Being Likeable Polishes Your Rough Edges
People do not hire people they don’t like.
People do not do business with people they don’t like.
People do not award contracts to people they don’t like.
People do not buy from people they don’t like (except there are no other convenient options).
People do not spend time with people they don’t like.
People do not help people they don’t like.
Even surprisingly, people will refuse selling a limited resource to people they don’t like, sometimes disregarding a higher price.
Likeability is a powerful currency in human interactions. And you might be overlooking the immensity of its value, and thus missing out on what it can “buy”. Before you go out trying to win other currencies, endow yourself with the power of likeability first. It is your accelerator to getting what you want.
Big claims! let’s get into it. Making yourself likeable might sound unpopular given that one trendy advice on social media today is: “You should not care about what other people think about you. You should not care whether they like you or not. Do what makes you happy.” But let’s be real and separate social media from social life.
We all are hungry to be liked and that desire is not inappropriate. One shouldn’t care to be liked by everybody, but we all hope that the people we like, like us back. The bottom line is, you can make yourself more likeable. And there’s a huge prize to win if you do. As you become more likeable, you receive the privilege of a larger pool of people who are willing and seeking to connect with you. And thus, you set yourself up in the better place where you get to choose the people you deal with.
Making yourself likeable and trying to please people so that they like you aren’t the same thing even though being likeable makes people like you.
As human beings, we gravitate towards what we like. With the knowledge of that, we cannot in earnest say that we do not care if people like us or not. Only psychopaths can truly boost of that capacity.
So, should you care if people like you or not? I think that is not the question that matters. I know for certain that it matters if you show up as a likeable, respectful, and dignified person in the world. I also know that it is even more important that you like yourself especially when the music stops, and you are all alone with your mind. It is also very important that you like how you relate with other people.
But Why be likeable?
Humans generally make decisions based on their likes and dislikes. According to Robert Cialdini, the author of Influence, you can influence someone by simply letting them know you like them or showing up as a likeable person. If the other party knows you like them or believe that they like you, it is very easy for you to influence them (consciously or not) to act in your best interest.
Haven’t you gone past 3,5 shops in a row sometimes just to get to the one you like or the one owned by the person who likes you? Equally, two candidates of comparable skills can apply for a job, and both excel through the interview process without significant differentiation in capabilities. Who gets the job? The one who the final decision maker likes more and sometimes the one who made it obvious that they liked the final decision maker.
There’s bias that’s automatically created in us when we like someone. Usually, we tend to see more of their positive qualities and not see or simply ignore their not-so-great qualities. The candidate we like easily appears to be more qualified, more skilled, easier to work with, just an outright great person. The truth is, you don’t know the two candidates well enough to make such conclusions. But you convince yourself that one is better than the other based on your likes subconsciously. The one you see as better often happens to be the one you like and usually because they showed up as likeable the first time you met them.
Like Dr Jill Bolte Taylor and the wider neuroscience community have observed
Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures who feel, biologically, we really are feeling creatures who think. — Jill Bolte Taylor
That means that before a stimulus gets to the logical decision making part of our brain, it first goes to the emotional part of the brain and triggers an emotion. In the context of this article, the feeling triggered can be: I like her, I don’t like him or the reverse. So, equipping yourself with “I like him/her” trigger attributes is crucial in human interactions because we fundamentally think through our emotions. And this is more pronounced for women than men. When it comes to meeting and deciding how to interact with people, we think through “I like him”, “I don’t like her” paradigms.
In TV shows like Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den, entrepreneurs make a business pitch to a panel of five investors (a.k.a “Sharks”, “Dragons”) who decide whether to invest in their company or not. One thing I came to realize is that the more likeable an entrepreneur appeared to be, the better was their chances of getting a deal. And this has also be proven in scientific studies.
You will notice that many of the people who get a deal on Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den in addition to presenting a potentially successful business, tend to be very likeable. And this often becomes evident in the first one minute they appear in front of the investors. Sharks may say things like: I like him, I love her, Wow! You’re amazing! Just this statement increases the chances of investors making a favorable offer. And this is also true when the entrepreneur pitching says the same to one of the sharks or all of them. This is not to suggest that likeability is the only driving factor, but rather to highlight the reality that people like to work with and do business with people they like and who also like them. Reciprocity is key.
Someone hardly says yes only because they like you, but very often someone will say no solely because they don’t like you.
A quintessential example of likeability polishing great business and entrepreneurial drive on Dragons’ Den is that of Gilles Tchianga. Gilles exemplified some of the most well-known tools that enhance likeability. I say “enhance” because no one can replace the quality of being a decent, people-loving, high quality human-being with a bunch of influence or likeability hacks and affect/engender genuine likeability on others. To try to do so without a fundamental intrinsic decent character and competence is like hacking on the leaves to produce fruit without nourishing the roots.
So first ensure that your basic character is of a person you will like your favorite sister or brother to marry. The essence is not to be liked but to fundamentally be an amazing, decent, honest, reliable and trustworthy person.
Nevertheless, you can be amazing and yet not be likeable when you meet new people. And this can be costly. It may put you on a disadvantage side when it comes to decisions that follow short interactions like a job interview, a business pitch, networking with people, meeting acquaintances, etc. This is the people who the tools for enhancing likeability I will be exposing here are for.
Assuming that you are an amazing person but just does not shine forth easily when you meet other people, here are some key likeability tools you can use. But first, watch Gilles Tchianga and when you return, we’ll discuss the tools he employed to connect with and charm the Dragons.
- Lead with a smile, enter the room with high energy: Watch the way Gilles enters the Dragon’s Den. Big smile, open body language with arms wide stretch out, and confidently audible.
- Look good: Looks are by far the most crude attribute that subconsciously make us like or not like a person. Generally, beautiful women and handsome men have an unfair advantage in life. We like beauty and to the one who has it, we tend to subconsciously assume other desirable qualities: he is intelligent, competent, friendly, etc. Use this to your advantage.
- Be articulate: Can you speak and articulate yourself well? Can you tell a great story using few words? We like story tellers. Gilles is just impeccable in this. We assume someone who sounds smooth when they speak intelligent, competent and likeable than one who doesn’t. This is particularly true on the phone when the only thing someone has to work with is the voice on the other side.
- Have open body language: Walk into a room with an open body, hands (palms) visible and using the space around you and you are assumed confident and likeable. Again Gilles nailed this a hundred percent.
- Call people by their names: People like their names and so like people who remember and call them by their names. Take note of how Gilles uses that every time he is addressing a Dragon.
- Speak their language. I have lived in Rwanda for 4 years now and one of my biggest failures is not learning the local language, Kinyarwanda. However, if there’s anything that lights up the locals here, it is speaking to them in Kinyarwanda. Again, Gilles exemplifies this perfectly when he speaks Itialiano with one of the Dragons. Sometimes the language that you need to speak is the lingo of a particular field.
- Be nice and kind to other people. This one is by far the most important. Nothing beats being just a wonderful person. No one will ever watch you being genuinely kind and think: I don’t like him. Well, that’s an exaggeration but you get what I mean.
I like you and I appreciate you for reading. It’s the biggest compliment you pay me as a writer. For that I am grateful. Let’s wrap this up.
Do not pursue the superficial likes of others. Build yourself into a pleasant person whose company you love and then ensure you bring and show forth that person to others authentically in your social life. Cloth yourself with dignity, respect, courtesy, and beauty. And give these freely to others. Without being naive, always look at the bright side and talk about the bright side because what you focus on, you radiate, and that becomes what others perceive as the person you are. You are amazing. Share that vibe.