How to Stop Worrying Whether or Not They Like You – Free Ebook

One of the most acute questions we ask ourselves
in relation to new friends and acquaintances

is whether or not they like us. The question
feels so significant because, depending on

how we answer it in our minds, we will either
take steps to deepen the friendship or, as

is often the case, immediately make moves
to withdraw from it so as to spare ourselves

humiliation and embarrassment. But what is
striking and sad is how essentially passive

we are in relation to this enquiry. We assume
that there is a more or less binary answer,

that it is wholly in the remit of the other
person to settle it – and that there is

nothing much we could do to shift the verdict
one way or the other. Either someone wants

to be our friend – or they don’t – and
the answer, while it is about us, is essentially

disconnected from any of our own initiatives.
We are hereby failing to apply to other people

a basic lesson we can appreciate well enough
when we study the functioning of our own judgements:

we often don’t know what we think of other
people. Our moods hover and sway. There are

days when we can see the point of someone
and others when their positive sides elude

us entirely. But, and this is the key point,
what usually helps us to decide what someone

means to us is our sense of what we mean to

The possibility of friendship between people

therefore frequently hangs in the balance
because both sides are privately waiting for

a sign from the other one as to whether or
not they are liked – before they dare to

show (or even register) any enthusiasm of
their own. Both sides proceed under the tacit

assumption that there is some a priori verdict
about their value that the other person will

be developing in their mind which has no connection
to how they themselves behave and is impervious

to anything they say or do. Under pressure,
we forget the fundamental malleability within

the question of whether someone wants to be
friends with us or not. Most of it depends

on how we behave to them. If we have a little
courage and can keep our deep suspicions of

ourselves and our terror of their rejection
of us at bay, we have every opportunity to

turn the situation in our direction. We can
dare to persuade them to see us in a positive

light – chiefly by showing a great deal
of evidence that we see them in a positive

light. We can apply the full range of techniques
of charm: we can remember small things about

them, display an interest in what they have
been up to, laugh at their witty moments and

sympathise with them around their sorrows.
Though our instinct is to be close to superstitious

in our understanding of why people like us,
we have to be extremely unlucky to land on

people who genuinely show no interest in a
friendship with us once we have carried out

a full set of charming manoeuvres with any
level of sincerity and basic tact.

Friendships cannot develop until one side

takes a risk of showing they are ready to
like even when there’s as yet no evidence

that they are liked back. We have to realise
that whether or not the other person likes

us is going to depend on what we do, not – mystically
– what we by nature ‘are’, and that

we have the agency to do rather a lot of things.
Even though we may initially get very few

signs of their interest (they might be looking
a little distracted and behaving in an off-hand

way), we should assume that this is only a
legacy of a restraint that springs from fear

that they are not able to please – and that
so long as we keep showing them warmth and

encouragement to appease their self-suspicion,
the barriers will eventually come down. It

is sad enough when two people dislike each
other. It is even sadder when two people fail

to connect because both parties defensively
but falsely guess that the other doesn’t

like them – and yet, out of low self-worth,
don’t take any risk whatever to alter the

situation. We should stop worrying quite so
much whether or not people like us, and do

that far more interesting and socially-useful
move: concentrate on showing that we like


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