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6 ways actors fake chemistry with people they don’t like — and how you can apply them in work and life

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  • The workplace is full of challenges. Sometimes, that includes getting along with each other. 
  • Since actors have to pretend to like each other all the time, Insider asked how they do it.
  • Their top six tips included asking questions, making the other person laugh, and focusing on what you do like about them.

Congratulations! You just landed your dream job. There’s only one problem: You can’t stand your coworker. 

It’s a scenario familiar to many people in the workplace. For professional actors, it can be the norm, as they’re often called upon to fake chemistry with people they either don’t know, or worse, loathe. 

How can regular people learn from actors when it comes to faking chemistry? Insider recently spoke to several actors to find out, and these are their top six tips. 

1. Ask questions 

Acting interested in a colleague’s life can be a great icebreaker, said Gino Dilorio, who’s appeared in numerous films, soap operas, plays, and TV commercials. 

“I’m trying to give this person the impression that I actually give a damn about their day-to-day existence,” said Dilorio, who is also a playwright and theater professor at Clark University. “The funny thing is, you’ll usually find that eventually you do form chemistry, because the person on the receiving end is amazed that anyone asked them questions about their life, work, or hobbies.”

2. Use substitution

Sometimes it helps when you imagine a beloved friend or relative in a disliked colleague’s place. For veteran Broadway actress Kate Chapman, this visualization trick has done wonders when working with certain male coworkers she found “unpalatable.” 

To overcome her aversion, she would imagine them as one of her grandfathers or an adored uncle. Even a movie character who delighted her would suffice. 

“Because I was ‘nice’ to them during our scenes, they’d gravitate toward me offstage, too,” said Chapman, whose extensive credits include “Mary Poppins,” “Les Misérables,” and “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

 “While my [coworkers] rarely followed up with my grandfather’s charm, I was already fully entrenched in the memory of [my grandfather] being completely naughty and delicious at the same time,” Chapman said.

3. Fake enthusiasm

Yes, faking enthusiasm is easier said than done. Actors, unlike civilians, are very adept at creating a veil of illusion by feigning emotions. But honestly, an upbeat attitude can be infectious. 

Rio Rocket, a New York City-based TV, film, and voiceover actor, adheres to this best practice when working with actors he finds less than endearing. 

“I always strive to maintain a positive attitude so that everyone feels comfortable doing their job,” he said. “My priority is seeing the production to completion successfully, and that often means that regardless of my personal feelings or level of chemistry with my colleagues, I have to treat everyone as if I’m thrilled to work with them. Someone I dislike would be none the wiser.”

4. Focus on what you like about the person

Believe it or not, the coworker who makes your flesh crawl might have a trait you enjoy, like a wicked sense of humor. Or perhaps you admire their diligent work ethic. You can leverage that to your advantage when attempting to form a positive work dynamic. 

Anthony Bradford, an East Coast actor whose TV credits include “The Equalizer,” “White Collar,” and “Gossip Girl,” said this is a strategy he likes to use when working with someone he doesn’t care for. 

“I try to make an effort to find a positive aspect of them that I can focus on,” he said. “Sometimes those we may not get along with can be great teachers in terms of patience, focus, and communication. Strangely enough, that initial spark of dislike can turn into a great friendship once walls are down and you get to really know each other.”

5. Make them laugh

Humor can be highly effective at defusing tension. Brooke Burgstahler, an actress whose credits include “Mad Men,” “General Hospital,” and “Black-ish,” said the best way she creates chemistry is by making colleagues chuckle.

“I make a humorous observation about the experience I’m sharing with a person, and I try to lighten the mood,” said Burgstahler, who’s also the host of an online show “World of Weed.” “This helps to make others feel comfortable and safe to be their true selves. And if you’re not a particularly funny person, you should work on that!”

6. Be professional

Even if you don’t like a coworker, it’s simple good manners — and professionalism — to treat them with respect. It also helps to park the ego at the door.

Anthony J. James, an Atlanta-based film actor whose recent credits include “Beyond Adversity” on Amazon Prime and “Bad Trip” on Netflix, recounted an experience that involved him being paired romantically with an actress he didn’t like. Right before the director yelled “Action,” the actress told James that she had been eating garlic the previous night and throughout that morning. 

Despite that, the scenes wrapped early, and the director was satisfied with the takes. 

“You couldn’t tell we hated each other,” said James, adding that the experience left him with a key takeaway on interacting with disliked colleagues. 

“After you’re done at the end of the day, you don’t have to be buddies and go out for drinks,” he continued. “But if you put the focus into the work you’re doing, things become way easier.”

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