Why You Should Want To Be Respected More Than Liked

"If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and would achieve nothing."—Margaret Thatcher


I've gotta hand it to them. While the Black streaming channel Fox Soul is relatively new, I've made the time to check out some of its content (we've got to support our own, y'all) and I dig where they are going with it. One show, in particular, that a lot of the xoTribe may enjoy is Out Loud with Claudia Jordan. She explores topics like how sex is for women over 40, what single mothers would do differently if they could, and why Black women creatives are so oftentimes overlooked (when pretty much every industry uses us as their muse. SMH).

Another show that I sometimes catch on there is called On The 7 with Dr. Sean. One episode I watched, in its entirety, featured actor Isaiah Washington. Because I continue to be baffled by him going over to the Republican party, and because I agree with the wisdom of Dr. Sean when he said at the beginning of the episode that, "We live in a culture where people dim you because of your conclusions, but they don't understand, sufficiently, your reasons," I decided to hear Brother Washington out. I still don't get it. I really don't. But he did say something that helps to set the stage for where I'm going with this piece. When Dr. Sean asked him if he would rather be respected or liked, Isaiah took a long pause and said, "Both." That threw me. There is always such a, shall I say, "strong energy" about him that led me to believe that being liked wasn't actually a relevant matter to him. But as I clicked off of that episode and presented that very same question to myself, I've gotta say, being respected won out by a landslide. I'll explain why.

What Does It Mean When Someone Likes You?

Image by Giphy

Let me just say, off the rip, that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked. Ideally, when interacting with individuals, Isaiah is correct in the sense that it would be awesome if they liked and respected you. But that wasn't what was asked. The question that was posed to him was, if he had to choose between like and respect, which would it be? And yeah, that isn't what I think needs to be our top priority. Let me tell it, part of the reason there is so much drama, both online and off, is because there is way too much time, effort and energy either being put into being liked or getting all in a tizzy if someone isn't liked that much. Why do we care? Why do we really care?

It's just a theory, but I'm gonna put it out into cyberspace. Feel free to share your thoughts about it. There are plenty of articles that point to the fact the social media is "feeding the monster" when it comes to making individuals more narcissistic. You can check out ones like "Excessive posting of photos on social media is associated with increase in narcissism", "Narcissism and Social Media: Should We Be Afraid?" and "Social Media Has Created a Generation of Self-Obsessed Narcissists" and see that it's a topic that shouldn't be ignored. And since narcissism is a word that is used a lot these days, let's quickly review what some of the traits are, according to an article featured on PsychCentral's website:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement.
  • Is exploitative of others.
  • Lacks empathy.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Hmph. Now tell me that, whenever you log on to any of your socials, after five minutes, you don't see some, most, or even all of these things displayed. People are constantly posting their thoughts, views and insights (almost to the point where I'm wondering what else they do during the day) and when someone likes what they say, it's all good. Oh, but let someone provide a different perspective or even totally disagree and now they need to be canceled or silenced. Know what that is indicative of? Pure narcissism. If you can only interact with people who agree with you or praise you or you can't exchange thoughts without poppin' off and clappin' back, not only are you putting yourself on a pedestal, you are also significantly stunting your growth as an individual. It's like what one of my favorite quotes says—"If you only see things through a keyhole, everything will be keyhole-shaped to you." Not only that, but your narcissistic tendencies will, whether you realize it or not, constantly drive you to want to be liked; quite possibly, above anything else.

And here's the interesting thing about the word "like"—when you like something (or someone), it means "take pleasure in; find agreeable or congenial" them. Pleasure is enjoyment. Finding something agreeable means you find it to be conformable. Congenial means "suited or adapted in spirit, feeling, temper, etc.; compatible." Know two things that all of these definitions have in common? One is that wanting someone to like you has little to do with anything but you. You want them to take pleasure in you, to conform to you, and to be suited to you. Two, all of this points to feelings and feelings are both fleeting and fickle.

Don't believe me? Think about some of the celebrities that you "liked" two years ago that you don't anymore. Or, a little closer to home, think about some of the friends that you once liked that you know longer do. To spend a lot of time, effort, and energy wanting people to like you is to spend a lot of time, effort, and energy on investing in folks' ever-changing emotions and, at the end of the day, your ego as well. That can have distracted, uncomfortable and to a large degree, unstable and unproductive as well.

My most genuine, comfortable and honestly, easy relationships have been with people who I don't have to get to try to like me. At the same time, I don't have to try and like them. Know what else? There are some things that we find agreeable and there are some areas where we are compatible, but there are also some places where we couldn't be more different. It's those that actually make the relationship so valuable because we challenge each other, we influence each other to evolve, and that happens because we respect each other more than we like each other. What I mean by that is, we "esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability" (which is one definition of respect) far more than we look for ways where we are alike or we find pleasure in each other. And so yes, a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and hard lessons have brought me to the conclusion that I would much rather have someone see my sense of worth than simply enjoy having me around. The first is lasting; the second is totally unpredictable. (Somebody in a dysfunctional relationship needed to hear that. Please never forget that point.) Hands down, I would rather be respected than liked—any day of the week.

Why You Should Prefer to Have Them Respect You Instead


If you're still not totally convinced that being respected is better than being liked, here's a story that just might sway you. I like to support independent films (especially Black ones) whenever I can. One that I recently re-watched is Plug Love. This time, it held a bit of a different meaning because one of the main characters is a huge Kobe Bryant fan. (Mercy, y'all. I'm pretty sure it will be quite some time before we hear his name and there isn't an "ouch" that reverberates somewhere in our spirit.) Anyway, the more the character bragged on Kobe, the more I thought back to what may have very well been his last podcast interview.

On January 8, 2020, ALL THE SMOKE podcast (with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson) featured an interview with Kobe Bryant. In the roughly 40-minute episode, a lot of ground was covered. One thing that stood out to me was Kobe's response to when he found out that some people don't like him. (He was a complex guy; some didn't). While some might find what he said to be flippant, I found it to be how folks act when they care more about being respected than being liked. He basically said, "OK…and who are you?" In other words, what do you bring to my personal world that should make me so concerned about whether you enjoy me or agree with me—or not? Being liked wasn't a big deal to him. Full stop.

On the flip side, though, unless someone is a flat-out hater—and yes, I do know that those kinds of folks exist…unfortunately—you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't respect him, if not as a person, as an athlete. In his 41 short years on this planet, reading his Wikipedia page alone will exhaust you—"five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, was named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP winner". How can you not esteem this man's sense of value, commitment to excellence and his totally incomparable and, in some ways, supernatural abilities? All of what Kobe made happen was not the result of him sitting around and trying to figure out ways to be liked all of the time; they came from focusing on how to be his best person by his own standards. It came from doing what needed to be done in order for him to respect himself; it's that kind of mindset and drive that tends to cause others to respect you.

It's basically like what the Margaret Thatcher quote up top speaks of. Ask anyone who actually knew Kobe personally, and they'll tell you that his dedication to his craft was almost to the point of being obsessive. You didn't have to like or "get" why he was so into his gift; he did. And whatever it took to excel, he was going to make that happen. Compromise wasn't an option. We can clearly see the fruits of his labor. Yes, they deserve our utmost respect.

No compromise. Every day, I see examples of people who either prefer to be liked over being respected or they don't really know the differences between the two. I say that because in order for folks to "like them", they will compromise—if not outright sacrifice—their values, their ideals, their dreams…whatever it takes to keep folks agreeing with them or finding pleasure and satisfaction in them. And again, like Margaret Thatcher said, if you are going to put yourself in that position, there's a huge chance that you won't accomplish much. At least not anything that you can truly be proud of and at peace with.

So yeah, I'll take being respected over being liked any day. I think Kobe would agree with me, which puts me in some pretty good company. Bottom line, being liked is cool but if you've got to choose, go with respect instead. It's healthier. It's more beneficial. It lasts longer. Literally.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

How To Respect Someone's Path When It's Nothing Like Your Own

How To Stop Being A People-Pleaser & Start Doing You

Here Are 10 Personal Development Goals We All Should Make

6 Signs You Are WAY Too Self-Critical

Featured image by Giphy

This article is in partnership with Xfinity.

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