Science Tells Us Why We Absolutely Can’t Stand Some People

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Mar 29, 2024

Have you ever met someone who just rubs you the wrong way, but you can’t figure out why? This isn’t an uncommon feeling. Sometimes, someone’s actions or demeanor might trigger irritation or dislike, even if there’s no clear reason for these feelings.

Clinical psychologist Gemma Harris suggests this could be due to our unique relational blueprints, shaped by our past experiences. These internal guides help us navigate relationships, drawing us to those who fit and repelling us from those who don’t.

The Puzzle of Relational Blueprints

According to Harris, in conversation with Stylist, everyone operates with a “relational blueprint,” a template formed from early life that continues into adulthood, dictating our relationship dynamics.

Close-up of two hands in a firm handshake against an office backdrop. The person on the left is wearing a light blue shirt with sleeves rolled up to the forearm, while the person on the right is in a white shirt with a sleeve cuff visible

Source: Cytonn Photography/Unsplash

Like a jigsaw puzzle, we search for people who fit into this template. That’s why sometimes, we just can’t gel with someone, even if the rest of our group of friends can. Their personality or behavior might conflict with our blueprint, causing friction.

The Invisible Influence of Affective Presence

Affective presence is a psychological concept that might explain why some people naturally make us tense. It’s the emotional atmosphere a person brings into a room, affecting others regardless of their own mood or intentions (via The Atlantic).

A woman writing notes onto a chart while someone talks to her in the distance

Source: SHVETS/production

This could shed light on why some individuals, no matter how benign, can provoke a strong emotional response in us.

Facing Our 'Shadow Side'

Carl Jung’s concept of the “shadow side” helps us understand why we might intensely dislike someone displaying traits we secretly recognize in ourselves. This hidden mirror can trigger feelings of irritation or dislike, as seen in business psychologist Dannielle Haig’s explanation (via Stylist).

Woman breaks down in tears inside of a public bathroom as she looks in the mirror

Source: Freepik

Recognizing these traits in others forces us to confront aspects of ourselves we’d rather ignore, which can be uncomfortable.

The Dilemma of 'Too Nice'

Ever met someone so nice it’s annoying? Perhaps they are a bit too “bubbly” for your liking? This reaction might stem from suspicion or jealousy, as psychologist Emma Kenny suggests (via Stylist).

A man is pictured smiling with his hands in the air on top of a small mountain

Source: Freepik

It’s a common yet perplexing scenario where excessive niceness leads to distrust, revealing our psychological responses to overly positive behavior (via Medium).

Understanding Irritation Triggers

Irritation without a clear cause can be perplexing. Harris points out that minor differences in personality, values, or boundaries can set off this irritation.

A frustrated man in a suit sitting in front of his computer

Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

It’s these small mismatches that can make someone’s presence or habits especially grating.


Exploring Envy and Insight

When someone’s popularity or niceness irks you, it might be worth considering whether jealousy or deep insight is at play.

A woman leans on a tree in a park with an extremely surprised expression on her face.

Source: Alexis Mora Angulo/Unsplash

Sometimes, our gut reactions provide clues to people’s true natures, or they might reflect our own insecurities and desires for acceptance (via Doctor Nerd Love).


The Science of Social Chemistry

Just as chemicals react differently with each other, people respond uniquely to different individuals.

A group of five young adults is casually walking along a sidewalk, laughing and talking with each other. They are dressed in casual, trendy clothes

Source: Eliott Reyner/Unsplash

This “social chemistry” can explain why certain people just don’t mix well, despite there being no obvious conflict or issue (via EOHT).


The Challenge of Acceptance

Learning to accept that not everyone will mesh well with our personal blueprint is crucial for emotional health.

A group of diverse people stand with their backs against a wall

Source: Freepik

Coaches Rebecca Daniel and Sarah Brammal emphasize the importance of embracing our individual differences and those of others to create a more harmonious social environment (via Stylist).


Personal Reflections and Growth

Confronting why certain individuals trigger negative reactions in us can be an opportunity for personal growth (via LinkedIn).

Patient sitting on a couch while speaking to a therapist who is taking notes

Source: Freepik

Understanding our own relational blueprints and shadow sides allows for deeper self-awareness and more mindful interactions with others.


The Power of Self-Awareness

Becoming aware of our relational blueprints and affective presence can empower us to make more informed choices in our social interactions.

The image shows two women sitting. They are visible from the shoulders down and both are holding their hands together in their laps

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

By recognizing our own patterns, we can approach relationships with greater empathy and understanding.


Embracing Interpersonal Complexity

Navigating the social world is a complex journey, influenced by our psychological blueprints, unspoken emotions, and the unseen impacts we have on each other.

Source: RealPeopleGroup from Getty Images Signature (Canva Pro)

By exploring the roots of our own interpersonal reactions, we can foster a deeper understanding of ourselves and enrich our relationships with others.