. I know that one member of that group particularly doesn’t like me. I can never figure out why, but I always feel that underlying hostility. Back then in school we would hang out with a lot of people, so his insulting comments would easily be passed on as jokes. I never took seriously anything he said, until one time I looked him in the eye and saw that he despised me for real. It was for no reason I could fathom.
After the usual hello-and-how-have-you-been routine on that group, his hostility started to reappear. You know how random conversations in a group are. One person will start a topic, another person will make comments on it, other persons will follow suit, until at one point the topic just dies out and is replaced by another topic. In every topic discussed in the group he never fails to mention how I might be reacting. I don’t always follow conversations in WhatsApp groups. When I’m being busy I’ll mute a group for a week or more, then do a recap reading afterward. I was very surprised to learn that he’s done practically a lot to put words into my mouth; words and opinions that I didn’t even intend to say because they never crossed my mind. I don’t want to confront that person because he doesn’t matter to me. Why would I waste my time and energy on something I find worthless? His hostility towards me might change, or it might not. We’ve never been close and I can’t say that we’re on good terms. Trying to reach out to him now will feel insincere on my part, so I decide not to do it.
It makes me think about managing hostility addressed towards us.
- To face it head-on
When I was younger and had abundant energy I had done this a couple of times. I had taken the initiatives to meet with people who had disliked me. I had opened discussion with them and asked them what their problems were. The outcomes were nothing. Those people kept insisting that I had done wrong. And as much as I wanted to apologize for what and how I was, I had come to realize that I couldn’t please everybody. When it came to principles, I found it important for me to be steadfast. At the end the efforts to try to make amends only left me exhausted and depressed. I’d like to hear critics in order to be a better person. But critics were given by people who wanted to develop me. People who didn’t like me just judged and insulted. I’d rather not hear any of their nonsenses. I understood long ago that there was hostility that’s better to be faced head-on, and other that’s better to be handled by Point 2 below.
- To simply ignore it
My way of managing hostility these days is simply by ignoring it. As I get older I’ve become “wiser” to learn that not everyone is meant to be my friend (I agree with you, cousin Dea!). As long as I still have respect towards the persons I can’t be friends with, then I’m good. I’ve realized that friends and relationship are based on compatibility, and it’s not something I can force to happen. I honestly don’t know what that person from WA Group doesn’t like about me. I might have offended him somehow, I wouldn’t know. Considering he has known me for more than ten years and has said nothing about what’s bothering him, makes me realize that the issues might be with him, not me. Maybe he doesn’t like me because I have these and those attitudes and behaviors. Or maybe he just doesn’t like me because I am me. As simple as that. If that’s the case, what can I say? I’m not interested to change neither his heart nor his opinions about me. I prefer to stay out of his way and be ignorant. Until when? Until he crosses that line that only I know of. I sincerely hope that will never happen. I’m not a crowd-pleaser and I don’t intend to be one. If I change myself to be what a person wants me to be, where are my principles and my footings? People’s opinions differ from one to another. Imagine how troublesome it will be to change my personality that easily just to please someone. I’d rather be honest with who I am, and with all best and worst traits I have.
Some might take the third approach in managing hostility. First is to face it head-on, then second is to ignore it altogether if the first approach doesn’t work. I prefer not to take this third approach. I’m getting older and I just live once. I’d like to set as many things as I can in dichotomies: right and wrong, black and white, just and unjust. I respect grey areas, although I’ll try my best to avoid them because they only give me uncertainty and headache.
I hope everybody reading this can find the best way for them to manage the hostility directed at them.