How not to stink at being likeable

Written by on March 11, 2018

There are a host of skills that are important in having a successful business and life.  Yet there is one that may be the most important of all of them and, if you let it, can certainly be the most fun.  Likeability.


The ancient and worn-down adage that people do business with whom they like and trust is certainly true.  The challenge is that trust takes time.  No amount of tap dancing or fancy PowerPoint graphics is going to convince an investor to trust you immediately.


However, the majority of likeability happens in about 7 seconds (Source: Michael Solomon, PhD, Psychologist, Chairman, Marketing Department Graduate School of Business, NYU.).  This means that if someone likes you enough now, they may give you a chance to prove your trustworthiness later.


Here are six things to do if you want to ramp up your chances of being likeable in any situation.


Leave your issues at home

We all have personal crap in our lives.  That is life and that is okay. Bringing that with you to the conversation is like dragging in your kitchen trash bag after a fish dinner and unloading it on their newly steamed carpet.  It is not only rude, but a great way to turn someone off to your message.


Complaining about the sale that didn’t go through, the fight with your spouse, or even the reason (clearly an excuse) why you are late will not fix the problem anyways.  It will, however, demonstrate a lack of both self-control and emotional intelligence.


Your best bet is to leave personal issues at the door.  They no longer exist at the table and when queried on your day or state of being, the answer is always, “Fantastic.  I’m doing amazing. Thank you for asking.”  What you will find is that when you leave, those issues may have dissipated on their own.


If you absolutely 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

Most folks spend their entire lives being talked at and not talked with.  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 incessantly screaming theirs?


According to Harvard, one  of the best ways to actively listen is to ask questions and be engaged without hijacking the conversation.  Putting the other person in the spotlight can put you in an even favorable light in their eyes.


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 is on their mind.  It is even okay to genuinely care about another person and want to learn about them.  What if you accidentally learn something new that helped you along your own path?



Find common ground

People like people that are like themselves.  It is comforting when we realize there are other people like us and it opens our 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.


The first thing you want to do after greeting them is to begin building rapport by finding a commonality.  This does not mean making something up, rather becoming a detective and asking questions to find something on which you can latch.


If necessary, you can borrow from relatives and friends. If your parents are from New York, even though you’ve never been there, it is a worthy mention if the person walks in with a NY Yankees hat on.  You must keep drilling until there is a commonality, even if it means you only discover that you both breathe air.


Of course, the more knowledgeable and experienced you are in life, the easier it will be to build rapport.  No need to share your entire life story, just experience enough of life to have something worth sharing when the time is right.  Personally develop yourself, take more risks, donate your time, learn a craft, and just become the person you wanted to be at 4 years old.  It just might change your life too.


Make them laugh

Laughing is not just the best medicine, it is the best connector.  You cannot laugh and feel bad at the same time. And when you help people feel good, almost uncontrollably, they like you.  You do not need to become the class clown, as even clowns must eventually go back to the circus. However, if you want to break down the initial wall, a few missiles of humor can do wonders.


While this clearly does not include insults (even if they have a good sense of humor), self-deprecation works amazingly well.  Anyone who can laugh at themselves has been shown to have elevated emotional intelligence and a high degree of confidence, both very likeable traits.


Toss a few one-liners and short quips in your toolbox, be comfortable enough with yourself to take a few hits, and you will be up another notch on the likeability scale.  It’s showtime.



Do not be sloppy

How do you know if you are presenting yourself properly to a potential client?  Look in the mirror and ask yourself honestly if you would do business with you.  If the answer is no, you may be practicing sloppiness.


Being likeable is not about being fancy or glamourous.  It is about taking the time and having an attention to detail to show (not tell) others how much you respect yourself.  There is an attraction to people who have high self-respect.  You can feel it from across the room in the way they carry themselves.


Thus the real question is how much do you like you.  If you do not like yourself enough to dress neatly, brush your teeth, comb your hair, stand up straight, and wear a smile, then how could anyone else like you?  What does it say when businesses must innovate to stay alive and you haven’t practiced any self-improvement in years?


When it comes to likeability, there is no delineation between the inside and outside.  Though if the outside is a horrendous mess, they may never get a chance to see the inside.  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 are a fake. Few people like a fake and the ones that do will not like you for long anyways.


Smile and relax

Have you ever seen someone who cannot sit still and seems like they are worried about something?  Doesn’t it tend to make you unsettled and unable to build a connection?


Do not 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 also feel good in doing it and thank you for it.  A smile is also a psychological signal of altruism.


Relaxing yourself has a calming effect on others.  After all, no matter how important it is that they like you, they still may not.  So what? If it is the end of the world, then perhaps it is time to expand your vision.  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!)


Is likeability the secret to life?  Perhaps. While likeability can be an immense asset, it can also be a heavy liability. Not enough and you are 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, being likeable is as good for your soul as it is for business.


  • Do you agree with us about being likeable?

  • Did any of these things surprise you?

  • Do you have a story you’d like to share about an experience you or a friend have had with these six areas of likeability?  


We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic!

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