The Likability Index

Sometimes someone tells me, “I don’t like him. Some people we just don’t like and can’t know the reason, right? Have you felt that?” and I say “Well, I am that to many people. There are those who hate the sight of me and my presence infuriates them no end.”  I don’t say it sounding very bitter; I just say it as a matter of fact, but when I say that the person who I am talking to looks sheepish. For now I have basically shown this person that he/she is a bully.

We associate the term ‘bully’ with a person who is bigger than us and throws his/her weight about in a playground and though some of us did face such bullies, the worst bully of them all is that person who will dislike you when you have not given him/her sufficient reason to dislike you.  It may be that they are against the personality or demographic you seem to represent.  So you may be hated for wearing tight jeans or for looking like a maami (or both at the same time) or looking religious or intellectual or flirtatious or something.  There is no end to this.  Serious-minded people look down on people who seem chatty and those chatty catty people have a thing or two to say about morose-looking people too.

I personally don’t bother with these people who don’t like me. I classify them under “Tasteless idiots” and move on.  But there was one person who I could not ignore.  She was a lecturer.  She hated me. I never knew why.  I wasn’t a ‘good student’ in her subject.  That is because she was not a ‘good teacher’ in my opinion.  She was my Severus Snape*. It was impossible to be a good student when your teacher was out to get you.  She looked sad if I did my work right and her face lit up when I did something wrong. She looked like she wanted to say ‘Gotcha!’  I stopped trying.  I remember actively wanting to fail.  I remember not giving a damn either way.

Fast forward to the present time and I see many people who say they will not watch any movie with a particular hero or heroine because they can’t stand the hero or heroine. I don’t mean people who avoid movies starring a particular actor as they know that he usually stars in movies of a particular genre or has bad taste in his choice of stories.  I mean people who say, ‘I would have loved to watch the movie Neerja but now that they cast Sonam, I can’t watch it.  I hate her nose.’  You hate her nose? That is your reason? People don’t seem to feel any embarrassment when they say this. They sound like they have a perfect right to hate anyone whose nose is sharp.  I deduct about 25 likability points from my estimation of people who say this and a few people I know now have a likability index so low that it is in the negative!

But no one actually starts with a likability index of zero or lower with me. They start with a good 100 points and over time I give or reduce points.  Does appearance not play a part at all?  Sure it does.  A person who is over 30 and seems to have a well-maintained body does get plus points. Tastefulness in clothes gets plus points too.  But the appearance-related plus points are not as high as the behaviour-related or attitude-related plus points that I am lavish about. If I like someone and you walk up to me and ask what I like about them, I can answer you.  I can give you a clear list.  If I dislike someone and you ask me why, there is no way I am going to give an answer as frivolous as “Forehead is too small.”  I will know exactly what made me push that person’s likability index down to zero or lower.

But here is the catch: Some people who go by these instincts do perform better than I do in estimating people at first glance.  They are able to predict temper and attitude and even intelligence levels of people by merely looking at them.  So maybe I should take a cue from them and start trying to judge people based on how they look? I throw my mind back to that dreaded classroom when my lecturer asked me Question No. 1 and Question No. 2 and frowned that she wasn’t able to pin me down.  I remember how she looked like a cat offered a plate of cream when I could not answer Question No. 3.  And then I knew.  It is never acceptable to judge someone based on criteria you can’t even pin down properly. Recognize your prejudices and work on them.  Don’t say everyone does that.  You are not everyone.


* Severus Snape is a character from the Harry Potter series. He was Harry’s teacher.


9 thoughts on “The Likability Index

  1. Interesting. 🙂 I don’t agree with the ‘I hate her because her nose is too short’ (or long, or sharp, or doesn’t exist at all) types, but I have felt a visceral dislike to a few people, without any particular reason to pin it on. In two of the cases (both men), I was vindicated in that both were creeps of the first order; the last case, a woman, I still don’t quite know why – it’s a gut reaction. And since I don’t usually like or dislike a person at first sight, when I do either, I pay attention. (Actually, in most cases, I’m prone to like people, unless they give me a reason to dislike them.) My dislike, in all three cases, had nothing to do with their looks.

    The one thing I do not do, is allow my dislike to colour my interactions with them. I can be civil, so I am. It’s a different matter that I prefer not to engage with them as much as possible.


  2. Anu, I think I do have a nose to sniff out creeps. But even if my visceral reaction would have been hard to pin down immediately, I do vow to give it a thought and find what I disliked about this person. Sooner or later I do find it. It is usually that they were too eager to please, they laugh too much for your jokes etc.

    Sometimes their eyes are shifty and may even stray down and make us uncomfortable. Only I try to remember that it is my mind that made the judgment and so it is I who should make sense of the feeling and pin it down properly. A sort of root cause analysis 😀

    The thing is, it may be a prejudice on our part. Is it that we don’t like their skin color or height and are not being honest to ourselves? Is it an aura of femininity in a man? We don’t judge obviously effeminate men as we are decent enough to not do so. But if very little inexplicable femininity in a man, we are slightly wary of him. Sometimes we need to give the though a few minutes to seep through so that we understand our own prejudices if they exist. Just in case.


  3. I’m a pretty bad judge of character myself. That is why I take refuge under my carefully cultivated cynicism when it comes to trusting anyone. But sometimes my innate naivete breaks through. 😦 As for prejudices, I’ve come to recognize most of the unconscious ones and am working on them. But I don’t know how I might fare when it’s really put to test. At least one thing I’m open to is to drastically revise my opinion of people when shown the proof to contradict my assumptions. I know many who cling on to erroneous judgements.


  4. Rahini, I don’t think I’ve ever judged a person – man or woman – on the way they looked. For me, while I may notice a good-looking man/woman, or their converse, that has never had any bearing on whether I like them.

    In the cases I mentioned, I still have no idea why I disliked the men from the beginning. They are both conventionally good-looking, pretty smart, well-educated, but I couldn’t help but notice that I very often gave them a wide berth. And I’m usually a very friendly person. Something seemed ‘off’. And I learnt, from very bad experience, to trust my gut when it’s trying to tell me something.

    Now, if I had learnt differently after observing them for a while, I would have been happy to make a mental apology to them, and change my opinion of them. Unfortunately, future events just proved I was right to distrust them. *shrug*

    With the woman, it was strange. Again, no reason why I should have disliked her, until I began to see more of her at social gatherings. It’s her personality – the wanting to be the centre of attention, the small putdowns, the way she treated people she thought were her social inferiors, the rudeness that was masked by her sophistication… etc.

    I won’t say I’m free from prejudice. I don’t think anyone can claim to be. However, like Iswarya, I do try to acknowledge that something is a bias/prejudice, and work on removing them. I’m also open to changing my assumptions when they’re proved to be wrong.

    However, I usually treat people with civility, whether I like them or not. I will agree to disagree with people whom I know are not open to reason (or I’m not open to their reason), or whose views are so diametrically opposed to mine. I don’t judge people on their faith, their beliefs, their religion, dress, their politics – unless they try to impose those standards on me. 🙂


  5. Great post, Rahini. And, great comments, Anu Warrier & Iswarya.

    With respect to the “likability index,” I feel like I have gotten it right sometimes and have gotten it drastically wrong sometimes. I am a pretty gregarious person but am quite sensitive too. Sometimes, that mix of traits has resulted in instances where I may have liked a person initially but quickly realized that my carefree nature may have made the other person think that I can be the target of sarcastic or sometimes, vile comments and would say, “Nee kanduka maate-nu nenachen!” So, while I may have hit it off with someone by being amiable, it has – in a few instances – quickly gone downhill. So, over time, I have learned to give it a little more time before deciding whether someone is truly in my “circle of trust” (the term is courtesy Robert De Niro in “Meet the Parents”). I feel that sometimes, first impressions, on either side of a relationship, are not exactly the best impressions.


  6. Thank you Anu, Iswarya and Ram.

    I think we all agree that as long as we are open to revision of opinion and as long as we don’t act on our prejudices, all is well.

    Mrs.Snape may have well felt vindicated that she was right about judging me as I did turn out to be as arrogant and inflexible as she might have “predicted”. But it was a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. I turned out to be arrogant and inflexible as she treated me that way. Also, it isn’t as if that there is 0% arrogance in me. There was (and is) a reasonable amount of that too. But I started to display a sort of heedless attitude which was not there before, all thanks to the lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Most times when reading your posts, I feel like you’ve said what you want to say and what I want to say! I don’t have anything of value which I could add.
    I used to form instantaneous opinions (young and stupid, weak justification etc). Now I tend to feel I like people…until I don’t like them. But the reasons are real and valid – I hope?!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reading this I realized that I’m not as analytical as I thought. Thanks for triggering the self-doubt, Rahini. 🙂 I admit, when it comes to celebrities and the like, I don’t analyse too much why I like or don’t like a particular figure. Perhaps because so much of my work involves analyses that when it comes to entertainment/leisure, I don’t want to devote too much mindspace in determining *why* I feel the way I do, but just…feel. Might be some emotional laziness at work there. 🙂 But you’re absolutely right about the criticality of knowing and working on your prejudices when it comes to real-life interactions. One owes it to the world to know oneself.

    Liked by 1 person

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