Let’s face it, most of us want to be well thought of - a natural desire which is normally and quite easily achieved by learning to be likeable. Yet some people want more than that. Some crave attention 24 hours a day, while others are determined to be admired, envied, emulated and even adored.
In itself, of course, there’s nothing wrong with popularity. Problems arise by the means we use to acquire it. Take Gemma*, a real class act. Like Alice Hadwin, one of the characters from The Runaway Children, Gemma is slim, pretty, witty and always in style, a real trendsetter if ever there was one. Unlike Alice, however, not only does Gemma turn heads, but her own dainty skull has been turned so fast it’s spinning at 90 miles an hour! In this girl’s (admittedly stunning green) eyes, no one will ever ‘put her in the corner’ and anyone who tries is treated to blistering verbal attacks, behind-the-back sniggering and general cold shoulder treatment from Gemma and her ego-stroking cronies.
Gemma is only 14 but already showing the traits of a pushy mother whose designer-clad, hot-housed offspring will be forced to place themselves at the centre of the universe, next to the planet Venus and two or three paces behind their Mum. Currently, Gemma is a teenage bully on her way to a manipulative middle-age, patrolling each stage of her life with a ‘me-first’ agenda and demanding not just popularity but all out supremacy – whatever the cost!
Then there’s Robert*. Nice lad. Too nice, some would say. He desperately wants to be popular but his methods are very different to Gemma’s. Robert never demands attention; he wheedles for it, attaches himself to the ‘in’ people and goes along with everything they say. A company 'Yes' man in the making, he exists to please. He’ll laugh at their jokes even when they’re not funny. He’ll accept a reefer or other noxious substance even though he doesn’t really want it. And he’ll fall in with whatever his pack leader does, even if it’s risky, cruel or dangerous.
In contrast, a likeable – as opposed to popular - person doesn’t look to others for approval. Nor do they seek their own glory or try to force others to admire them. They simply do what they believe is right. They treat others as they’d like to be treated themselves. And, rather than be self-absorbed, they take a personal interest in the people they meet.
A truly likeable person has empathy, is approachable, trustworthy, modest and kind. He or she may not seek to be the centre of attention, but will invariably be the one to whom friends, classmates and colleagues turn to in calamity, when they need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.
And likeability never depends on following the crowd. On the contrary, to be respected and even admired, be prepared to stand up for what you believe in, whether it’s popular or not.
Am I determined to be the centre of attention, even if this means being bullying, spiteful or manipulative?
Do I try too hard to fit in with my peers, even when their speech and actions go against my principles?
Or, do I consider the feelings of others, being prepared to listen to their problems and help them whenever I can?
In five years time, will any of the people I'm trying to impress remember my NAME?
* Not their real names