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There are a host of skills that are important in having a successful business and life. With endless resources on how to close, how to prospect, the 1-minute work year, and how to get more done while sleeping, it has always been my experience that I do business with those whom I like. From necessities to frivolities, I am an eager client to those who are generally likeable, regardless of how skilled they are in other areas – exception being competence. Then again, I like people who are competent in their craft.
“Complaining about your problems is the emotional equivalent of farting in someone’s face; it’s rude and unnecessary.”
I’ve personally been blessed with being likeable in life. For many years, I never gave it much thought as I traversed through my corporate career into multiple businesses, developed long-term relationships with friends, and shared many-a-pleasantry with strangers. Ironically, I’ve spent a life generally introverted, though through the last five years I’ve worked relentlessly on balancing that out.
Is this the secret to life? You figure that out. I will tell you that while likeability can be an immense asset, it can also be a heavy liability. Not enough and you’re a jerk, too much and you’re a phony. Never exchange your integrity, honesty, and character for likeability. Instead, imagine adding it on, like a fine spice, to the meal that is you. Besides, in a world where success is not self-made and happiness is best shared with a true friend, would you rather be surrounded by adversaries or cheerleaders?
Here are a few things I’ve realized that are important on being likable. I hope it’s okay to talk to you like an adult. I’ve learned that champions don’t get offended, even if it’s intended. So to risk turning this whole topic on its head, here goes.
Leave your issues at home
We all have crap in our lives. That is life and that is okay. But would you ever bring your kitchen trash bag after a fish dinner and drop it on their newly-steamed living room carpet? Of course not. Then why bring your worries, fears, and issues and drop it onto their minds? Complaining about your problems is the emotional equivalent of farting; it’s rude and unnecessary.
By the way, complaining doesn’t solve your issues, it only demonstrates your need for sympathy and general lack of control over your life. A great friend of mine always says, “Make a change or don’t complain.” I couldn’t agree more. What if doing so left you with little to complain about?
It’s not that you have a challenge (we all do), it’s that your attitude to it will determine your success. If you must share your challenge, share the solution you are taking to address it. This can turn the mildly depressing into the awe-inspiring. You may even get some help or new ideas. It feels good to help others. If you make them feel good, they will like you.
Listen to them
It is said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we’d use them in that proportion. Most folks spend their entire lives being talked at and not talked with Consider your own parents, school, and job. How often did your parents, teachers, and boss ask you for your opinion versus tell you what to do and how to do it? How refreshing would it be if someone were to listen to your song instead of screaming theirs?
People’s favorite word is their name and their favorite topic is themselves. This is not a judgement whatsoever, but it is a clue. Let people share what’s on their mind. It’s even okay to genuinely care about another and want to learn about them. What if you learn something new that helped you along your own path? Nod and smile, be attentive, and give a darn.
Find common ground
People like people that are like themselves. Christians tend to associate with Christians, bikers hang out with bikers, and Romanians break bread with Romanians. It’s a comfort zone to realize there are other people similar to them and it opens their minds to tangential ideas. For example, you will be more likely to buy a cell phone based on a friend’s recommendation than that of a stranger.
Based on this, the first thing you may want to do after saying “hello” is to build rapport by finding a commonality. This doesn’t mean making something up, rather becoming a detective and asking questions to find something on which you can latch. If necessary, you can even borrow from relatives. Any New Yorker will know that my family is from New York even though I’ve spent a total of 6 days there in my life.
Of course, the more interesting you are, the easier it will be to build rapport. This doesn’t mean share your entire life story, just experience enough of life to have something worth sharing when the time is right. What if you were to personally develop yourself, take more risks, donate your time, learn a craft, and just become the person you wanted to be a 4 years old? It just might change your life too.
Make them laugh
Laughing is not just the best medicine, it’s the best connector. You can’t laugh and feel bad. And when you help people feel good, almost uncontrollably, they like you. I’m not suggesting you become the class clown, as even clowns get old. But if you want to break down the initial wall, a few missiles of humor can do wonders.
This doesn’t include insults (even if they have a good sense of humor), though self-deprecation works well. Anyone who can laugh at themselves brings them down from a pedestal and joins their audience in the trenches. Now you’re a friend, not some big deal. This is especially effective if you can pinpoint their challenges and share how you are (or were) in the same boat.
The biggest roadblock to friendship is ego. Ego is self-esteem or self-importance. There is a fine line between these two definitions, with one based in confidence and the other based in arrogance. Hall of Famer Walter Payton once said, “When you’re good, you tell everyone. When you’re great, everyone tells you.” Let’s keep it simple. Drop the ego. It has no place in the world of likeability.
Don’t be sloppy
In my business, I have people ask me how to look presentable to the client. I simply ask them to look in the mirror and determine if they’d do business with themselves based on what they see. The answer is the same. Being likeable isn’t about being fancy, it’s about taking time to show (not tell) others how much you respect yourself. There’s a certain attraction to people who have a high self-respect.
It really is just a matter of how much you like you. If you don’t like yourself enough to dress neatly, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wear a smile, then how could anyone else like you? If you don’t like yourself enough to invest time into self-development just as every company with a future must constantly innovate, why should anyone else invest in liking you? How do you suppose sloppiness in your demeanor reflects on your business, work, and life?
But isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts? Of course, but if the outside is a horrendous mess, they may never get a chance to see the inside. It’s like the best restaurant in the worst part of town. Nobody will ever know how good the food is. If the outside looks great, then of course the inside must radiate as well, else you’re a fake. Don’t just look the part, be the part. Few people like a fake and the ones that do won’t like you for long anyways.
Smile and relax
Have you ever seen someone who can’t sit still and seems like they’re worried about something? It makes you unsettled and unable to build a connection. Don’t be that person. Relax and smile. Nothing is more disarming than a smile. A smile has an amazing reciprocity effect where the other person is almost obligated to return the favor. They may actually feel good in doing it and thank you for it.
Relaxing yourself has a calming effect on others. Nothing gets us in a tizzy more than trying to be liked. However, no matter how important it is that they like you, they still may not. So what? If it’s the end of the world, then perhaps it’s time to expand your vision. And if you consider that the more you wish for them to like you, the more that desperation will drive them away, then why sabotage yourself? Relax, it will be okay (I promise!)
I dare you to choose one of these six areas that you feel you can improve in the most and learn all you can on the subject. Read books, watch YouTube, listen to audios. Even interview one person you know who you admire in that area. Then apply it to your personal associations for 30 days — all in. You won’t become a rock star overnight, but you just might improve the quality of your life and all those around you.
Meet you at the top, because the bottom’s way too crowded.