Likeability Does Not Necessarily Reflect Good Character


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):

  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Caring capacity (i.e. empathy)
  • Honesty
  • Sincerity
  • Integrity
  • Industriousness

And when it comes to intimate relationships, some other traits really matter, too:

  • Selflessness
  • Faithfulness
  • Commitment capacity
  • Concientiousness

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.


7 thoughts on “Likeability Does Not Necessarily Reflect Good Character

  1. Thank you. It’s your constant posts, with variations on your points that sometimes hit home for me. This is one. Everyone’s situation is so different, it’s hard for every post whether yours or others’s I follow to crack the facade of confusion in my particular situation. Likeability, yes, I saw that in her. Carefree and easygoing? Confident? Yes, yes , and yes, but the more I went into the relationship/friendship, the more red flags until I hit a breaking point, after which, a fallout, and an attempt to understand what happened. Luckily, for other reasons, I had already touched on one of your books, so I just went deeper into your work. It’s slow going convincing myself of it all but here I go. Thanks again.

    1. When we were children we should have all learned that appearances are deceitful and that some of the wisest people are grumpy old men. But we’re living in an infant society.

  2. This is so true. Thank you do much for these blogs, they help me so much to keep in seeing all in the right perspective.

  3. “But just being likeable doesn’t make a person a decent character.”

    “These days, people will tell you anything to make you like them – to win you over.”

    I have to always remember these things so that I do not make the same mistakes again of trusting people so easily.

  4. It’s almost impossible to function when unable to trust other people. Yet, most people don’t deserve to be trusted. I’ts a no-win setup for decent people. Good people are screwed, the world over. Some more than others. I blame the perps of society, not the victims of said predatory persons.

    Likeability is a trap. Just as charm is a deception device. It’s all bait. A ruse. A lure being used to hook a target. The only way to tell is to see what happens over time and who has time to start that process over again with so many people failing the test? Life is short. Seems people are screwed if they don’t luck out with some good character, high quality folks in their lives.

    It’s like going car shopping. You can’t trust easily but yet you need a car. So what is a person to do? Car salesman are notorious for being predatory. What does a person do? Same goes for workplaces. Or doctors. Or even neighbors/ Especially applies to the dating scene. Lots of horrendous marriages start with a year or two of fake good until the wife-beater is assured his target is sufficiently trapped and beaten down so as to not be able to leave him.

    Anyone have any guidelines or rules of thumb they use in any of these situations?

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