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Dudley Dowell
friendship
relationships
social intelligence
Sun, Apr 26, 2015 - 12:00 AM

How can I tell if someone likes me or not?


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Bo Bennett, PhD
Host, Doctor of Social Psychology

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Host, Doctor of Social Psychology

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

I am the host of this show :) For my complete bio, please see http://www.bobennett.com.
PrintSun, Apr 26, 2015 - 12:00 AM


Detecting if someone likes you or not is similar to detecting if someone is lying or not. "Lie detectors," human or machine, are actually anxiety detectors since the physical signs of anxiety are associated with lying. While a person can have anxiety about lying, he can also have anxiety about being accused of dishonesty—or he can simply be an anxious person. Sociopaths rarely show signs of anxiety when lying, so these detection methods can be more than useless, but lead to false negatives (i.e, thinking the person is telling the truth when they are in fact lying). As with lying, the physical and detectable signs associated with liking are often better indicators of something else.

It is important to point out that "interest" is very different from "liking," and I am focusing on the latter here. A wink and a smile by a stranger in a bar might be a strong sign of romantic or sexual interest, but these kinds of signs are often similar to taking interest in an object. Liking someone requires a deeper emotional involvement in the person that strengthens with exposure.

Consider the person's motivations. Some people are paid to be nice to others—basically anyone in the service industry. I am reminded of the guy who goes to a strip club and insists, "oh yeah, she wants me," referring to the dancer he just paid $20 for a 2-minute private dance. In many social situations, we are more like actors playing a role than humans communicating our authentic feelings to one another.

Consider the situation. A part of social intelligence is the ability to interpret the social interaction while incorporating situational factors. Is the other person distracted? Did they have a bad day? Are they in a rush? Do they have to pee? Don't assume that a person's behavior toward you has to do with them or you—there is a very important third player in the game of social interactions, and that is the situation.

Friendly people don't necessarily like you. There are friendly people who have warm and inviting personalities, strong social skills, and enough charisma and charm to convince people that they are their new "bestest" friend. The chances are, their interest in you is limited.

Unfriendly people don't necessarily dislike you. There are unfriendly people who have cold and standoffish personalities, poor social skills, and lack the charisma to motivate people to not fall asleep while interacting with them. These dispositional traits have nothing to do with how the person might feel about you.

Assume people like you. Unless you are a real jerk, the chances are people like you. To assume otherwise is to have an unrealistic and unhealthy self-image and perhaps an unwarranted pessimistic view of humanity.

The most accurate way of knowing if someone likes you or not is to ask them. But, of course, this can be awkward and is not recommended in most situations. If you like someone and are interested in building a relationship with that person, make an effort to reach out to that person on one or more occasions. A good sign that the person likes you is not just a response from that person, but a response that is conducive to further contact, such as questions or suggesting future plans together (e.g., "we should get together and eat caramels"). If you are finding that the relationship you are attempting to build is too one-sided, whether it is due to the other person not liking you or something else completely different, you may want to back off. There are many people in the world who would be honored to have a new friend, so your efforts might be better spent focusing on those who will reciprocate your friendship.
Bo Bennett, PhD
My Latest Book: https://www.uncomfortable-ideas.com
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Podcast Episode: How To Tell If Someone Likes You (or Not)

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Deborah
Thursday, April 30, 2015 - 01:14:26 PM
Althought the simplest way to find out if someone likes you or not is just to ask as Dr. Bo says. I would never recommend it. It's a sure way to get someone to dislike you. Very needy and overly aggressive is the opposite of self-confident. Think of the cool kid back in high school.

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Karen
Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 11:29:49 AM
Sometimes the easiest route is the best option. Why **not** just flat out ask someone? Let me qualify that by saying that being an adult, I would never say to someone "Do you like me?" I don't agree with you that it is a sign of neediness or aggression, but it certainly seems immature. And the cool kids back in high school—I never assumed that they were full of self-confidence. Sometimes kids act "cool" to avoid being bullied, to fit in, and/or to cover up inadequacies or low self-confidence. People can be very good actors.

Some years ago, I worked for a nonprofit in a position that required me to deal with all 130 staff on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, not all of them liked me. However, I still had to interact with them. It made my job a lot easier when I finally confronted a couple of those people, because their behavior towards me interfered with me doing my job well. So I had a sit-down with each of them to address the problem (it should be noted that I was not their boss or superior in anyway so I had no authority over them). They didn't think me "very needy and overly aggressive" at all. In fact, my relationship with those people improved, I was more effective in my role, AND they both told me that they had a lot of respect for me because I addressed the issue. Asking them what was wrong, why they didn't like me, helped to repair the relationship, not damage it further.

If having a conversation with someone who you think doesn't like you is "a sure fire way to get someone to dislike you" and it's enough for someone to decide you aren't "likable," it may be that you dodged a bullet with pursuing that friendship because that person, in my opinion, seems immature and superficial in how they evaluate and determine who to let into their circle of friends.

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Linda Williams
Monday, April 27, 2015 - 12:56:56 AM
This is a pretty open question. Are you asking about the opposite sex, co workers or just people in general. I personally know pretty quickly how my aura is accepted when I meet or greet someone by the vibes I get in return. If you really want to know how someone feels towards you, you have to first get into their space. Once you do, you will feel acceptance or a negative feeling. It could be their distrust towards everyone they meet, or something they are getting off of you. I believe for the most part, people are trusting of others and until you throw up a red flag, saying, "Not to enter my space," people will like you just because they feel the sincerity of your own presence. If that red flag goes up, it is you who has a problem. I have found that even the most hard to reach people are the ones who are most stand offish towards others. You have to be assertive to get them to allow you into themselves. Reach out to be allowed in!

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