People may like your things...but that doesn't mean they like you

According to a new study, while most people think status symbols will make them more attractive to others in terms of friend potential, that's not the case. (And since your happiness is directly linked to the number and quality of your friendships, that can be a real problem.)

According to Dr. Stephen Garcia:

"When making new friends, people tend to think that displaying high-status markers of themselves (e.g., a BMW, a Tag Heuer watch) will make them more attractive to others than neutral markers (e.g., a Honda, a generic brand watch)....

"However, from the perspective of would-be friends, individuals who display high-status markers are found to be less attractive as new friends than those with neutral status markers."

In one experiment, participants were told their goal was to be seen as more socially attractive--and were then given the choice between wearing T-shirts with "Saks Fifth Avenue" or "Walmart" printed on them. Some 76 percent chose the Saks shirt.

But when they were evaluated by another group of participants as a potential friend, 64 percent chose people from the Walmart-shirt-wearing crowd.

According to Dr. Kimberlee Livnat:

"At a societal level, we may be wasting billions of dollars on expensive status symbols that ultimately keep others from wanting to associate with us.

"And to the extent that close friendships are important to well-being, we may be inadvertently hurting ourselves."

Keep in mind the study only focused on making new friends. If you provide legal services, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with "Dollar General" may do little to establish your professional bona fides. Signals of success can definitely be helpful in the right settings.

But when you're hoping to make friends, relatively few people will like you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. (And do you really want to be friends with people who care deeply about what you wear?)

Clothes, watches, bags, cars...they're all "things."

Superficially, some people might seem to like you because you drive a Porsche (the old joke about porcupines and Porsches notwithstanding), but superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship that is not based on substance is not a real relationship. Genuine relationships make you happier, and you'll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start just being yourself.

It's the scarier way to go, especially if you're shy and a little insecure, but it's still the best way to go.

As it is in pretty much all other areas of your life.

Published on: Aug 27, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.