By Theresa Zagnoli
Zagnoli McEvoy Foley LLC
Likability , the "magic bullet" characteristic of persuasion, is a common term for those familiar with the psychology of influencing others. You know those guys/girls. They never had to study as hard, run as far or work as late, yet still seemed to be voted in, praised or promoted. The "Golden Child" is a term used to describe all, because they were likeable.
Much has been written on being likeable. There are daily reports on President Barack Obama's "L-Factor," as author Tim Sanders calls it. Robert Cialdini is likely the father of all thoughts on likability. In the spirit of getting on the -onomics bandwagon, Rohit Bhargava, wrote "Likeonomics." Cartoons, sitcoms, dramas and reality shows all dedicate time to the personalities, as well as the prowess, of characters.
My favorite tips on being likeable come from Bob Sommers, known as the "likability guy." His writings are abundant on the Internet. His take on how to be likeable contains the same basic components as other experts. I just appreciate the way he approaches them.
We like people who …
- Like us.
- Are like us.
- Make us feel safe and welcome.
- Elevate our mood.
- We have frequent contact with.
- We collaborate with.
- Show respect (to themselves and others).
- Are beautiful.
- We associate with good feelings.
- Are relevant in our lives.
- We help.
- Can laugh at themselves easily.
So where are you on the likability scale, likeable, unlikable or somewhere in between — which is getting you nowhere? Most of us are likeable to those who know us best, but either show up unlikable or in limbo to the rest.
It is time to bury your pride and become the most likeable person on your block. So what do you have to do? For some, drastic measures will be called for, while others need a little tweaking. You may not like my first recommendation, so sit back; maybe a cocktail would help. Touch people. Yes, I know you recently finished a course on appropriate sensitivity. Nonetheless, touchers are likeable — back slapping, shoulder hugging and hand-shaking charmers.
It is easier to first focus on what makes you not likeable. Let's rewrite Sommers' list in the opposite, having these attributes can make you either not liked or disliked. When starting a new job, trying to build lasting relationships or just wanting to make your rounds of golf more fun, you need to get on the positive side of these behaviors. If you think being neutral is better than being not liked … it's not.
No. 1. You don't like most people. You think this is a harmless trait. You smile when you need to, are not rude and would never let anyone know you felt this way but we can all smell a fake.
No. 2. You are different. This is a tough one. Men can't be women, city folk can't be farmers and nondrinkers shouldn't drink to break into the crowd. I frequently find lawyers working in an away venue pandering to the jury in an effort to not appear different. They cheer the home sports team, say they went to school somewhere in the state, talk about their time in the nearby branch office. Usually, none of this works to make a person similar enough to the jury or judge to accomplish anything other than to look foolish.
No. 3. Being with you feels unwelcome.
No. 4. You are negative. Being sarcastic is funny, as is adding drama and good storytelling around a bad or sad event. However, constant negativity is draining. Complaining, whining and criticizing are activities others only want to participate in for a short time.
No. 5 and No. 6. You only show occasionally or you show but prefer to be with yourself. Obviously it is challenging to like somebody who is not around, but not impossible. If you show up big when you are in the presence of people you want to like you, you make memories that last.
No. 7. You disrespect yourself or others.
No. 8. You are not beautiful.
No. 9. You don't do anything to make others feel good.
No. 10. You do not make a connection to others' lives.
No. 11. You do not ask for help. If your mother taught you not to rely on others or not to borrow the neighbor's lawn mower, she was just wrong. Sorry Mom, we know you meant well, but being self-reliant causes you to appear stubborn and untrusting. For example, you will find No. 11 in Cialdini's book "The Psychology Influence of Persuasion" under the heading of "Reciprocation." We like the people we do favors for because they trust us to help them.
No. 12. You are self-conscious and don't like to be the butt of the joke. These traits make a person appear defensive. Others are uncomfortable around people who cannot laugh at themselves. It is too exhausting having to deal with such a sensitive ego.
Much of your personal and professional success depends on how likeable you are. So, do yourself a favor and assess where you fit on the "Likability Scale," then work through the above list to improve your "L-Factor."