Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Social Allergies with Students

I know this sounds crazy — but do you sometimes feel you are allergic to certain people? Every time you’re around them, your body or emotions react negatively?

Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of Social Intelligence, talks about “social allergies.” It’s a term that explains how you can begin to react negatively even to people you love, like family and friends. Their quirks that were once funny now get on your nerves. It is literally a “social allergic reaction.” I bet someone just came to mind didn’t they?

Here’s what we need to do. First, remember that psychoanalysts remind us that no one person can meet all of our emotional needs. Healthy people dump that idea fast. Humans have seven major neural systems (in their brain) that drive what we want to do and who we want to be with. We tend to want to be around the people who meet the most of those drives. When you are with colleagues or students with whom you work, consciously remind yourself of their value. What is it that first drew you to them or made you want to respect them? If you’re a parent, remember the joy your child brought you or the qualities you admire in them even as a kid.

Second, seek out people (adults or students) with whom you experience a mutually beneficial relationship. Seek to add value to others based on their emotional, intellectual or physical needs. It may simply be a word of encouragement or a confirmation that what they do matters. We can adapt and learn to enjoy people, but must realize it’s important to find those unique people we just “connect with.”

These two steps work like good medicine. They may just be the cure for your social allergies with certain people. (Whom will remain nameless.)

What are your thoughts? What people skills do you employ with difficult people?

Looking to increase your communication skills? Take our free communication assessment based on Habitudes for Communicators: The Art of Engaging Communication.



  1. Mepremohopkins on January 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    What a great post! Thanks, Tim.

    To share one of my own social allergies… My worst one is a boastful characteristic in a person, or a ‘one-up-er’ (you know– the person who always has to top whatever you just shared with something better). I tend to competitively mirror this behavior back, even though I really don’t like it. Ugh.

    I’m excited to put this ‘good medicine’ into practice! Thanks again for the great post.

    • Tim Elmore on January 21, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Thanks for sharing and for your encouragement. :o)

  2. tamiheim on January 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Great post Tim. I pray. If I know that I am going into a challenging situation or will be with a challenging person – I ask God to open my heart and help me see them with His eyes and heart.

    • Tim Elmore on January 21, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Tami — I love that. What an exemplary attitude and way we should all act. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Pam Pate on January 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

    This article was very helpful to me and got me thinking about something…there are some cool comparisons with physical and social allergies:
    1. Physical allergies trigger your natural immune response (defense mechanism) because you are sensitive to a particular substance (person/situation) and your body (spirit)perceives this as a threat to your survival.
    2. The development of these sensitivities can be the result of genetics or excessive exposure to an allergen.
    Interesting… Thanks to Roger Glidewell for suggesting your website to me!

Leave a Comment

Social Allergies with Students