When you meet new people, do you ever just irrationally HATE them?

people gathered in a restaurant

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but here goes:

A few weeks ago, I locked my bike up outside this juice bar in Portland, a tight ball of nausea in the bottom of my stomach.

girl locking bike

I was at WDS – the conference World Domination Summit, where do-gooders (like me) try and make the world a better place – and arriving at my first ‘meet-up’. These are impromptu gatherings thrown by attendees. I had my own one the following day, a short workshop on How To Tell Compelling Stories. But this one at the juice bar was a storytelling meet-up being thrown by someone else – a lady I’d never met before, and was a bit scared of.

Two days before, I’d (finally, very last-minute) decided to put on my own meet-up about storytelling. As I scrolled through those other people had posted, I realised that there was already one happening on the same subject. Gutted at first, I then looked into the details and decided it was ok for both to exist. This one, by a lady called Sara Hunt, was going to be about how to figure out which of your own stories to tell. Mine was more about how to tell your stories. Also, hers was already full, so I figured it was even more ok to put mine on.

But I am a perennial people pleaser, and I was still worried that she’d be annoyed. So I sent her an email.

In it, I explained what I felt the differences were between our two workshops, and told her I’d love to meet her at some point – which was true; from her website and blog, she seemed cool and interesting. Then, I asked whether, if there ended up being a free spot, I could come along to her meet-up.

It took me about 20 minutes of writing and rewriting to compose this last question.

What if she thought I was just coming along to steal her ideas? What if she was annoyed that I was running my own storytelling meet-up and it made her not like me?

My fears were trumped by how much I wanted to go, so I asked. To my relief, I got a reply saying she’d love to have me along.

But now, I was actually here. It was my first group event of the entire conference. I walked in – late, of course, and a little sweaty with it – and the 20 people sitting around the long table all stared up at me.


I should note here, that I am famous for my positivity.

I have the word “yes” tattooed on one of my fingers. My business is called “Yes Yes Marsha”. When I meet new people, most of the time I end up gushing to my friends about them, “Seriously, they’re so amazing!”. And my friends always tease me, saying, “Marsha, you like everyone.”


I walked into that room, looked at the group, and had an overwhelming internal response to all the people there. And that response was:

I f-cking hate you.

As I sat down and started talking to them, in my mind I greeted each individual with the same response.

I f-cking hate you.
And I f-cking hate you.
And I f-cking hate
you, too.

You’re smug.
You, are self-absorbed.
 YOU! You think you’re so great.

In truth, this happens almost every time I’m faced with a brand new set of people.

At a workshop, on public transport, at a meet-up during a conference. In the years since I’ve noticed that I do this, I’ve tried to figure out what’s going on, why I’m having this extreme response. Here’s what I think:

I’m terrified that they won’t like me.
Or that they’’ll look down on me for not being good enough.

I’m terrified that they will figure out that – unlike them – I do not have my sh-t together.

And so, if I hate them first – then it doesn’t matter if they look down on me! I already HATE them! So who cares?!

Except, very clearly, the answer to that is “me”. I care. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be having such a strong emotional reaction to meeting them.

Here’s what happened:

Leading the meet-up, Sara (who, it turns out, is one of the wisest and kindest people I’ve ever encountered, and no one I needed to be scared of) asked all of us a bunch of questiopeople gathered in a restaurantns. Then, she got us to share the answers in the form of stories, in small groups.

The people in my group – ALL of whom I’d initially decided were THE WORST – started opening up. They started telling stories about their lives. And because I know that emotional responses are the most powerful part of any story, at each major plot point, I asked them,

“And how did you feel?”

As they answered, the most amazing thing happened:

Little reveals of vulnerability. Little glimpses into their lives, that showed me that they weren’t perfect. That they didn’t have all of their sh-t together.

I felt myself softening.

I felt my disdain towards them dissolve. I started to like them. Really, really like them.

Because –  if they don’t have their sh-t together, then maybe it’s ok that I don’t. If they have some soft, vulnerable feelings, then maybe they’re not judging me for having them, too.

It was like a small door opened in their chest, and I could see behind it their squashy imperfect self. Just like mine.

By the meet-up, I’d made some really lovely new friends. Seriously, they’re so amazing.

What’s the lesson here?

If you, too, get triggered by groups of new people, and respond by HATING them all – try asking them to tell you some stories. Ask them why they came there. Or why they’re doing what they’re doing. Or about something they loved to do as a kid. As the big moments of the story happened, ask them,

“And how did you feel?”

It’ll make you like them more.

And if you sense a new person is being hostile towards you – perhaps for the same reasons – try showing a little vulnerability. Tell them a story, and include in it how you feel.

“Tell a story. Show a little vulnerability.
It’ll make people like you more.”

Now, you: do you ever have this response? Have you found anything that softens it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading! If you know anyone who might enjoy this – maybe a friend who gets angry with new people they meet – you can share it with them using one of the round buttons below (or by clicking HERE to share on Facebook).

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha



PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Photo Credits: marimbajlamesa via Compfight cc, then ME! (marsha)


  • Jack Reeves

    Reply Reply September 7, 2016

    (Y) Such candor! I appreciate when you take the time to share a more vulnerable perspective. Sometimes storytelling can feel like a “false front” or bravado — you become more concerned with the narrative of what you’re conveying — it’s so refreshing to think about how storytelling is actually an avenue into our inner lives that cuts THROUGH the narrative as well!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply September 13, 2016

      Thanks, Jack! i LOVE that way of looking at it.

      *Delighted* to have you in the Yes Yes Family!

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