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What's Better Than Being Likable?

It's better to be interesting than likable.

I don't know if it's always been this way or if it's a development of today's world, but these days it certainly seems that interesting trumps likable.

Don't believe me?

  • Nobody likes somebody else to have been in a traffic accident, but all the rubber-neckers on the interstate sure do find it interesting.
  • I don't know of very many people who would say they like the series of decisions Tiger Woods has recently admitted to having made in his personal life, but there are lots of people that think it's very interesting.
  • Shannon and I get so creeped-out by some of the plot twists of CBS's Criminal Minds, but we keep watching nearly every week.
  • I don't particularly like men's college basketball, but my interest is captured by March Madness.
  • I don't like Butler University (and to be fair, I don't dislike the school either), but I was glued to this year's NCAA Men's Basketball final.
  • And we don't have much of a reason to like any number of Hollywood celebrities whom we've never met, but so many people think the tabloids and gossip magazines in the checkout lines are interesting enough to thumb through.

Maybe in this information age we define "interesting" by the value we place on our finite attention, when there are a seemingly infinite number of things vying for our attention. Or maybe it's because there are so many options to which we can give our attention, we simply find more things interesting. Either way, things we find interesting seem to be more valuable to us than the things we like; we're willing to be interested in things we do not like. These two qualities, likable and interesting, they're not polar opposites or mutually exclusive, but they're also not identical.

Now, I realize this is written by somebody who can be very UN-likable. I know. I've been told.

And, I realize that what one person or group of people finds interesting can be something in which others have little or no interest.

The real sweet-spot is to find that thing, or create that experience, or be that person, who is both likeable AND interesting.


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