Would you rather be liked or would you rather be respected?
Of course, they aren’t mutually exclusive. There are plenty of people who are both liked and respected, and more on them later. Yet for the general populace, the balance normally tips one way or the other. I’ll wager that most of you reading this will be opting for ‘respect’. After all, it seems to be the more respectable choice, pardon the pun. Who wants to be just liked? Respect has weight behind it, a certain gravitas. Puppies are liked, as are rom coms and cupcakes. World leaders, Chairmen of companies, United Nations envoys – now these are respected. But I digress.
We all think we want to be respected, while in reality, what we really really want is to be liked. Earning respect is a process that involves principles, scruples and sometimes swimming against the flow. It involves saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. It involves a moral compass that cannot be compromised. It is an unflinching stance and it is a lonely place.
Being liked, on the other hand, is so much easier. Agree with everyone. Don’t have too many opinions, and if you do, hide them well. Be prepared to walk away from confrontation and controversy. Bury your head in the sand, align yourself with stronger personalities and as much as possible, sit on the fence.
Not all likeable people are cowards. Not all outwardly respectable people are morally upright. And why choose between one or the other?
Because, as one gets older, it’s important to have a belief system in place. It’s important to use one’s voice and one’s conscience to do the right thing, to champion the causes one believes in, and to do it without compunction or fear.
If the casualty to all this is being disliked, then so be it. Life cannot be lived by other people’s opinions of you. Therefore, if it is respect you aspire to, then be prepared for a little side dish of dislike too.
If all you wish for is to be liked, beware that it comes with its own set of pitfalls. In being universally liked (if such a thing is at all possible), you have no doubt bitten your tongue more times than you can think of, been walked over, been ignored and overlooked when it came to important decisions, and been put upon and/or taken for granted.
So, is there a way to straddle both? After all, as I mentioned before, some people manage both, to be liked and to be respected. How do they do it?
It’s quite simple really. They don’t care. They follow the path their heart and conscience leads them on. They crave neither popularity nor power. If they acquire these along the way, then it is an embellishment. It is by no means their raison d’être. These path breakers have their own share of people who dislike and disrespect them. The difference is that it doesn’t stop them. It barely affects them, and even if they register the negativity, they carry on regardless.
To these I doff my imaginary hat. For the rest of us, being respected and being liked is a sub conscious see saw. Approach with caution and handle with care.