Does she really like me? Am I nice, funny or interesting enough? Is it me, or is he looking for a way to escape our conversation? I am sure she thinks I am boring…
Sounds familiar? I can reassure you, this happens to everybody. But you should stop doing this right now, as people usually like you more than you think yourself!
Doubting About Yourself
Even when you are not especially shy or introvert, you probably have wondered sometimes what the person in front of you was thinking about you. Usually this happens when we are out of our professional context or when we have to talk about ourselves. Do they like me? Am I funny enough? Am I not boring them with my story? Do I speak too much, or too little?
Research has shown that most people get uncertain in social interaction with other people. They tend to criticize their own behaviour asking themselves whether they should behave differently or if they should change subject of conversation. But most of the time these worries are completely unnecessary. It is shown that new discussion partners like us more than we think!
We tend to think in a very negative way about ourselves, where others find us nice and friendly.
This is what is called the Liking Gap, according to Erica Boothby and Gus Cooney from Harvard University. This so called gap between perception and reality means that we underestimate how nice people think we are after having talked with us for a while. Even though we think they must not have liked us, the opposite is often true. They have discovered that the liking gap exists in both medium long and long conversations.
What is strange is that the liking gap does not disappear once we get to know each other better. In some cases it might even last for months or up to a year after having met.
Social relations are important to us. It has always been important to interact with other people in order to succeed in life, this is nothing new. A conversation is the first step, and we want to give a good first impression.
We try to pay attention to the following three things every time we meet someone new:
- We tend to put ourselves under pressure to appear as interesting as possible and to say intelligent things, so that the other person likes our conversation. W
- While doing that, we try to control the perception the other person might have from us and influence this perception whenever possible.
- As if this is not enough, we also try to evaluate what the other person is thinking of us, which is of course impossible.
So when meeting a new person, we give ourselves already three tasks that we have to execute at the same time. So much for being spontaneous!
We think we are doing great in multitasking, but it is impossible to do these three things at the same time when you are meeting a new person. The best thing we can do is switch between the three observations. It is more important to concentrate on the content and not lose the sense of the conversation. In the meantime you want to control your own behaviour. If you have to keep an eye on what the other person might think of you, you are overdoing it and it will be difficult to manage everything.
It is possible that the liking gap exists because we are too critical towards ourselves, that we do not pick up on signals of the other person. The content is much more important than anything else and as soon as we try to evaluate what the perception of the other is, it is often too pessimistic in our opinion.
This liking gap seems to be something innocent in the beginning. You could compare it to modesty, which is something that is this Instragram-era is more than welcome. But if you constantly have the idea that people do not like you or do not find you interesting, you will always experience difficulties being comfortable in these kinds of situations.
This can result in a withholding attitude, or even in avoiding new contacts. If you think after a conversation that someone must find you boring or not interesting, you will hesitate to start a conversation with this person the next time you see will him. And this is just the way you see it, it might not even be the truth! Maybe this person thought you were very interesting and then you have missed an opportunity!
When you allow the liking gap in your head, your self-confidence will suffer from that and you could miss an opportunity to make new friends. This would be a shame of course!
What you could do to avoid these negative thoughts, is thinking of the liking gap as soon as a false perception comes into your mind. Instead, tell yourself: “maybe I am thinking too bad about myself. Is it really true that this person doesn’t like me?”
Take it easy on yourself and do not expect too much from a first conversation. Don’t pay too much attention to what you are saying and how you behave, instead concentrate yourself on the other person. Things will get more spontaneous this way.
Try to pick up the nice words the person might say to you, check for the acknowledging head nod he gives to you. These are signals that the person is appreciating your conversation.
Where Does The Liking Gap Come From?
The idea behind the linking gap comes from the fact that people are constantly looking at themselves. “How do I come across?, Am I not making a fool of myself? ”
A test has been made where someone with a strange yellow shirt had been sent into a large auditorium. The test person felt uncomfortable doing this, but you know what came out? They completely overestimated how people would react to him. You know why? Because everyone is just busy with him or herself! We always feel that everyone is paying attention to us, but this is absolutely not the case!
Do not put too much pressure on yourself and enjoy meeting new people. Even though social relationships are important, you do not have to be liked by everybody! Not everything depends on this conversation. So take the weight of your shoulders and relax!