Aaron Tang shares his lessons on the path to love.
When I was a kid, I wanted everyone to like me.
Actually, I still do.
I once had a psychometric analysis done at one of those weird training events that HR forces you to go to. They told me that I was “an owl.” But really, I think I’m a teddy bear.
When this whole “Internet writer thing” happened, all of the sudden, I had anonymous people showing up on my website telling me I’m a cocky asshole.
Why did people hate me? I’m so nice. It was jarring. But I didn’t curl up and hide. I figured out a way to process the hate, and move forward towards the love I want.
This is what I learned on the path to survival and love.
How to be Interesting
I once read an article titled “How to be the Most Interesting Guy in the Room.” Surprisingly from the title, it wasn’t the typical drivel that you see on the Internet nowadays. It was specific advice focused on one point: to be interesting, you need to have opinions.
By contrast, “nice guys” like me tend to take one of the below approaches:
- They try to be agreeable with everyone: “Hey, if I agree with everyone then they’ll all like me right?”
- They keep all opinions to themselves, for fear of upsetting anyone: “Hey, if I don’t offend anyone then they’ll all like me right?”
Unfortunately it’s also an approach that makes nice guys extremely forgettable.
“But if I take vocal stands for what I believe in, won’t people hate me?”
Yes. They will.
It’s risky, but that’s kinda the point.
How to Gain Respect
If you’re a teddy bear like me, maybe you think your self-worth is measured by how many people like you. Or how many friends you have on Facebook.
The thought of being disliked is terrifying.
But trying to gain friends by not losing them is a poor strategy. It’s what James Altucher would call “a fear-based strategy”. And I think it’s horribly influenced by loss aversion.
Here’s the alternate point of view, which I much prefer: Criticism and rejection are a necessary part of finding true friends. If you’re not willing to go through that, you’re not going to find many.
Think of your values as a filter; a gateway to your world. Some people are going to like them, and some are not. But if you never show them to the world, everyone is just going to be neutral to you. Or even forget that you exist.
Express them, and some will naturally hate you—but you’ll also gain the respect of those who believe in the same things.
“When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity… you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others”
– Robert Greene, 48 Laws of Power –
How to Make Enemies
Here’s an extreme example: presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump makes people take a stand on him quickly. Is Donald Trump aware that large numbers of people hate him? I’m sure he is.
But he doesn’t care. He’s banking on the fact that he’ll be able to coerce a slightly larger number of people into loving him. Some data scientist probably did the math for him: “You can still win if X% of the country hates you; as long as you stoke the emotions of the other Y%.”
I’m not a fan. But if there’s something Donald Trump can teach us, it’s this: you can still be loved; even if you’re hated. Just by different sets of people.
The one caveat to all this: Have strong opinions and take a stand—but don’t trample on other people’s rights. There’s a big difference between believing in something, and hurting other people by forcing it down their throats.
And you don’t have to call people who disagree with you losers.
How to Find Love
Often, when people meet someone new, they try to shape their personalities to match their love interest. Like the nice guy who bends over backwards to try and please his target’s every desire.
It’s a horrible mindset that makes both women and men lose respect.
But even if things move forward—it’ll be a horrible relationship. Because it’s not two compatible people coming together in a partnership; it’s one person trying to change his personality so the other loves him.
Instead, the better – growth-based – mindset is this: “I’ll show her the best version of myself. But an authentic one. And we’ll see if we’re compatible, and if things work out.”
“If not, that’s okay. Someone else will love me for who I am.”
Someone else will love you for who you are.
I still want people to like me. But to figure out whether they like me or dislike me, whether they love me, or hate me, I need to be open enough to show them the real me.
Starting down on this path doesn’t require changing your personality to being “the interesting opinionated guy.”
Nowadays I use this strategy: Instead of trying to be interesting, I try to hang out with the most interesting guy in the room and observe him. He’s usually the center of attention; with a loud voice and interesting stories. Hanging out at the edge of the spotlight makes me feel excited. Like I might have a chance.
Then when I’m feeling brave, I take one step forward, blink in the glare of the spotlight, share my embarrassing life stories, and try to get people to love me too.
And you know what? Sometimes they hate me.
But sometimes they don’t.
Photo Credit: Oscar S./Flickr Creative Commons