In my third novel, one of the characters says to Percy:
“I don’t dislike you, Percy. I just don’t like you, and I’ll tell you why. In all the years we’ve known each other, you’ve never once given me a reason to want to like you. Maybe I did the same to you, and that’s why we are where we are. Between you and me, we ought to work on that. It might make a difference down the line.”
The words surprised me. I wondered what the speaker meant.
That may sound peculiar. How is it that I wrote something that makes sense and yet is difficult for me, the writer, to fully grasp?
I puzzled over this and came to some conclusions.
Here are my thoughts:
Existence holds no guarantee of likability.
Some act as if being liked is a right, such as freedom of speech. This is an extreme point of view, but they are partly correct. Likeability is more or less a given within a family, but with those beyond that sphere, we must make others want to like us, or they won’t. After all, why should they? At the least we should make them not want to actively dislike us.
Age is also a factor. Our likeability as children expires after a certain number of years. Maybe it’s the pimples. Maybe it’s our attitude. Often, we don’t notice. I wasn’t fully aware of that for a long time, and that proved costly. Some never seem to get the message.
Looking deeper, I realized that I didn’t want to make myself likeable. I was often told never to desire to be liked or admired. The reasoning was that by doing so, one would attempt to please everyone. Difficult choices are not always popular and having everyone “like” you is impossible. On the other hand, not caring what others think is quick and convenient. Correcting one’s thinking, where it might be in error, requires understanding why one thinks the way one does in the first place. Once I did, I felt better with both points of view.
I finally concluded that it is as much my responsibility to instill in others their desire to want to like me as it is theirs to do the same. If we all did that, wouldn’t we all get along a bit better?