If you’re of a certain age, you may well remember Sally Field’s famous Oscar Acceptance speech in 1985 when she won Best Actress for her role in Places in the Heart. Here is a short clip of her speech:
Field’s gushing acceptance speech is well remembered and has since been both admired as earnest and parodied as excessive. Field was actually making a humorous reference to dialog from her role in Norma Rae, but many people missed the connection (myself included). Field even parodied herself when she delivered the line (often misquoted as “You like me, you really like me!” in a Charles Schwab commercial.
But this isn’t meant to be a post about Sally Field, it’s about the fact that most of us, like Sally Field, tend to underestimate how much people like us.
In Dan Ariely’s latest Wall Street Journal column, he references a 2018 paper by Erica J. Boothby and colleagues published a paper which looked at the “liking gap”—the difference between how much we think other people like us and how much they actually like us.
In one of their studies, they asked first-year college students to rate how much they liked a given roommate and how much they believed their roommates liked them, starting in September and continuing throughout the school year.
They found that participants systematically underestimated how much they were liked. In fact, it wasn’t until May, after living together for eight months, that people accurately perceived how much they were liked.
It seems like it took Sally Field a bit longer than eight months to realize people liked her, and I’ve often felt the same way sometimes.
I don’t think we ever really know what people think of us, so this research is refreshing and should give us the confidence to operate under the assumption that people like us. I think doing so allows us to be more open and honest with people when we take such an attitude.
So the next time you’re feeling down in the dumps and thinking that nobody likes you, just say to yourself, in your best Sally Field voice, “you like me, right now, you like me!”
And it will turn your day around because it’s true.