AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

It's human nature to care what people think of us — especially our coworkers. Most of us do. But it's not necessary, research says.

A study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that "accurately estimating how much a new conversation partner likes us — even though this a fundamental part of social life and something we have ample practice with — is a much more difficult task than we imagine." That's why we often overestimate how much and how badly other people perceive us. In other words, we tend to assume people think less of us than they do.

Researchers call this the "liking gap," which can actually hinder our ability to develop new relationships. But a new study says that we really shouldn't care all that much about what people, like our coworkers, think of us anyway. As it turns out, people tend to see us as we see ourselves. 

In a meta-analysis of 150 studies led by Hyunji Kim, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, researchers from Canada and Australia looked at the so-called Big Five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. And they found that the gaps between self- and peer-perceptions were not wide.

If anything, the researchers discovered just a slight trend toward self-effacement on questions regarding negative emotions, like emotional stability and neuroticism. People described having more anxiety and more depression than their peers saw in them.

“As a general, maybe even evolutionary mechanism, it’s important for us to have some sense of what we’re like and what people around us are like, so we can appropriately anticipate where we will succeed and where we’ll fail,” Brian Connelly, a management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and a co-author of the research said of our desire to know how we're perceived, according to Quartz.

Thanks to the meta-analysis, he says we "can feel a little bit better knowing that people aren’t running around self-enhancing and sort of running amuck.”

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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