Everybody says I’m such a disagreeable man! And I can’t think why! – Gilbert and Sullivan, “If You Give Me Your Attention” lyrics
Amidst floundering approval numbers, President Trump is baffled about why people don’t like him. “It can only be my personality,” he surmised. Well, maybe. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.
It got me wondering how many people feel similarly. We want to be liked and respected, but no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves feeling isolated and dumbfounded as to why other people may not like us. See if the following applies to you.
The movement from being clueless to clued-in often begins by replacing the addiction to blaming, shaming, or attacking others with a capacity for courageous introspection and entertaining the distasteful — but ultimately liberating — prospect that the cause might lie within ourselves.
Here are three reasons why we might be pushing away the affection that we desire.
1. Do You Care About People?
Wanting people to care about you and like you is a natural longing. But to what extent do you care about others’ well-being? If you’re adept at taking — always looking for what you can get without much bandwidth to notice what others might need from you, then it’s little wonder why people aren’t chomping at the bit to include you in their circle of friends.
How often do you offer your undivided attention to others? Do you inquire into how they’re doing, what’s happening in their world, or what they need to feel safe and happy? Or are you quick to talk about yourself and see how they might serve you?
People aren’t extensions of ourselves; they have a separate existence apart from us. What they feel and desire might be quite different than what you feel and want.
2. How’s Your Empathy?
When you hear about human suffering, do you perceive it as their problem and nothing you need to be concerned about? Do you believe they’re flawed or weak to experience life-challenges and difficulties?
Are you able to recognize when a person is hurting, afraid, or grieving? Are you familiar with those feelings within yourself? Or have you spent a lifetime trying to craft a life where sorrow doesn’t touch you?
Do you view uncomfortable emotions as the enemy — a threat to the image you want to project? Might you consider tapping into a different kind of strength — an emotional strength that expands your tolerance for unpleasant feelings such as fear, hurt, or embarrassment? Doing so might make you a larger person.
The way we deal with our own feelings determines how we’ll respond to others. For example, if embarrassment or shame is intolerable for us, perhaps because we had too much of it growing up, we might have learned to deal with it through the impulse to attack people before even noticing the shame that’s driving us. Angry outbursts might become our “go to” response that protect us from intolerable pain. Through a curious psychological sleight of hand, we might unknowingly transfer our shame to others so that we don’t have to feel it. But guess what? People won’t like us if they feel shamed.
If you see emotions as a nuisance, you’ll turn away from them — both within yourself and when others display them. It’s difficult to like you if you don’t register people’s feelings and respond with compassion.
A path forward is to pause long enough to relate to others in a non-judging, non-shaming way. But in order to do that, you need to cultivate empathy toward your own life of feelings. Emotions aren’t a weakness; they connect us with each other. Welcome to the human condition.
Everyone grows up with their fair share of loss, failure, and adversity. Try being more sensitive to other’s struggles. This would require that you embrace your own difficult and uncomfortable feelings with some degree of kindness, friendliness, and acceptance. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you to have normal human emotions. Embracing vulnerability makes you more human, potentially more kind, and thereby more attractive to people.
3. Check Your Arrogance Level
Do you pause to allow people to respond to your thoughts, views, and opinions or do you ride roughshod over others sensibilities? Can you see things from their viewpoint or do you quickly dismiss what’s not harmonious with your pre-existing beliefs? Is it possible that they’re seeing something that you’re not?
Do you believe you’re always right? What would it mean if you’re not? Are you strong enough to acknowledge that you’re wrong sometimes and to allow yourself to be influenced by others’ opinions? Do you cling to a rigidity that disallows you from changing your mind?
Arrogance is off-putting and destined to keep you isolated. Recognizing that you could be wrong is the dawning of wisdom for many people. Humility is attractive.
Everyone wants to feel that their views, feelings, needs, and humanity matter. If you can develop the resilience to extend your attention to others and honor their experience, you might find that people are naturally inclined to like you.
Experiment with a better balance between giving and receiving. Just like you, others want to be heard; they want to be happy and feel connected. Listen carefully and reflect back in a sincere way a bit of what you’re hearing. You might find that people love it, just as you do.
Being liked comes down to being kind, caring, and empathic toward people, recognizing that we’re all wanting the same things, and experiencing ourselves as a part of the human condition, rather than someone who is special or better than others.
The path toward being liked by others isn’t shrouded in mystery. All the great spiritual traditions teach us to love one another. Genuine spiritual leaders are loved because they loved us; they were kind, caring, and empathic.
If we can reach deep inside ourselves and extend even a small amount of caring, gentleness, and responsiveness toward others, we’re likely to find they appreciate and like us for doing so, even if we don’t do it perfectly. In fact, the more we try being perfect, the more that people will eventually see through our act. If we take the risk to honor and show our imperfect self, we might be pleasantly surprised with the human response we receive.