Okay. So I can't sleep. Well, actually, I literally can't because I need to put something in the dryer that is in the washing machine right now that must be dry by morning. Either way, I'm up.
Okay, so check it. I want to pick your brains about this conversation my mom and I had while at the beach last week. To put it in context, I was reflecting to my mom about different experiences that I've had working with residents and medical students. "Emory is a place with smart people," I told my mom. "It's rare to work with someone who isn't really great. But some are just super great."
Mom shared that her experiences, though different as a former elementary educator, allowed her to relate to that. I went into the whole spiel that I give students on my team about being exceptional and ways to get closer to that and she listened intently. "Are they all exceptional after that?" she asked.
"I see a lot more. But sometimes, no. They do really, really well. But kind of stall at 'very good.' Which is still fine, you know?"
"So what's missing?" Mom said.
That's when the interesting part came up. We sat there staring at the waves rolling in and both thought for a few moments. I spoke first.
"I think to some degree you just have to be likable. Not so much ass-kissey. But there has to be the right mix of being cool with yourself and your surroundings that makes people enjoy being in your presence. Which sucks because some folks just aren't fully likable. Does that even make sense?" That's what I said to my mom and quickly she concurred.
"The real question is, 'How can a person become more likable if they aren't already?'" Mom said.
And yeah. The first thought in my head was, like, Steven Covey and Dale Carnegie and their books on this type of thing. I also thought about what I've always told myself is the magic to getting folks to like you is not giving a shit if people like you or not. Which, now that I think of it, is ridiculous. Of course you give a shit.
But I guess what I am up thinking about is just how the "giving a shit" manifests itself, you know? Like, the rule is that you aren't supposed to try hard to make anyone like you. That, I mostly agree with. But this whole concept of just sort of walking around with a virtual finger up at the world because you're "doing you" kind of backfires on a lot of people.
At least that's what I think.
Lord knows I've had my share of folks who don't like me. And, yeah, at certain points in my life it's really upset me. But I can honestly say that mostly I've found favor with people. So Mom and I talked and talked about this and tried to figure out what sorts of things work and what doesn't. We agreed that step one is always being cool with yourself but there still seems to be something more. Eventually we brought the question to my brother--a guy who really is one of the most likable dudes I've ever known--and he had a swift response.
"You have to be interested in people. Genuinely. And they have to know that."
Simple, right? But yeah, it is actually. It all makes sense. You have to be cool enough with yourself and not take yourself so seriously that you can't open yourself up to celebrating others. Or allowing yourself to be intrigued or--dare I say it--improved by other people.
Yeah. That. I think.
So I think I'm going to add that into my little talk on "how to be an exceptional medical student or resident on the wards." I mean it. Because the thing is . . . sometimes a person can work very, very hard but just because of some missing piece in the likability arena, that holds them back from the full embodiment of being perceived as such. The missing "like button."
Good Lord. Does this even make sense? Probably not.
So I guess I'm just thinking. And trying to find ways to push myself and those working with me to their personal best. This is super important with my students who have big life milestones that rely upon it, you know? I mean, if they work as hard as they possibly can but can't quite figure out how to win friends and influence people there will likely be more doors silently closing. Which stinks because they don't really slam. They just sort of gently shut without explanation.
Right. That. What I mean is. . . this isn't likable versus unlikable. It's more like likable versus nondescript maybe. Or like . . .some little thing niggling that makes folks feel like they can take or leave you. Or readily leave you, you know? Which is fine when you don't work with people or need people in your line of work to be successful. But for a lot of jobs, people deeply matter.
Most jobs even.
Anyways. What do you think? I mean, about likability? What makes you like someone? Can a person work at that? Should they? I'm just wondering.
I'm going to leave you with this--an excerpt from a note I received from a medical student who happens to be one that already liked very much before receiving this note. And yes, the note was flattering as hell. But mostly, the level of thought and reflection that went into it speaks volumes of this person's attention to other humankind.
You create this really cool balance between uniting and delineating. Yes, you occasionally allude to various differences in your life experiences that you attribute, in part, to the hue of your skin. You make it crystal clear that we are not all the same and that maybe only babies are “colorblind.” Maybe only babies should be colorblind. Pretending that we don’t notice the obvious differences staring us back in the face may be an injustice. And boring. And ignorant.
You don’t paint an illusion that the grass is greener on your side. Rather, you share a reality that constructs this magnetic bridge thing that has all these people lined up wanting to cross. And yes, being black and being female are important components of the whole Dr. Manning. But I had been mistaken in thinking I wanted to pick your brain about just race. It was all of it. The whole. Also maybe I just wanted to say “I dig it.” Perhaps from your perspective, it is just you being you. But from my perspective, it stands out as uniquely badass.
You know what? I think I would have liked this just as much--maybe even more--if it weren't written to me. And yeah, I'm pretty sure that this is just how this person who wrote this is wired. But damn. Talk about a thoughtful string of words. Man. So I'm wondering. . . do you think something like this--this level of human interest--is learnable by all of us? And should we all be striving to watch, listen and learn from others and then quietly (or sometimes openly) deconstruct your observations to grow from them? Do you agree with what my brother said about this? Or does it all really just come down to having great hair, nice teeth and decent skin?
Okay. There's my washing machine finishing up. Weigh in okay? Or go ahead and silently judge me for sounding crazy. Either way, the fact that you even bother to read this or any personal blog makes me like you already. Ha.
Happy . . .errr. . .Monday. Night night.