There’s a person I must work with in my business who has some very unpleasant qualities. The more I work with him, the more I dislike him. I do my best to find good qualities in him, but I feel my efforts are failing. He is always blaming others for his own carelessness and wrongdoing, and refuses to hear their suggestions. Can you offer any insights for how I can get along better with this coworker?
Although the details may be lost to us, one incarnation is like a chapter in a much longer book. The plot began long before this body was born, and will go on (for most of us) long after our present bodies have turned to dust.
Your disinclination for your business associate could be a reaction to his obvious unpleasant qualities. But your dislike may be exacerbated by your experiences together in other lifetimes.
Sometimes as we travel from life to life, we meet the same people; but sometimes we repeat similar difficult relationships with other people, in order to learn an important lesson.
One person, for example, may learn his lessons faster. Then, the one who has transcended can go on, but the other must work it out his lessons with someone else.
The fact that this person’s qualities upset your peace of mind means that you still have something to learn from your association with him. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you must quietly endure his bad company! What you need to learn may be to find the inner strength to simply walk away from bad company, or to speak up when he speaks badly. Or you may need to learn to have sympathy and compassion for his ignorance, instead of reacting with irritation.
If circumstances compel you to work with him, the solution may be less about what you would like to do, and more about how to make a bad situation tolerable.
Cultivating compassion and learning to keep your peace of mind in the face of the challenges is always a good strategy. Paramhansa Yogananda said that the goal of life is to learn to “stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.” Learning to be even-minded in the company of unpleasant people is a promising way to begin.
When you are with this person, try to keep your consciousness elevated. Pay attention to your breathing. Long, slow breathing to an even count can be very helpful, especially if you practice for an extended time – for example, breathing in to a count of 12, holding the breath for a 12-count, and exhaling for the same duration.
Be self-controlled. Swami Kriyananda has said that if we can gain control of the energy in our bodies, we will find that we are much less troubled by difficult emotions. Yoga offers a number of powerful methods for gaining this kind of energy-control, including the yoga postures, breathing exercises, and a system of “energization exercises” developed by Paramhansa Yogananda. (You can learn these exercises in a book titled Lessons in Meditation, by Nayaswami Jyotish Novak)
If you know a meditation technique for calming and focusing the mind – for example Hong-Sau or Kriya Yoga – you might consider practicing it quietly, if circumstances allow.
Think of the person as a child of God, behaving in a way that is unworthy of his divine nature. In your meditations, pray for him. Send him divine light. Ask God to guide him out of his wrong understanding. Though not easy, this “technique” can be infinitely rewarding – as you begin to feel God’s love united with your prayers, you will enjoy a tremendous inner freedom in that love.
If your dislike prevents you from praying for him, consider starting with a “generic” prayer. If your heart rebels, try grinding out the prayer mechanically, for a long time if necessary, until you begin to feel the truth of the prayer, with real feeling. You can offer a very general prayer: “Divine Mother, give him health and energy for his body, love and devotion for his heart, wise and strong volition for his will, clarity and good cheer for his mind, and your divine joy for his soul.”
Concentrate on keeping your heart soft and open to the divine flow, so that you can be an instrument of God’s blessing for this person. Those blessings, as they flow through you, will heal you of the painful emotions you experience in the other person’s presence.
All of these actions will help you to transform the situation, making it beneficial for you spiritually, and perhaps even beneficial for the other person as well.
Try to discriminate between what merely annoys you, and what is an actual obstacle to your work. Yes, this person is unpleasant, but how much of his unpleasantness is actually obstructing what you are both trying to accomplish together? In other words, “choose your battles.” As Swami Kriyananda often says, “Fight the battles that you stand a good chance of winning. Put the others on the shelf for a time, until you can acquire the inner strength to win them.”
If you feel that the situation is blocking you and the other person from accomplishing something important, then do stand up and do what’s right. But if he won’t listen to your input, don’t offer it. Work instead on calming your own desire to make him different. In that case, his own karma will teach him – it is not ultimately up to you to be his teacher.
Swami Kriyananda’s book The Art of Supportive Leadership offers a number useful ideas for getting along with people in the work place.
I do hope this is helpful to you.