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I Just Met You and I Don't Like You

Updated on February 10, 2015

Six Degrees of Separation?

An as yet proven theory proposes that each person on the planet is connected by five to seven intermediaries or degrees.

In other words, the friend of a friend of a friend connects us all.

In 2001, Duncan Watts, a professor at Columbia University, continued his research based on the phenomenon and recreated Milgram's experiment on the Internet.

Watts found that the average number of intermediaries, or degrees of separation was indeed, six.

While it interesting to think that any president of the United States, connects to a factory worker in Vietnam who is an intermediary of a tulip grower in Holland, there are personal connections that create chaos in our relationships and affect our communication and thinking.

Do you often like or dislike people when you first meet them?

See results

Pavlov's Dogs, Little Albert, You and Me

What about other types of connections that form associations? Classical conditioning is an example of associationistic learning. Pavlov's dogs learned and then responded accordingly to the bell. Whether rewarded with food or punished, each set of dogs associated the sound of the bell with a particular outcome.

John Watson further refined this conditioning in his "Little Albert" studies. Initially, the nine-month-old did not react to the stimulus of rats, burning paper, a monkey, and a mask. However, loud noises were added to his exposure to the rats; the child got fearful. At a point, it did not take the loud noise to recreate this fear. Albert saw the rat and reacted.

But it went beyond the rats; it then extended to Santa's beard and Watson's white hair.


We are sure to find someone that reminds of someone else in our expanding world
We are sure to find someone that reminds of someone else in our expanding world | Source

Why We Filter Our Associations - Humor

Creating Chaos or Authentic Communication?

The dogs and Little Albert did not have a need to explore their associations. However, in order to communicate better, enjoy positive relationships and move beyond a knee-jerk, mechanical reaction to people, we do.

Association is that connection between thoughts and feelings about someone, including ourselves, that we project or put on another individual.

Certainly, we are aware of this if we point out to someone that they look like a relative or act like someone from our past.

We typically share the association with the new person, if it is positive. For instance:

  • "You look like my sister."
  • "You remind me of my aunt."
  • "You act like my dad."
  • "You sound like my mom."

We usually don't share the association if it's negative, however. Would you say?

  • "You look like my sister and I can't stand her."
  • "You remind me of my aunt and she is mean and lazy."
  • "You act like my dad, rigid and unbending."
  • "You sound like my mom, the authority on every subject."

I suppose you could make these pronouncements when you're first introduced, but I'm betting that most people will answer, "No." Connections that form these associations are about:

1. Looks

2. Tone of voice

3. An accent

4. Postures

5. Mannerisms

She reminds me of him, who I associate with her and on and on
She reminds me of him, who I associate with her and on and on | Source

But My Sister's a Woman

One interesting aspect is that they do not have to be gender specific. I might meet someone who reminds me of my sister who is male, or my father's traits show up in a new female boss.

It is the connections and subtle triggers, not the gender that generate the association.

Take a person who had a mother who didn't seem to demonstrate love; no hugs, pats on the back for accomplishments or saying, "I love you." Your new male boss seems cold and aloof. There's an emotional distance when you communicate, and he seems unfriendly and unsociable.

You react to this behavior and decide that you do not like him. You don't process any association with your mother, or you have not reconciled issues with her, and so you play out the same types of interactions with him that you do with your mom.

• You keep waiting for praise.

• You feel undervalued

• You think he's unkind

Unfortunately, you are operating from a script your boss has never seen. It's in your mind and your association with your mother. The reality is that your new boss uprooted his family and moved 3,000 miles to take this job. His children are struggling with leaving friends and are mad and think he's cruel to make them move their senior year in high school. His wife gave up a promising career, and she feels undervalued.

He's been accused of abandoning his aging parents by his siblings with this move. They think he's selfish and self-centered. All of the other people in his life are demanding that he make them feel better or do something. Now you are doing much the same thing - demanding that he make you feel better.

See how associations can create false impressions and chaos?

Have you found behaviors in others that are within yourself to be objectionable?

See results

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

This Jarod Kintz quote sounds amusing, however, there is much truth in it. “When I compliment you, I compliment myself because I am who I associate with.” We tend to react both positively and negatively when we meet people that remind us, on some level, of ourselves.

When I was in substance abuse treatment, one of my first goals was to be honest in recalling the past. If I was at fault, I acknowledged my responsibility. I found myself annoyed at another participant's refusal to entertain the idea that she had any responsibility in her life outcomes.

I would fidget, purse my mouth, or in some way convey that I didn't like what she was saying. One of my counselors took me aside and asked why I reacted so unfavorably to her.

Without knowing what to call it, I told him that it irritated me that she tried to manipulate her way out of her outcomes. I was upset that she tried to deflect responsibility for her choices and continue to change her story if confronted. His first question was, "Who does that remind you of?" I immediately recognized myself.

After I had returned to my room, I thought about why it bothered me so much. What I realized was that I disliked these behaviors in others and that it set up additional problems.

If we dislike the behaviors in others that are part of our makeup, it sets up certain predictable outcomes:

There's a measure of competition

"Oh, you think you're good at manipulation, watch me."

There's fear.

"If I hang out with dishonest people, might I revert to that?"

There's smugness and a self-righteous posture.

"I used to be that way, but I'm better because I changed."

There's often jealousy.

"I'm somewhat jealous that she seems to get away with this behavior in the group."

If these reactions have happened to you before, explore some of the other unsaid thoughts and see if there's association.


Connections are Everywhere

Other times, association is to a title, position or past experiences that were embarrassing. While I liked my counselors, there was one who seemed to take pleasure in reprimanding participants.

Each of us in that small group commented at lunch one day that we thought it was like going to the principal's office. We were in trouble. Unfortunately, this association meant that most of us were defensive even before we got to the group.

Rather than present alternative behaviors that would produce better outcomes, this counselor told us what, how, and why to change and then told us when. It was this lack of choice that fostered some of the resistances to authority.

Since we had other groups together, it was evident that a defensive posture was not always the norm, yet in this group, even I found myself wondering what I would have to defend.

Young?  Old?  Perceptions create associations
Young? Old? Perceptions create associations | Source

Association in Lyrics and Songs

What Do You See and What Do I See?

Ever had someone break up with you and then list all the things wrong with you? You might already be reeling from the breakup and now heaped upon the hurt are all your negative qualities.

Then, you don't get a job promotion, and feel ashamed and sad when your supervisor tells you why. Your emotional reaction to this seeming slight might be magnified by a recent romantic breakup.

Age is also not a determining factor in association. The illustration by Octavio Ocampo demonstrates how within each of us is a memory or illusion of what was. Hidden at first, we have to change our perspective to see the younger versions, but they are there.

We sometimes have to look carefully to recognize our distorted perception of people in our associations as well.

Often our perceptions of people are like the illustration, some see an old couple, and others see the younger version.

In a work environment or with the extended family, it is a good idea to check your perception if others do not have the same issues in communication that you do. If you dislike someone but everyone else does, there may be an association for you that is not about the other person.

When our perceptions and relationships are negative, asking others for their feedback on how they see us interacting with someone might help process the reactions better and label the personal association.

I'll Be Mindful: It's Not My Sister

We are going to run into people in every aspect of our lives that we like and dislike. Another way to determine if there is an association is to reflect on how you would feel if, someone you liked said the same thing to you.

• Would you process the information differently?

• Are there people that you just tune out and dismiss?

• Would you listen if you liked the person saying something?

• Do you judge certain people as more credible than others?

If you answered, yes to any of these, then you may be associating.

Your truth, my truth, and the truth...perceptions and associations
Your truth, my truth, and the truth...perceptions and associations | Source

What are You Missing When You Associate?

Just as the bearer of bad news was killed by the king with little responsibility other than delivering the message, we can bypass the message and focus on the messenger. There are two primary problems with this.

  1. When you are dismissive of information based on the messenger, you might be missing something helpful.

Jeffrey Wigand, spoke out about the dangers of smoking. Yet, a PR firm, hired by Brown & Williamson mounted a merciless smear campaign designed solely to discredit Wigand. Why believe a raging alcoholic, wife-beater and pathological liar?

Many whistle blowers lose their careers and their families from the relentless attacks upon them, focusing our attention on perceptions of their character rather than their message.

  1. The opposite association is valid as well. Just because you like the messenger, the information may not be accurate. Take that American staple of cookie lovers everywhere and that iconic baby, Nestle.

A few marketing companies have specialized in "disinformation". Abelson Taylor,was hired by Nestle's to silence the fact that it exported infant formula to Africa that could not sustain life. Nestle had a campaign in Africa claiming that their formula was better for babies than breast milk. Hundreds of thousands of infants died from this deficient formula.

Learn to listen to the person, not the distortion of your associations.
Learn to listen to the person, not the distortion of your associations. | Source

Better Outcomes without Association

To break down associations, identify who the person reminds you of; then make a conscious effort to not filter the message by the association or past connection.

Tell yourself, "It's not my mom, dad, boss, or ex that is speaking to me, it's _____." When you deliberately and intentionally refer to the new person, it helps remove the association.

Don't get swayed by outward appearances only. When you look deeper into association, you may find that your associations are preventing you from giving a new person in your life a chance to show their qualities, not what you projected onto them at first meeting.

The additional benefit of identifying your associations is that if you learn to communicate and process information better with the new person, it will probably help your old relationships as well.

Tag Line: Writing, sharing and growing together


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    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, pstraubie48; I know that we all associate. Sometimes it just takes someone else pointing out the problems for us to become aware. I know how much I learn from other people's Hubs and hope this will help some one as well. ~Marilyn

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      I really really try not to make snap decisions when I first meet someone as I have found that just does not work.

      However I do know that I make associations to another person from time to time when meeting someone new

      Very interesting...from beginning to end.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I find it interesting that a significant number of people make snap judgments. I checked the last one because there have been too many times I've assumed one thing about a person, only to be proven wrong later. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm too careless in how I present myself, because people do judge by first impressions, and that's not likely to change.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Say Yes to Life; glad you were able to check yourself. I'm sure people judge me; hair up, usually with a pen stuck behind my ear. I don't do hair as an accessory. I don't really understand the concept. It simply keeps me from being bald. I always laughed and said I look like an unmade bed five minutes after I put on make-up.

      Ah, well....thanks for commenting. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, travmaj; thank you for your take, also. For a long time, I understood and agreed with the "they remind me and therefore...." as if it were okay. It wasn't until my mentor had me look at the underlying issues that I made an effort to stop the association. Granted, it's been 27 years ago, but I still catch myself sometimes associating anyway...ah, well, do better tomorrow. ~Marilyn

    • travmaj profile image


      3 years ago from australia

      This is fascinating and informative. I realise I have made judgements in instants without fully comprehending why. Similarities to people I dislike perhaps, attitudes perhaps, I certainly haven't analysed in depth.

      And how often have I heard the statement 'can't stand ? he/she reminds me of ?. And that always seemed acceptable.

      You have given us much food for thought and an insight into our own 'take' on why we react and behave the way we do. Thank you.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Venkatachari M; thank you for the additional perspectives. Sometimes we are correct in our assessment of someone. As you point out though, we can be wrong sometimes as well. I appreciate you reading, commenting and voting up. ~Marilyn

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting hub on associations and impressions. Sometimes, first impression gives you the whole truth of a person. But, at times, it may deceive you and you need many meetings before judging a person. So, you can't be confident at first meeting with anybody. It is a great topic.

      Thanks for sharing your views on it. Voted up.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Pennyforyourthots; thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you found it interesting. ~Marilyn

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Interesting topic. It was a good read. Thanks for sharing this information!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, DJ; thank you for adding this perspective to the article. How unfortunate that the doctor recognized the problem and did nothing about it. When we intentionally name the new person, if only in our thoughts, it can break the associative reaction.

      However, we have to be willing to make this kind of effort. It doesn't sound as if the doctor was so inclined.

      I would also commend you for understanding some of your reasons for continuing to stay. Yes, there are people I want to please in my life; but not ones who belittle or devalue me. Hope that is the same for you, today. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      MizBejabbers; thank you for sharing your personal experience with the topic. I would also add that you were fortunate to get further insight that helped you overcome your initial reaction. Not all of us get those opportunities. We are blinding hold onto our preconceived notions about the person.

      I appreciate these examples so others can see the topic from several perspectives; they add value to the article. ~Marilyn

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 

      3 years ago

      Hi, Marilyn,

      I worked with two doctors many long years ago.

      One was generally nice to me while the other one made it clear

      that he did not like me. Basically, I am a people pleaser, so I worked

      hard to get the second doctor's approval.

      Finally after several years, he came right out and said, "DJ. you remind me of someone I used to know; someone I absolutely hated. I've tried to get over this hurdle, but it is not working."

      I stayed on for several more years. He was never able to over come

      his association problem. After 7 years, I left the practice and he did not

      stop what he was doing to tell me goodbye. He has to live with the knowledge that his unkind treatment was uncalled for.

      Your article is most insightful.

      Thank you,


    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      3 years ago from Beautiful South

      When one is working on the personality level, these things happen. Years ago a new person came to our Sunday School class. I judged her to be cold and unfriendly. Next week I found out that her stepson had just died and she was in mourning and needed our love and friendship. We became the best of friends. That taught me not to have knee-jerk reactions from first meetings. Sometimes, though, a person's bad vibes come through so loud and clear that one can't help but want to avoid the person.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Tim; you are right. We all have biases and preferences and how we act engages some and irritates others. The same holds true for my opinions on their behaviors. However, the immediate reaction, pro or con, is not based solely on observations, and, therefore, might have some past association attached to the response.

      I do appreciate your opinion on the topic. Thanks for commenting. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Faith Reaper; glad this will give you something additional to process next time you meet someone and immediately form an opinion. Thanks for your comment; added value to the piece. ~Marilyn

    • TimArends profile image

      Timothy Arends 

      3 years ago from Chicago Region

      Although a lot of people would like to deny it, everyone--and I mean everyone-- on this earth is going to be disliked by a certain percentage of the people they meet. The very traits that make some people like you will make others dislike you. And often people are judged by the most superficial of reasons, such as race or how shy or outgoing they are. Like the weather, this is something that can only be accepted.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Interesting and informative article here. That is fascinating about the associations and now that I think about it, it is so true. I try not to form an opinion about someone until I know them, but sometimes I immediately do not like them, especially if they appear to be looking down on someone else and feel superior to others and it is obvious. Now, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt for they may very well just be having a bad day or who knows what is going on in their life, just as in the example you provided of the man accepting a job far off and uprooting the whole family.

      Up +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, RachaelOhalloran; yours is a difficult comparison, probably compounded by the times that you do see them as the extended group. Funerals bring out odd forms of nostalgia and selective remembering.

      As you eloquently point out, just because you look like him, does not make you, him. I hope that you continue to be you. Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 

      3 years ago from United States

      It's really hard not to associate a person with who they remind you of from your past.

      And likewise, the other way around - when you remind them of someone they hold dear ... in this case - my father, a second-rate criminal who spent most of his life in prison because he gave to the poor (who were mostly his family members) while he stole from the rich (anyone who had something ripe for the stealing).

      It's bad enough that he wasn't around for my childhood, and that photos and newspaper articles must refresh my recollection (if I had any recollection in the first place). But as I get older (as well as my two half-siblings), his side of the family has to constantly throw it up at me (not so much the other siblings) that I am growing to look like him more and more, the older I get. He's been dead for over 10 years but that doesn't matter. Every single time they see me at one of the family's funerals, they say "Oh, you look more like your father with each passing day."

      Thank God they are all dying off now. At funerals, I make my visit snappy so that I limit my interaction with them.

      You can look like someone and blame it on DNA.

      You can make a conscious choice not to use your characteristics the same way as that someone (in how they lived their life). Just because his lifestyle wasn't that of a law abiding citizen and his life went down the drain due to his choice of associates, over-imbibing in booze and drugs, doesn't mean all his children's lives are going the same way.

      In years gone by, I've tried relentlessly to make my case that I am me and I am nothing like him, but it still made no difference in their eyes.

      So I guess what I'm trying to say (with this long litany) is that: it is a two way street. As hard as it is for You to not compare someone to a person in your memory, it is just as hard for Others to not associate you with someone from their memory.

      Good article with lots of food for thought.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, WillStarr; I think I'd be running 50/50. I've been wrong on both the positive and negative side when I've first met people. The only difference is that now I know to look for an association and factor that in my decisions about liking and disliking.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile imageAUTHOR

      Marilyn L Davis 

      3 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Bill; no, not you.....she smiles. We all do. I try to remember the old adage about not judging the book by its cover, but fall short of that ideal sometimes, and then there' past associations.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate both. ~Marilyn

    • WillStarr profile image


      3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I have found through the years that my positive first impressions are seldom wrong, while my negative first impressions are seldom right, so I try to reserve judgment these days.

      Good Hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's a fascinating topic, isn't it? I know I'm guilty of knee-jerk opinions about immediate like or dislike...and you have raised many valid points concerning why we all do this. Great read.


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