Do you think it’s important that you like everyone you meet?
Then why is it important that everyone you meet likes you?
(“Wait, TJ, I answered yes to that first question!”
Oh, okay. Then there’s your problem.
If you believe that it’s important to like everyone, you’re saying that your preferences, needs, wants, and interests are unimportant as far as who you should like. And that makes no sense since your preferences and interests and so on are specifically about what you like and not.
And besides, I don’t believe you. Because I’m pretty sure you would be perfectly happy not liking someone who broke your phone or threw a rock at your car just for the fun of it. So, change your answer to no, and read on;)
One of the reasons so many people struggle to be themselves and to feel comfortable and confident socially is that they have a need to be liked by (almost) everyone.
And one of the reasons this happens is because we overestimate how much influence an individual’s feelings for us will have over our life.
“If she doesn’t like me, no one will!” “If they don’t want to be my friends, others will know I’m a loser.” “If they don’t think I’m cool, they’ll tell everyone!”
Yet, if you don’t like someone – do you make sure they suffer for it? Or tell everyone else to stay away from them? Do you make an effort to ensure that they stay lonely? Or publicly label them a loser?
I truly hope you don’t.
The spotlight effect.
In psychology, the tendency to overestimate how much others notice what’s happening to us is called the spotlight effect. And one of the ways it manifests is that we believe that it matters to the rest of the world what someone else thinks of us.
We believe that others see everything we experience. So when we experience that someone might not like us, our irrational fears kick in:
“Surely everyone else can see that this person doesn’t like me, right? And even if they don’t see it, that person will tell them, won’t he? And when people find out, then they’re likely to start agreeing with that person, aren’t they?”
(The answer to all those questions is no, by the way.)
These thoughts make it extremely important for us to make sure that everyone likes us. After all, that’s the only way we can make sure that the dislike-for-us-virus doesn’t spread. That we look good. Right?
Except that’s not how things work in real life. There’s no way we can make others like us. Even when we try our best to be as nice and friendly and pleasant as possible – some people won’t like that. Whether we lie and say we don’t like something – or we’re honest and say that we love it, there will always be people who agree – and people who disagree.
So why should we bother doing anything other than being completely honest about who we are and what we’re thinking?
There is no one answer to being liked. And therefore, it is impossible to purposefully do things that will make everyone like us.
The simple truth is that no one is liked by everyone. That’s just not how social psychology works. And that is perfectly fine.
Because when we stop working so hard to make everyone like us, we’ll have a lot more time and energy left over to discover those where the mutual liking will be easy and effortless.
Don’t let those you are incompatible with steal so much of your time and energy that you have none left over to discover those who are right for you.