Are you Trying Too Hard to Be Liked?


Many, if not most, of us have a pathological desire to be liked.

It’s instilled in us from a young age, and generally fostered from school all the way through university and beyond, that being liked should be a significant part of our goals in life.

I can certainly understand it – that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realise that someone doesn’t like you isn’t really very pleasant.

And yet, being liked is a foolhardy and dangerous goal to have at basically any stage of your life. Today, we’re going to focus on why “being liked” isn’t a great goal in a business sense.

Here’s a few areas where you simply cannot hope to make everyone happy all of the time.

You’ll Be Too Expensive

This one is the cause of all sorts of problems, but fundamentally you’ll need to accept that for many parts of private practice (not all – many) you simply can’t be affordable for the entire market.

That means some people won’t like your estimates.

It also means that some people will call you and tell you that they don’t like your estimates.

At times, you can obviously be sympathetic to the needs of people here (after all – would YOU be able to afford yourself?).

However, that sympathy doesn’t necessarily translate into undercutting yourself or trying to do something in half the time that it really requires.

You’ll Be Too Uncertain

In many parts of legal practice, the lines of black and white start to blur.

That means you can’t always give someone concrete advice on their legal issue.  There are shades, nuances, and issues that will affect the outcome, whether they like it or not.

Some people don’t appreciate this, and they will tell you that your advice wasn’t helpful, was pointless, or didn’t contain anything that they could get help from.

Of course, writing an advice properly and diligently can often lead to giving a recommendation, but sometimes the answer simply isn’t clear and it’s your job to tell your client.

Be prepared for clients not to appreciate that sometimes.

You’ll Lose Something

Connected with the above, the time is going to come that you’re going to lose something if you’re in any contentious area of law.  For that matter, even transactional lawyers might lose a contract one day, or a negotiation might go awry, or bad things might happen.

And your client won’t like that, so you’ll probably hear about it.

Tooooooo Slowwwwww

It’s interesting to me that many clients believe lawyers have the answers at their fingertips.

Which means, of course, that 5 minutes after sending an email the clients will call you, ask if you’re got the email, and then ask what the answer is.

Your job is not to make up the answer on the spot.  Your job is not to hedge or acquiesce to their suggestion that it “should be simple”. If the answer is not obvious and requires more work, then your job is to tell them that.

Which also means that what someone thought was simple will in fact take a significant bit of time longer than what they thought.

They’ll possible assume that you are just being lazy or not giving enough attention to their matter. That might be true, but in my experience it’s usually not.

You’ll Have to Stand your Ground

The time is going to come where you’ll have to stand your ground. It might be a moral issue, a negotiating tactic, a request for funds in trust.

And sometimes that goes badly and people won’t like it.

Your Personality Sucks

This one is the most interesting – if you are genuinely yourself (rather than a refined, pre-packaged and “good for all seasons” version of you) then you’re going to come across people that you just don’t get along with.

Perhaps you’re loud, shy, funny, outgoing, introverted, quiet, serious, studious, nerdy, awkward, cool, affable, difficult, argumentative. Or perhaps you’re a strange combination of a few of those.

And nothing will help that – unless you decide to smooth yourself out, change your personality, and become someone that you’re not.

Sometimes that’s needed.

But often it’s not.

Should you Become a People Pleaser?

Personally I don’t recommend it.  I know it’s tempting, and I’m someone who really really likes to be liked.

But, at the same time, I can’t help but be authentic.  That means I can be loud, opinionated, and sometimes a bit lacking in the political correctness department.

So with the above issues almost certainly going to happen, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether you’re going to be someone that caters to the masses and wants to be loved by all, versus someone that can authentically be themselves.

I know which I would pick.  But it’s harder than it sounds 🙂

Happy lawyering!