Why do women need to be liked?

I have a theory that may or may not be true.

It seems to me that women are more socialized to care whether somebody likes them or not–and to worry more if someone is upset with them.

Something interesting happened to me yesterday. I’ve been very frustrated with my optomotrist, and in fact have tried to get a full refund and start again with somebody else. I was arguing with the female optician in the office about this yesterday (after showing up for my umpteenth appointment and having to wait for half an hour and STILL having four people in front of me) when she said something that really took me off guard.

She said, “Look, Barbara, I really like you, and want to make things right for you.”
My response probably wasn’t very nice–something like, “Frankly, I don’t care whether you like me or not–I just want glasses that help me see properly!”
So that’s my question: Would anyone ever try to reassure a man that they were liked?


3 responses to “Why do women need to be liked?

  1. I agree. I read a book called The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, and she describes how female babies begin searching out and analyzing faces and facial expressions, even when they are only months old. Apparently they do this much earlier than boys. What they do at this tender young age amounts to searching for and responding to approval from the adults in their life, something that apparently continues as they grow older. Something about the way the female hormones stimulate our brains, even before birth, gives us heightened sensitivity to the emotions of others. Perhaps this information in itself is enough to make us seek approval, as males tend to be more oblivious and therefore don’t care as much?

    A related theory from this book is that males tend to compete against others (even from the age of 5 or 6) while females tend to work together and make group decisions. This is why young girls often get frustrated playing with boys and go off to play by themselves. Even as we grow older, we often react to stress by talking to other females (especially in the teenage years). So maybe this results in our heightened concern for approval from other females?

    This is something I’ve thought about often, as it has many implications for our lives and our interactions with men. Example: when females in my classes qualify statements with “Um, I think” or “I don’t know if this is right, but…” while males just come right out and say what they think as if it’s absolute fact. Sometimes we tread too lightly in fear of offending someone, and it can result in underestimating our own abilities, or making us appear to lack confidence.

  2. Exactly! I’ve even practiced making my voice a little bit lower when i realized in meetings I was sometimes sounding like a scared little girl. This week I have been noticing how many times on TV shows I have seen men berate other men by calling them a girl–as if that is the worst thing somebody could possibly be! We’ve got a long way to go–but things are definitely better. I was lucky that I had parents who always told me I could do anything

  3. I doubt she would have reassured a man he was still liked. I read “The Female Brain” as well and thought there was some truth to her description of the way women interact with each other (though I don’t know how to evaluate her claims about babies–I only have my one little girl and it seems like I’ve known girl babies who were more interested in patterns and movement than faces, and boy babies that were very interested in faces). Brizendine’s point was that our need to be liked is biological, not socialized. Perhaps that’s true, but I was always encouraged to be nice and socially rewarded for kindness. Admittedly, if I truly didn’t care and the opinions of others truly didn’t matter to me at all those social rewards wouldn’t have made a difference, so there is certainly a chicken and egg problem in assessing whether women are nice because of their natures or their nurturing; nevertheless, I think there are very few people of either gender who are immune to social pressures, and I think we women are great enforcers of the social norm, but mostly the social norms expected of other women.

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