The Liking Gap

Recently I read there is a “liking gap”, you can find this idea explained on various article publications and even HBR. After reading I thought about how this concept could help drive teams to higher functioning performance. In summary, researchers placed different groups of people in a room and asked them to get to know each other. After, the participants were surveyed and asked to rate the likability of the people they spoke with and how they felt people thought about them. I bet you could guess what happened. People generally liked others and thought that others didn’t like them. Reading this made me think about a few different concepts at play particularly at work.

Mirror lake in Yosemite National Park

You may be aware of this concept already, many might find the effect to be common. It is important though to push past these thoughts and think how we can apply it to our lives. To apply the effect let me summarize it a little one more time. When placed in situations where we are meeting people for the first time we are more likely to interpret their feelings about us as less positive. In contrast, we are more likely to find others more likable. According to research the effect was greater among peers, less between managers and direct reports. This means we are underestimating our value we bring to others.

My reflection on this is two part, one for the self the other as application. First, on ourselves. It’s no ones surprise that mental health is a subject that is becoming more and more important. Part of this paradigm is our belief or confidence in our self-efficacy. Our belief that we can perform to meet specific goals, I believe, this is at the core of our mental health. And so it seems when we encounter new people this belief is challenged but only by the narrative we tell ourselves, or our second guess. This effect then should be considered when we are reflecting on our experience in a group. We all need to have a higher view of ourselves and give a little more credit. And as with everything there is balance to be created here. You have value, worth, and ability but your uniqueness isn’t the only recipe to your teams success. Bringing me to our communication.

Santa Cruz Island

Knowing that others are likely feeling this way when they meet us, we can change their narrative by inserting a different one. When we find ourselves with new people or people in general we can communicate what we appreciate about them. It would seem to me that if most of us guess wrong about ourselves we should be telling each other how much we value one another. This would have at least two benefits. First, people would leave the interaction feeling better about themselves. The other would be keeping ourselves from narcissism, as we increase our appreciation of others our ego stays in a healthy check. We can change how others interpret the interaction by telling them the value they bring. Which has added benefits to ourselves outside of the liking effect.

The point is not to get everyone to like you, that simply won’t happen. We are pre-disposed to limit the value we bring to others especially in the first interaction. That effect can be detrimental to the speed at which a team grows and develops. As an individual we should be second second guessing the value we bring to others and a particular situation. We should also be practicing positive communication with others. Tell each other what we value or appreciate about them. With little changes to ourselves we might be able to make a larger, long lasting change.

I hope that we can take this and grow a little bit better today.