Likeability is a highly attractive personality trait. But it can be a trap, too. I’ve heard the same story hundreds of times, expressed in different ways. “We had so much fun togther.” “She was so easy to talk to.” “Everybody liked him. They always wanted to be around him.” “She seemed so carefree and easy-going.” “She/he made me smile.” As is always the case, the initial attraction was powerful. Sometimes, overwhelming. That’s because likeability is an inherently appealing personality trait. But just being likeable doesn’t make a person a decent character.
Decency of Character
As I define in all of my books, character is that moral and ethical aspect of personality. Character reflects a person’s values and allegiance to those values. And one has to possess many traits besides likeability to be of sound character. They include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Caring capacity (i.e. empathy)
And when it comes to intimate relationships, some other traits really matter, too:
- Commitment capacity
Finding all the above traits in someone in our age of Character Disturbance is a real challenge. And the biggest single reason that I’ve found that relationships fail is because two people find all too much that they like in one another, without sufficiently considering the other character qualities necessary to forge a healthy and lasting partnership.
Repeating the Same Mistake
Some folks seem to have a particularly difficult time with intimate relationships. And many times, it’s because they make the same mistake. On the front end, they let likeability govern their choice. But after getting to know the rest of their partner’s character, they “fall out of like.” In fact, they might come to more than dislike their partner. They may even come to loathe them. That happens either when they recognize the rest of their charcter or discover their true character (if previously deviously hidden). Then, often they go looking for someone they can like again. And sadly, by contrast, even the most impaired characters can appear quite likeable, especially in the aftermath of a really toxic relationship.
Becoming a Better Judge
Three of my books and several articles on the blog offer advice on becoming a better judge of character. And perhaps nothing is as important to an intimate relationship as properly vetting a partner. But you have to know what to look for. Some things matter a lot. Some things don’t. Likeability is toward the bottom of the list. And, perhaps most importantly, you have to let the evidence speak for itself. These days, people will tell you anything to make you like them – to win you over. Sadly, many times, you simply can’t trust that. You have to really do your homework, lest you end up very sorry.
I’ll have much more to say on these matters in the coming weeks.