How To Make Other People Like What You Like (Spoiler: You Can’t)

It’s great to be a fan, to have something you love so much you want to tell other people about it, something you can’t wait for the next book or next episode or next installment or next album of. But being the social creatures that we are, it’s natural that we want to share that love with the people around us and in our community, and sometimes it can be frustrating when they don’t seem to want to listen.

I’m not talking about your friend who kind of chuckles when you play your Nicki Minaj album, the one who inexplicably loves those cheesy classic horror films. I mean more when you’re invested in a community and the things you like in that community aren’t what the majority of people gravitate toward.

If you’re following the news from SF fandom these days you probably have an idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to get embroiled in all of that. (If you don’t, search for “sad puppies hugo awards” on the Internet and you will have enough to read for days.) So I’m going to keep it abstract, but you can imagine something like “I like science fiction in the furry community but everyone just wants to read romance/relationship stories!” or “I like romance/relationship stories in the science fiction and fantasy fandom but everyone just wants stories with amazing settings!” Or even “There are these amazing masks in the furry fandom but everyone just wants fursuits!” Stuff like that.

So here’s the main thing, and the thing that seems to escape a lot of people (not my fans, of course, because you are all kind and understanding): everyone has the right to like whatever they want, and those likes will not necessarily align with yours. There you go. It is one of the trials of being a fan that not everyone will share your fandom. It can be frustrating when you’re in a community of people who seem like they should enjoy (science fiction/romance/masks) but remain obdurately ignorant or unappreciative. It can be tempting in those situations to ascribe other motives to those likes.

“People only like romance stories because of the porn.”

“People only like those fursuits because the owners are all over social media.”

“People only like this thing because someone popular told them to like it.”

And maybe there’s a little bit of truth to those things. But those are still their decisions to make.

I took a marketing class in college in which the professor explained to us that objectively, Pepsi tastes better than Coke. He got lots of strong arguments from Coke-preferrers in the class (including me), but pointed out that scientifically, in taste tests where people didn’t know the brand of cola, they tended to prefer Pepsi. When they knew the brands ahead of time, they preferred Coke*. This is the entire reason Coke changed its formula in the eighties: because people objectively did not like the taste of their cola as much.

* (Now, there are a lot of mitigating factors here, among them that Pepsi’s sweeter flavor works well on a first taste but often gets cloying over a full can; also I participated in a blind taste test run by a friend last year and my favorite of the colas was Coke Zero, so these things don’t always work.)

And yet, Coke was and remains the most popular cola brand. This is probably somewhat frustrating to Pepsi executives, though Pepsi is doing very well so they’re probably not all that broken up over it. But Coke’s marketing makes their brand so desirable that people enjoy drinking Coke more than Pepsi, and when they know the brand, to them, it tastes better.

That does not mean that those people are stupid for liking Coke. It does not mean that you can convert them to Pepsi by waving test results in their faces and saying it tastes better–as evidenced by the people in my class objecting to being told their favorite soda doesn’t taste as good. Because–are you ready for this point again?–it is their choice what to like.

In fandoms, the choices aren’t always as clear-cut as soda brands (if slight variations on the sweetness level in a cola soft drink is clear-cut). But the main point remains: sometimes you’ll be lucky enough that the thing you like is beloved by a lot of your community*. Sometimes you’ll just have a little group of your friends to discuss it with. There’s always that push to convert other people, and you absolutely, absolutely should talk in positive terms about the things you like. Be an evangelist for furry SF or romantic SF or masks or Pepsi or whatever you like.

*I have been extremely fortunate in finding a passionate fanbase, one which was motivated to vote in popular awards, and in being welcomed at most furry conventions I attend. I love all you guys.

Just don’t get negative about the thing you don’t like that everyone else does. Find new and creative ways to show off what’s great about your thing while allowing that other people like their things (and hey, try the things they like once in a while, too). Don’t press people to love what you love; lead them to the Pepsi but don’t get mad if they don’t drink.

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8 Responses to How To Make Other People Like What You Like (Spoiler: You Can’t)

  1. Khaz says:

    Or you could just be one of those unlucky ones whose values don’t seem to align with anybody else on earth, in which case you’re screwed and “being an evangelist” will only hurt you further.

    In fact I hate to say it but I don’t think “be an evangelist” is good advice in ANY scenario. In this modern era of “native advertising” and various other despicable forms of underhanded marketing, I simply don’t trust anything I hear from anyone about anything. You have to be a really, really good friend of mine before I’ll even consider hearing a positive review of some product that’s for sale. There is always a chance that it’s paid advertising, and I’d sooner die than allow paid advertising to work on me.

    You, right now, telling me about how Pepsi tastes better – for all I know Pepsi has some App now that rewards you for promoting their brand and that’s the only reason you’re saying it. Unlikely? Not really! That is literally how advertising is done today. That exact thing is happening everywhere, right now, and it WORKS because it preys on your emotional connections to other people. It preys on your natural social inclination to be polite and to trust people. Which in the long run only serves to make people hate everyone and eliminates the very concept of “trust”.

    “Not being a corporate whore” is one of my interests. Nobody on the entire planet shares it. Trying to encourage others to share that interest will get you evicted from society because NOOObody wants to hear that kind of talk EVER. NOOObody wants to be friends with you because you’re a “killjoy”. I mean, I have very seriously been called a “fucking communist” more times than I can count just for talking on the subject for two seconds. All I’m allowed to do is sit here, shut up and watch the rich get richer.

    I don’t care if I can’t make people like what I like. Making people like things is marketing talk and it’s generally despicable. Making people hate what I hate would be far more productive.

    • Khaz says:

      Yeah don’t worry, you don’t have to approve my earlier comment, I completely understand that you don’t want that negative crap on your blog. It just completes my point though. I don’t have any voice at all in this world, because what I have to say is unpleasant and unpopular and nobody likes an unpleasant unpopular unhappy person. It’s easier just to pretend they don’t exist and move on.

      • Kyell says:

        People who have commented before on this blog, like Dmitry (above), are automatically approved for follow-up comments. I can see how you might look at the blog and assume I’d manually approved his and not yours, but that’s not the case–I usually post something and then go off and work and come back in a day or two because the comment traffic here is very low. Sadly, if you assume a negative motivation behind everything you see, you’ll end up unhappy about things a lot more than you need to be.

    • Kyell says:

      Man, I have a hard time believing you can’t find any anti-corporate people to agree with you. I mean, there’s a city full of them on each coast at least. (Seriously.)

      Mostly I want to talk about that last statement, though. I’m talking mostly in an artistic/creative space here, but since books are technically for sale, I guess that falls under the definition of “marketing,” if you want to make it that broad. I don’t subscribe to the theory of spreading hate. I would rather recommend a book I like than point out a writer being a dick online; I would rather talk about my good experiences than try to get people to jump on board with my negative ones. I’m trying to phrase this very carefully so it doesn’t come off as an indictment of how you want to spend your time–these are all my personal preferences. My experience over many years has been that any time I spend energy spreading negative feelings or “trying to get people to hate” something, it never ever results in any kind of satisfaction for me. Mostly I just feel sick afterwards and the target of my negative feelings rarely even notices–and if they do, it’s worse. I don’t want to write article after article telling people why they should hate the “Twilight” books; I would rather say, “Hey, if you like vampires, check out ‘The Vampire Tapestries’ by Suzy McKee Charnas, it’s awesome.”

      Nobody has ever written me a letter saying, “Thanks for helping me realize that the thing I thought I liked was stupid.” I’ve gotten many thanking me for introducing them to a book they ended up loving (not written by me!). Obviously we’ve chosen different paths, but it doesn’t sound like your path is making you very happy. Why not try finding local businesses? Small self-published writers? Undiscovered artists? If you’re worried about people being sullied by marketing or advertising then do your best to find out whether they are or not.

      Lastly, the point I’d make about marketing and stuff is related to my entire point of this post. I don’t care if someone is paid to tell me about brand X and not about brand Y, whether X and Y are sodas, writers, or cars. I can make my own decision about whether or not I like them. I resisted reading “Harry Potter” for three books because they were bestsellers, so clearly they were just pablum for the masses and so on. Then a friend sent me the books and said, “You have to read these,” so I did. And I discovered a story I really liked. Not loved, but liked enough that I was glad I read them. Was there another story I might’ve liked more out there in the world? Probably! But nobody was telling me about it, so how was I going to find it? Marketing only brings things to your attention, and in some cases (as with Coke and Pepsi) it can craft a story that changes your view of the product for better or worse. But only you can decide if you like something or not, so by shunning any marketing, you are ironically giving marketing WAY more power over your life than it should have, cutting yourself off from things you might genuinely like just because someone was paid to tell you about them.

      Again, these are your choices to make, and I do hope that they’re making you happier on some level than you sound in the post.

  2. Dmitry says:

    I would be happy to just agree with you Kyell, but what about conformal behavior? manipulative psychology methods? there are many ways to make other peoples like something.. or to force them.
    I cannot argue with you at the same level just because i didnt know this language that good :) so i will just say that as i think our world seems more complicated and will give you an beautiful poem which could tell you alot.

    I know flies in milk.
    Specks against white.
    I know, I know it.
    I know a man by his clothes.
    Even I know that much.
    I know fair weather from foul.
    I know that.
    I know the apple by the tree.
    That I know.
    I know who labor and who loafs.
    I know all.
    All save myself.
    I know all things.
    I know pink cheeks from wan.
    I know death who devours all.
    I know everything.
    Everything but myself.
    François Villon

    • Kyell says:

      “A man convinced against his will / Is of his own opinion still.” :)

      You can make people *go along* with movements or mobs or whatever, and you can certainly convince someone to purchase something by associating it with other things they like (e.g. beer commercials featuring sexy scantily-clad women). People will become attached to things they have fond memories of, but mostly they understand that those aren’t intrinsic to the thing itself. “I like Grape Fanta because my dad used to get it for me as a treat every Sunday, but I know it tastes horrible.” Or “I love the movie ‘Robin Hood’ because I like the animal people, even though I know it’s not a great movie.” But I’m not really talking about those cases here. This is more about being a fan of, FOR EXAMPLE, gay animal-people books, and feeling frustrated when someone else doesn’t like them. :)

      • Dmitry says:

        One of the best ways to increase loyalty of peoples – to make them give it(something we would like to change their mention about) a chance.
        A very common reason of “why peoples saying No” – based on our own judgments, we are making it by saying to ourself “i wont gona like it because of INPUT THE REASON HERE”, but for real – we are just wont giving it a chance, it’s like to close the door when someone saying hello to you.
        So here we are.. our mission is to switch their minds from judging type to understanding, to make them ready to accept something new. To let them have a fresh view on the situation, without stereotypes, pressure and other negative factors wich was stopping them. How? There are many ways – lets try to add something new to the common things.
        As example i would like to use – serials. Most of us watching them, right? But not all of us appreciate Sci-fi for example. In the last couple years amount of gay characters in the serials was greatly increased(something new). It is not an random thing, it is the way to get peoples used to it.. some of companies even adding conversations between characters like “how difficult it is to be gay..”. And of course this is the way to get more peoples involved, to this concrete serial or genre in general. This method wont making a huge pressure, and peoples wont going to stop watching serial because of that (if they wont like that changes), its just a small but admitable part of puzzle. And here it is the most important moment in our case.
        1) One of your gay mates started to watching this serial because of that. He wasnt seemed interested in Sci Fi genre, maybe he had a bad experience in the past or something, but now its different
        2) Some watchers could change their mention about gay culture.
        And to get interested or just more open about this theme. And one of them could ask himself – is there more like this? (films with gays and all those juicy moments)
        If to speak about “gay animal-people books” well this focus group seems more comlicated. But it is not unreal, all you need is to make peoples which are like “gay books” to give a chance to “animal-peoples”. Or if they are enjoying – “gay animal-peoples” to make them give a chance to the books :P not only pictures!
        How to do this? Well, i guess y’know it even better than i fox. And yes, since im finished writing all of it im admited the fact that i started to speak from position of “company”/”producer” again, sorry for that. But hey! if you are a commoner – its even easier to find the way to make them (your friends) gets interested/involved.. Tell to your gay-friend that there was an gay pirate at the serial which you are watching and god knows how its going to end up.
        Do not forget – one of the ways peoples getting involved/addicted to furry community – they was mocking it.. but suddenly made a step forward and getting knew something what they liked..

        Something makes me think that i have loosed the theme again :/