Worrying that people don’t actually like me is one of the more persistent thoughts I have on a daily basis. I’ll walk away from interactions with people — from new friends to passing acquaintances — re-playing everything I said or did, over and over. I’ll constantly think, “That was so embarrassing”, “Why did I do that?”, or “If that person even slightly liked me before, they definitely won’t anymore.”

But according to “the liking gap”, a concept that’s quickly acquired fame on TikTok, it turns out that most people feel this way and that we’ve actually got it all backwards. According to the liking gap, people like you more than you think they do. Did you hear me? People like you more than you think they do!


♬ original sound – dellara

The concept of the liking gap emerged from a 2018 academic study and has been recently popularised on TikTok. It says that in almost all our social interactions, we’re inclined to underestimate how much other people like us.

The study followed several scenarios where people were getting to know each over — like new roommates, new co-workers, or even strangers forced to chat with each other. In each group, participants were asked how much they liked the person they were getting to know, and how much they thought the other person liked them. Across the board, everyone ranked their “perceived liking” much lower than how their partner actually felt about them.

These results show that everyone believes their social partners probably don’t reciprocate the same level of affection as they feel, and this feeling can persist no matter how long we know someone. It’s like, we’re all walking around thinking no one really likes us, but it’s actually the exact opposite — who knew?!

As someone who worries about how they’re perceived by others all the time, finding out about “the liking gap” has definitely been one of the most uplifting and socially affirming things I’ve seen in a long time.

As someone who worries about how they’re perceived by others all the time, finding out about “the liking gap” has definitely been one of the most uplifting and socially affirming things I’ve heard in a long time.

Of course, our internal monologue and our own self-criticising habits are there for a reason. They allow us to make judgement calls in social situations according to what is appropriate to say or do. They help us from going a bit overboard in our conversations. They stop us from oversharing or overstepping.

But it seems that our inner critic and general anxieties have been subject to a little too much evolutionary development. It makes us worry unnecessarily about even the most ordinary and mundane social interactions, ultimately making us believe the worst-case scenario. Hence, the liking gap.

@thatgoodnewsgirl Good news of the day: people probably like you more than you think they do! Researchers have shown that people tend to underestimate how much conversation partners like them after meeting and chatting. This misperception is called “the liking gap.” 😁 There’s a lot of really interesting research on this that you can dig into on Google Scholar – including discussion about how the liking gap diminishes over time, as you get to know people (but it persists for awhile). Source: Mastroianni, A. M., Cooney, G., Boothby, E. J., & Reece, A. G. (2021). The liking gap in groups and teams. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 162, 109-122. #goodnews #dailygoodnews #harvard #penn #research #thelikinggap #positive #goodnewsontiktok ♬ original sound – jenn 💜 daily happy content 🥰

The good news (beyond the simple relief of just knowing that most people probably don’t hate us) is that in the case of longer-term relationships like roommates or co-workers, the liking gap diminishes over time. And it certainly makes sense that the longer you know someone, the less concerned either of you is about what you think of each other.

Pair your knowledge of the liking gap with the reassurance that you’re always your own worst critic, and you might just find yourself walking away from all your conversations feeling a hell of a lot more sure of yourself and your relationships.

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