We All Crave Social Acceptance

( Originally Published 1950 )

FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the use of the positive attitude in attainment of material success is its application to the satisfaction of three of man's most deep-seated needs. Gratification of these hungers needs the positive approach. Assuming the obvious need for food, drink, shelter, and the desirability of spiritual faith, three indispensable requirements of man, as identified by psychologists, are these:

1. The need for social acceptance. Each of us has a desperate demand for acceptance by the group whose good opinion we cherish. We must be insiders of the group. We must belong. The most terrible of fates is exile. What price a great fortune if we are ostracized?

2. The need for a satisfactory love life. Acceptance in the group is not adequate. Each man and woman yearns to be all-important to just one individual. Each man craves a place in the heart of one woman that no other man can take. Each woman wants to be indispensable to one man.

3. The need for a satisfied ego impulse. Every person wants group or social acceptance, to reign supreme in the heart of one individual, but that is not enough. Each must have an individual reason for existence. Each must feel that he or she stands out from the group as an individual in his or her own right. We all long to be important individuals.

These three needs must be gratified if we are to have a happy, satisfactory way of life, and they can best be achieved by positive approaches available to all. The needs for a satisfactory love life and a satisfied ego impulse will be dealt with in later chapters. Let us consider here the need for social acceptance.

One of the most dramatic demonstrations of the craving for social acceptance was the phenomenal demand for Dale Carnegies book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Sophisticates scoffed at this book—but bought it and studied it and profited by it. Millions of sincere men and women, young and old, have studied that book in dozens of languages all over the world.

Not long ago I was interviewed on a radio program by Ted Malone. Passing mention was made of a "Seven Day Plan for Winning Friends" that I had described in Make the Most of Your Life. Soon the telephones were ringing, and postmen began dumping sacks of mail in Ted Malone's offices. That casual mention on his program brought thousands of requests for the friend-winning plan. Counting of the post cards, letters, and telegrams stopped after 23,000 requests had been received, but they kept coming weeks after the broadcast. You aren't alone in your hunger for social acceptance. And you won't be alone if you utilize the direct approach to attain such acceptance.

You may resent this, but regardless of how lovable you think you are, regardless of the station to which you feel you belong, you are almost exactly where you now belong socially. If you don't like your present degree of social acceptance, you can change it by positive planning and positive action but right now you are where you asked to be.

If you are lonely and "haven't a friend in the world," it is because you are negative and careless. If your group is restricted to a casual acquaintance or two from the office, someone from the apartment across the hall, someone you met on train or bus, it is your own acceptance of an unnecessary situation. If you run with a gin-and dance-crazed group--it's a group of your own acceptance. No doubt you have read of the Collier brothers, who shut themselves away in a littered home in New York, or the case of a woman in almost any large city, who shuts herself in a hotel room for years, accepting food only through half-opened doors. These are extreme cases of negative retreat, but no one forced these people into seclusion—they chose it, accepted it, no doubt nursing their frustrations, and at the same time they hungered within for a social acceptance they never learned how to achieve.

Two newcomers enter an office. Soon one has a lot of companionship because of positive, friend-winning qualities. The other may be eating alone, going to the theater alone, or associating with a few other stray social rejects. You have all seen new families enter your community. Some become active and are warmly welcomed; others live on for months or even years with their names scarcely known to their neighbors. There you have positive- or negative-minded families in action, and yet each has the same fundamental yearnings for acceptance by the group.

Thyra Samter Winslow, widely known for her writing and radio work, has told us of her experience with positive action in finding a congenial group and placing herself where she belonged.

She was a greatly dissatisfied young woman in a small Southern town. She complained to her grandmother that the people there were "narrow-minded, stupid, uninteresting; they were dull; they lacked ambition; they didn't understand." She wasn't sure what she wanted them to understand. She didn't realize her own attitude prompted her appraisal. Her grandmother tried to show her that her fellow townsfolk were nice people, living well in their own homes and doing useful work. But that was not enough for the young woman. She airily announced they weren't her kind of people.

She was going to New York and become a writer and belong to a group of brilliant writers, artists, and such.

Now, Miss Winslow was taking positive action, but she was all mixed up. She found a group in which she admits she then belonged—a group of "foolish young people with half-formed ideas. Too radical. Too unconventional. Too Bohemian. Ill bred. Bad mannered. With not much talent and not much ambition. Just a restless, badly adjusted group of half-baked writers, artists, and actors, without any worth-while ideas to substitute for those they had rebelled against."

When she realized what had happened to her and began to see herself and her friends in a true light, she began breaking away from the old group. She used positive discrimination in her selection of associates. She found that in New York as anywhere else there were people she truly wanted to know—fine young people who were eager to know her, too, when she had something worth while to offer in exchange. Then it was that through her own control she gradually reached her present status of friendship with distinguished playwrights, writers, and actors and others who make real contributions to life.

True, one can't simply select a group of famous people and become one of them. But one can select kindred spirits in office and home community and church and elsewhere. You can refuse to remain content with an accidentally acquired group and can constantly search for those who are going the way you want to go.

You can reach out positively to broaden your acquaintance, just as others have done. There is no secret about it.

If you are completely satisfied with your degree of social acceptance, this chapter is not for you except as it may give you a sharper understanding of the needs of others. But if you want to take positive steps toward broadening and deepening your friend-making qualities, you will find here a program designed to get very beneficial results. If your inclination is to side-step the positive action that will be proposed, the chances are that you are negative-minded and determined to stay that way.

Some persons are extremely self-centered and not much interested in what others do or say except as it is closely related to them. Others are quite social-minded and considerate of the group to which they belong. But most people are a mixture of self-centered and social-minded tendencies; some are well balanced and some are lopsided as regards these two types. If you are to make the positive approach, it is important that you discover your own balance or lack of it.

There is a definite connection between social-mindedness and friendship. A self-centered person is usually unpopular because he is customarily negative, argumentative, stubborn, uncooperative, difficult to get along with, and inclined to strut. The social-minded and socially approved person is more friendly, cooperative, easy to get along with, and reasonably modest.

The latter attracts warmer and more numerous friendships, has a more welcome place in the group, and tends to be the more positive type of individual.

Test your social-approval qualities:

Yes No

1. Is it rather easy for you to make new friends?

2. Do you feel quite at ease at and help to enliven the functions you attend?

3. Do you consistently refrain from making comments about others you wouldn't make to their faces?

4. Do you smoothly and almost always avoid arguments?

5. Are you quick to show real interest in things your friends are enthusiastic about?

6. Do you mention and otherwise suitably acknowledge anniversaries and special events that are important to those you know?

7. Are you with reasonable frequency invited to places where both men and women are present?

8. Do you belong to as many clubs and other community groups as you feel you should?

9. Do you welcome and sometimes make the opportunity to mention to others the good points and accomplishments of your acquaintances and friends?

10. If you become involved in an argument, do you keep your temper and seriously try to see clearly the other's point of view?

11. Are you chatty, talkative, carrying your full share of the conversation?

12. Are you fully as active as you should be in your clubs and other organizations?

13. Do you patiently and tolerantly make fair allowances for others' idiosyncrasies and varying moods?

14. Do you have enough friends to satisfy you?

15. Are you comfortably at ease in mixed groups of men and women?

16. Do you request the opinions and advice of your friends and others?

17. Even though somewhat inconvenienced, do you often go out of your way to grant favors?

18. Do you invariably do what you promise to do?

19. Do you express approval of the acts, children, possessions, and activities of your friends?

20. Do you consistently avoid use of sarcasm and belittling statements?

21. Are you confident you are generally liked by the opposite sex?

22. Do you avoid offering criticism as you would avoid the plague?

23. Do you keep your complaints and prejudices to yourself?

24. Do you frequently take the first step to follow up and renew an acquaintance with someone you feel you would like to know better?

25. Do you take the lead in suggesting to friends activities you feel you would both or all enjoy?

26. Do you welcome sympathetically but consistently refrain from prying into intimacies revealed by others?

27. Are you usually cheerful, and, when not, do you refrain from foisting your blues or self-pity on others?

28. Are you very careful never to impose on or take for granted the friendship of others?

29. When you like 'em, do you tell them so by word or act or attitude or all three?

30. Are you fully aware of and guided by the knowledge that others are just as ravenous for appreciation as you are—appreciation that is expressed and not left to be taken for granted?

31. Do you frequently take the initiative in suggesting the theater, a party, an expedition?

32. Are you the first or one of the first in your group to introduce some new activity?

33. Are you quicker than most with laughter and the introduction of a good joke?

34. Are you rather daring in acceptance of changes, new activities, new interests, the unusual?

35. Are you one of the first to take steps to put life into a party, start things, keep them rolling?

36. Are you quick to volunteer to perform little services for others?

37. Do you volunteer for or quickly accept membership on committees?

38. Are you downright enthusiastic in support of group activities—not simply placidly receptive and mildly cooperative?

39. Are you inclined to be a bit bolder than your associates, readier to take a chance?

40. Are you first, or one of the first, to speak up in meetings of organizations or informal groups?

The number of your affirmative answers is indicative of the degree of social approval you have won. Absolute scientific accuracy cannot be claimed for such tests, but the questions are based on the painstaking laboratory findings and analyses of social qualities by psychologists and other specialists in the study of human relations.

If you have as many as eighteen negative answers, you may be just getting by. You may be something of a leader, but even so you aren't very popular and have very few warm friends and a more limited group of interested associates than is desirable. If your negative answers are as few as ten, you are to be congratulated.

The man or woman possessed of the positive attitude will study carefully any negative answers and take steps to change them to the affirmative. They will also review their affirmative answers and plan ways and means of making them even more definitely accurate responses.

Warning: If by any chance you checked "Yes" to as many as thirty of the questions and do not feel that you have fairly adequate social acceptance, you have probably been too generous with yourself or have very weak support for your affirmative checking.

What makes one individual a popular social success and another a nonentity and social failure? Hundreds of books and thousands of articles in consideration of this question have been published. Almost invariably these studies point out the desirability of a welcoming, kind, nonantagonistic, friendly attitude but stop short of explaining clearly why a boy or girl, man or woman can have these attributes and still be on the outside looking in and not very popular in the group. It remained for Dr. Merle E. Bonney, psychologist of North Texas State College at Denton, to make what this author believes to be the most important contribution of a generation to the consideration of what makes a person socially acceptable.

Dr. Bonney devoted more than six years to a scientifically methodical study of personality traits of socially successful and unsuccessful subjects. His studies reveal that you can follow the old copybook formulas and be caught in the doldrums of social acceptance unless your group rates you high on the aggressive and positive traits of personality.

"It stands out clearly that in order to win friends a person must be more than friendly," declares Dr. Bonney as reported by Dr. Albert Edward Wiggam in his notable study, The New Techniques of Happiness. "The old saying, 'If you would have friends, be one,' is only half truth. Some of the most friendly subjects in my study have been rejected by their associates.

"By friendly, I mean they are generous, kind, helpful, anxious to please, courteous, thoughtful of others, and generally nice people. The trouble, both with such children and with adults, is that they are not strong personalities. In other words, a person to be popular must make himself count in a group.

"I have found in my studies that a person is well accepted much more because of what he is and does in the way of making a contribution to the group, than because of one or more of the traits usually considered necessary for winning friends. Even if he has a moderate amount of obnoxious traits, such as being bossy or untidy, he may be the most popular member of his group if he has strong, aggressive traits which contribute to group success.

"Instead of generalities," continues Dr. Bonney, "let us take two of my children to illustrate what I mean.

First is a boy whom we shall call Donald, with an I.Q. of only 80. Donald probably cannot go through high school, but I will wager he will be a personal success in life.

"He has a very poor school record, yet for two successive years he has been in my highest group of children for popularity. True, he is cheerful and friendly, but this is only half the story. It is never more than half the story of popularity and social success.

"The other half is that he is constantly watching for opportunities to be of service to his group. He pulls the curtains for the class play; he runs errands; he looks after the classroom pets; he does fairly well for his team on the playground; and he often has some useful suggestions for solving the practical problems of the group.

"Furthermore, Donald does his best to influence other children to play fair, to keep quiet during programs, and to live up to good standards. He has a pleasing personality, but he also has integrity, and makes a contribution to group welfare.

"Turning now to a bright girl, Helen, we find an example not at all uncommon—of high intelligence combined with low social acceptance. Helen was in my lowest group for popularity all through the fifth and sixth grades.

"Why do such bright children as this girl, and adults as well, fail to win social recognition? Sometimes they have positively antisocial traits, but Helen is not antisocial. She simply lacks social skills and social purposes. She does not do anything for her group. Her written work is done well, but she seldom speaks in a class discussion. She is passive on the playground, and shows no initiative in anything. Her teachers say of her, 'She is not interested in the group,' and 'The others pay no attention to her.'

"Now don't you see that even with his low I.Q., the purpose of living will probably never be a problem to Donald, nor will he ever be a problem to his community. Yet to Helen, with her high I.Q., life is no doubt already a problem. It nearly always is for such people. From which child will society profit more; are not the chances better that Donald will be the greater social asset, and the happier human being?

"We must give up the idea that to be a socially useful and successful person, all one needs is to be sociable and friendly. I have children who have ranked high in social acceptance for six consecutive years, but who would not be called sociable. They are rather what Jung would call introverts. The reason they have many friends and are socially successful is solely because they have such positive traits as daring, courage, aggressiveness, leadership, and a genuine interest in promoting group welfare.

"If you are not interested in your group, the group will not be interested in you. They will simply ignore you, no matter how kindly you may be, because you lack the aggressive traits. You have no enemies, but this will not mean you, therefore, have friends. Many friendly persons have neither friends nor enemies.

"Children, and also parents, should be taught that the art of winning friends does not lie in a few simple tricks or gestures, but in the achievement of many kinds of competence, and the development of strong, positive personality traits. A person will not win friends unless he does positive things to cause the group to feel he is doing something for the general welfare. It seems to me this is the outstanding lesson for parents and teachers, as well as for vocational counselors, and all who have at heart the welfare of both our youth and our country.

"You must do something and be something, if you want to be popular, win friends, and be a happy, well-adjusted and influential human being."

Power Of Positive Living:
Ask For It

You Are Positive Or Negative

Positive Way To Meet Problems

Make Up Your Mind

Success Adores The Positive Attitude

Turn Handicaps Into Assets

We All Crave Social Acceptance

Need For Satisfactory Love Life

Your Yearning For Self-esteem

Banish Awe And Fear Of Others

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