For a long time, I found it mysterious that people liked me. My sexual abuse history had taught me that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. So, why would anyone like me? They did but I found that suspicious. I sort of lived by that Groucho Marx motto that I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member.
Want to be liked? I think most of us do...but we aren't always sure what makes us likeable. Well, good news! A UCLA study asked participants to rank descriptors of likeability.
I can make myself more likeable by cultivating these characteristics...and so can you. Cool!
The essence of my work with the 7 Childhood Treasures is about creating better relationships, helping us like each other better, in a way. I wanted to know more about these traits. Do they line up with what I would predict from the Treasures' point of view?
The UCLA results show that other people like you if you are sincere, transparent, and sympathetic. And the nine descriptors that make you least likeable? 9. Oversharing; too much too soon. 8. Closed-minded. 7. Gossiping. 6. Name dropping. 5. Distraction by phone. 4. Drama; emotional hijacking. 3. Listening only to reply, not to hear. 2. No fun (continuously serious without a mix of fun). 1. Humble-bragging.
Perfect! To be optimally likeable, you just need some boundaries -- the Childhood Treasure of Independence -- and that is no surprise to me at all. Can you see how these 12 characteristics -- 3 likeable and 9 unlikeable -- are about your boundaries? Hang with me a minute to get the connection....
The hardest-to-understand aspect of healthy adult relationships is boundaries. I attribute this largely to a misunderstanding about what that term means.
A simple definition is the metaphor of skin. Your body's skin is the boundary of your physical body. You should also have a skin on your emotional body, your mental body, and your psychological body. Knowing where you end and the rest of the world begins is arguably the single most important ingredient for healthy relationships.
Although it seems like a no brainer that we all have these boundaries -- we all know where we end and the world begins -- I can assure you that most of us do not. And the more we need to find those boundaries we didn't develop at 2-3 years of age, the more unlikable we are! With boundaries, you can be sincere, transparent, and sympathetic or even empathetic. Without them, you will likely be someone who does some or all of the nine things in the unlikeable list. Why?
Think about it with me. If I have a healthy, pliable, breathing layer of "skin" that envelopes my mental "body," then I know what I think, believe, and understand. My opinions are clear to me and I know that my thoughts and opinions are not facts. I understand that my thinking is mine, not yours. Only with this clarity of distinction between my thoughts and yours can I be truly transparent about mine. My sincerity comes through because I'm not running a schtick, or "racket" on you, trying to sell you on having my ideas, rather than yours. I can listen to your thoughts and ideas without the need to pounce on them with my own (#3 of the unlikeable characteristics).
Likewise, I have a healthy skin on my emotional body, helping me know that my feelings are mine, not yours. Only when I now that your feelings are yours and mine are mine, can I show any sympathy for yours. Only with recognition and acceptance of, and true intimacy with my own emotional life, can I experience the empathy that aligns our separate experiences. I cannot ever know how you feel, not really. Yet, I have experienced grief, and you are now experiencing it. My experience was different from yours, to be sure, and I can still reach past the boundary that contains my unique grief, in sympathy that, no matter how different our experiences of it, grief is hard and often needs a friend.
Likewise, if I can't tell where my emotional life ends and yours begins, I'm prone to emotional hijacking, the dramatic "acting out" of my feelings that is #4 among the unlikeables.
When I don't have these mental and emotional boundaries on my self, these "skins" on my sense of who I am, then I am likely to need to manipulate your opinion of me, through humble-bragging, name dropping, over-sharing, and gossip (that is, over-sharing about you). I'll be closed-minded, because my shaky sense of my opinions and beliefs can't stand your input.
See what I mean? If you want to increase your likeability, then it's time for the "developmental do-over" on the toddler Treasure of Independence. Are you ready?
My first book on the 7 Childhood Treasures in your life -- Just Be Your Self-governed, Ego-aware, Leading, Free S.E.L.F. / Your Guide to Improve Any Relationship -- will be available by the end of summer. Learn how to assess your Treasures' strengths and "do-over" the developmental pathways you missed. Watch my Facebook author page @Dr.L.CaroLScott and my Instagram feed @dr.l.carol to keep close to the launch!