Comics, Conflicts and the Desire to be Liked

Habitual ways of acting often can’t be overcome by a single discussion. Thus, it helps to bring before our conscience some ideas a few times over the course of several months.  With that in mind, let’s review some of the ideas we have discussed earlier on this blog about conflict and the desire to be liked.  By utilizing a fresh new batch of comics I hope to demonstrate that we can have some fun as we go about this.

Letting Someone You Like Know You Like Them is a Key to Resolving Many a Conflict

peanuts being liked

As good old Charlie Brown makes clear, it is hugely important for him to be liked.  This happens to be true for most of us.

As we discussed in an earlier post, this desire to be liked often becomes threatened when we find that we are embroiled in a conflict.  To settle things down to a level at which reasonableness has a chance to prevail, if you happen to like the other party, you might find it helpful to mention this.

I remember one time long ago when I was a mere eighteen years old, I had planned to go to see a movie with a friend.  He arrived so late that we missed the show and I became angry.

Did I have a conflict with my friend?  On this blog, when we look to see if there is a conflict in a situation, we use the phrase “DIG for the conflict” to help us to answer this question. The word DIG helps us to remember to look for a desire, something that interferes with the desire, and if someone feels someone is guilty of doing something wrong. In the situation I described, I desired to go see this movie and my friend interfered with this desire by arriving late. I felt he was guilty of being inconsiderate.  And so I did end up having a conflict with my friend for coming late.

When we use the DIG Conflict Model, we also use the word DIG to remind us to dig a little deeper when thinking about a conflict.  A tool that we use to dig deeper is to remember that people typically desire to be liked.  With that in mind, can I describe a different type of conflict that occurred within me when my friend came late?  Here’s one. I desired to be liked and when my friend came late I felt he interfered with this desire because it seemed to me that if he really liked me, he would have shown up on time.  I felt he was guilty of treating me disrespectfully.

Back then when I was eighteen, how did I react to my friend coming late?  I started shouting and calling him names. A popular way for people to respond to the way I was acting is to shout louder and to try to return the insults with insults. But rather than throwing insults at me, this friend of mine quietly heard me out, and then he looked sadly down at the ground for a few seconds, then he looked up into my eyes, and said softly, “Jeff, your friendship means a lot to me. I like you a ton and a half. I’m real sorry I was late.”

My anger eased, and within a few minutes we were having our usual good time together.

Responding to Criticism Immaturely Can Leave You All Alone

peanuts and criticism

Here we see that Lucy interprets Charlie Brown’s question as criticism. She responds by shouting and displaying other signs of defensiveness such as wildly waving her fists all around. Charlie Brown soon hurries away.

Using the DIG Conflict Model, we might describe this situation as follows: As we know, Charlie Brown desires to be liked. Lucy’s response to his question perhaps interfered with this desire because he believes that when people like you they don’t speak to you in the tone of voice that Lucy used.  He might have also felt she was guilty of treating him disrespectfully. Perhaps Charlie Brown abruptly left in response to this conflict he had with Lucy.

In an earlier post titled “Responding to Criticism: Four Levels Of Maturity” we see that Lucy’s style of responding to criticism tends to decrease one’s likability. It also increases the chance that it will create unnecessary conflicts.

What would be a more mature response? In my earlier post, I described one of the most mature ways to respond to criticism as follows:

Illustration by Deanna Martinez4.  Level 4 individuals listen to the criticizer in a supportive, warm, friendly style, and then make it clear that they fully understand what was said.  Moreover, they put the criticizer at ease by making statements that indicate that the wise learn from criticism.  Some time is spent on showing that they are thinking about the criticism.  If, after thinking about the criticism the criticism is deemed to be correct, they make a statement frankly indicating, “I can see your ideas have merit and I intend to use them in the future.”  If they are not sure if they agree, they make a statement indicating that they are very interested in what was said, plan to think a little more about this over the next few days and then they will be ready to discuss this further.  If, after thinking about the criticism, the criticism is deemed to be incorrect, a statement is made designed to disagree without being disagreeable.  More specifically, a sense of humor, some listening in a caring way and a few smiles help to traverse rough terrain.  As the episode winds down, the criticizer is encouraged to feel comfortable communicating suggestions in the future.

What response could have Lucy made in response to Charlie Brown’s question that would have earned her a level closer to a 4 rating? It might be worth discussing this with a few friends. One answer might be something like this:

Lucy smiles and says, “That’s a reasonable question, Charlie Brown. Let me think about this for a few seconds.” She then pauses and rubs her chin, thus showing that she is taking his question seriously.  Then she might have said, “I just thought I’d see if I could make more money in the winter by raising my rates.” If Lucy did this without any defensiveness, I think it probably would have come off as more likable than the way she did act in the comic. And perhaps Charlie Brown’s desire to be liked would have become less threatened.

Even Mature People Find It Difficult to Deal With Too Much Criticism In Too Short A Period Of Time

blondie dinner date

Here Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead end up having a conflict with their neighbors.  That is, the Bumsteads had a desire to have a pleasant evening with their new neighbors, but the neighbors constant negative comments interfered with this desire. In the end, the Bumsteads perhaps felt their new neighbors were guilty of being too negative.

Jefferson Writing Declaration of Independence

Jefferson Writing Declaration of Independence

A while back I provided a post titled “PROVIDING NEGATIVE CRITICISM: A LESSON FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON.” There I summarized Jefferson’s views about how to respond to people you are just beginning to get to know:

One of the main desires that people have is to be liked.  If we criticize people before we establish that we like them, they are much more likely to feel that we will not like them.  This dramatically increases the likelihood of heightened levels of defensiveness.  If, instead, we seek first to establish that we do esteem our new companions, while holding off any negative criticism until a close, friendly relationship has been established, perhaps this would be a wiser course of action.  Even after establishing a close friendly relationship, perhaps it still makes sense to avoid giving too much criticism in too short a period of time.

Well, those are some ideas I wanted to review today. In sum, when you are in the midst of a conflict, if you happen to like the other party, it often makes sense to do something to let him or her know it. Even if you don’t particularly like or dislike the other party in a conflict, it is often better if you avoided acting in ways that might be interpreted as disliking him or her. The more mature levels of responding to criticism are less likely to lead others to feel you don’t like them and increases the chances that they will like you. When you are just beginning a new relationship, it is usually better to keep any negative criticism to a minimum until you establish that you genuinely like the other party, and even then, be careful to avoid too much negative criticism in too short a period of time.

I hope you had some fun while we went about reviewing these ideas. May the rest of your week be filled with delightful human interactions.


Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.



On Brooklyn Wisdom for Responding to Insults
Mean Bosses

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

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