Suffering from a shortage of good friends? Turns out folks may like you more than you think.
Or do they? Excerpt:
Erica Boothby of Cornell University, and her colleagues Gus Cooney, Gilliam Sandstrom, and Margaret Clark, of Harvard University, University if Essex, and Yale University, conducted a series of studies to find out what our conversation partners really think of us. In doing so, they discovered a new cognitive illusion they call “the liking gap:” our failure to realize how much strangers appreciate our company after a bit of conversation.
The researchers observed the disconnect in a variety of situations: strangers getting acquainted in the research laboratory, first-year college students getting to know their dorm mates over the course of many months, and community members meeting fellow participants in personal development workshops. In each scenario, people consistently underestimated how much others liked them.
The discrepancy in perspectives happened for conversations that spanned from 2 minutes to 45 minutes, and was long-lasting. For much of the academic year, as dorm mates got to know each other and even started to develop enduring friendships, the liking gap persisted.
The data also revealed some of the potential reasons for the divide: we are often harsher with ourselves than with others, and our inner critic prevents us from appreciating how positively other people evaluate us. Not knowing what our conversation partners really think of us, we use our own thoughts as a proxy—a mistake, because our thoughts tend to be more negative than reality.
We’re social animals, that’s for sure and for certain. And reading this was interesting for me, a peripatetic consultant, a guy who has been happily self-employed for over fifteen years and who has been pretty good at it. In the course of this I’ve learned a few things, not least of which was how to talk with folks. Why is this important?
Social discourse is important to almost everyone, and for a variety of reasons. But for those of us who make their livings as independent contractors, it’s essential. I’m apparently lucky to have been outfitted since my youth with what Mrs. Animal describes as “farm-boy charm” but the main thing in such matters is to be open, honest and forthright.
People like to do business with people they like. And, as we are social animals – and political animals – people who engage are usually seen as more likable.
If these Ivy League researchers had’a asked me, I could’a told ’em.