6 Habits of Remarkably Likable People
They’re charming. They’re genuine. And they can make an entire room full of people smile.
When you meet someone, after, “What do you do?” you’re out of things to say. You suck at small talk, and those first five minutes are tough because you’re a little shy and a little insecure.
But you want to make a good impression. You want people to genuinely like you.
Here’s how remarkably likeable people do it:
They lose the power pose.
I know: Your parents taught you to stand tall, square your shoulders, stride purposefully forward, drop your voice a couple of registers, and shake hands with a firm grip.
It’s great to display nonverbal self-confidence, but go too far and it seems like you’re trying to establish your importance. That makes the “meeting” seem like it’s more about you than it is the other person–and no one likes that.
No matter how big a deal you are you pale in comparison to say, oh, Nelson Mandela. So take a cue from him. Watch how he greets Bill Clinton, no slouch at this either.
Clinton takes a step forward (avoiding the “you must come to me” power move); Mandela steps forward with a smile and bends slightly forward as if, ever so slightly, to bow (a clear sign of deference and respect in nearly every culture); Clinton does the same. What you have are two important people who put aside all sense of self-importance or status. They’re genuine.
Next time you meet someone, relax, step forward, tilt your head towards them slightly, smile, and show that you’re the one who is honored by the introduction–not them.
We all like people who like us. If I show you I’m genuinely happy to meet you, you’ll instantly start to like me. (And you’ll show that you do, which will help calm my nerves and let me be myself.)
They embrace the power of touch.
Nonsexual touch can be very powerful. (Yes, I’m aware that sexual touch can be powerful too.) Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly.
Go easy, of course: Pat the other person lightly on the upper arm or shoulder. Make it casual and nonthreatening.
Check out Clinton’s right-hand-shakes-hands-left-hand-touches-Mandela’s-forearm-a-second-later handshake in the link above and tell me, combined with his posture and smile, that it doesn’t come across as genuine and sincere.
Think the same won’t work for you? Try this: The next time you walk up behind a person you know, touch them lightly on the shoulder as you go by. I guarantee you’ll feel like a more genuine greeting was exchanged.
Touch breaks down natural barriers and decreases the real and perceived distance between you and the other person–a key component in liking and in being liked.
They whip out their social jiu-jitsu.
You meet someone. You talk for 15 minutes. You walk away thinking, “Wow, we just had a great conversation. She is awesome.”
Then, when you think about it later, you realize you didn’t learn a thing about the other person.
Remarkably likeable people are masters at Social Jiu-Jitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened. SJJ masters are fascinated by every step you took in creating a particularly clever pivot table, by every decision you made when you transformed a 200-slide PowerPoint into a TED Talk-worthy presentation, if you do say so yourself…
SJJ masters use their interest, their politeness, and their social graces to cast an immediate spell on you.
And you like them for it.
Social jiu-jitsu is easy. Just ask the right questions. Stay open-ended and allow room for description and introspection. Ask how, or why, or who.
As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how they did it. Or why they did it. Or what they liked about it, or what they learned from it, or what you should do if you’re in a similar situation.
No one gets too much recognition. Asking the right questions implicitly shows you respect another person’s opinion–and, by extension, the person.
We all like people who respect us, if only because it shows they display great judgment.
(Kidding. Sort of.)
They whip out something genuine.
Everyone is better than you at something. (Yes, that’s true even for you.) Let them be better than you.
Too many people when they first meet engage in some form of penis-measuring contest. Crude reference but one that instantly calls to mind a time you saw two alpha male master-of-the business-universe types whip out their figurative rulers. (Notliterally, of course. I hope you haven’t seen that.)
Don’t try to win the “getting to know someone” competition. Try to lose. Be complimentary. Be impressed. Admit a failing or a weakness.
You don’t have to disclose your darkest secrets. If the other person says, “We just purchased a larger facility,” say, “That’s awesome. I have to admit I’m jealous. We’ve wanted to move for a couple years but haven’t been able to put together the financing. How did you pull it off?”
Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. People may be (momentarily) impressed by the artificial, but people sincerely like the genuine.
Be the real you. People will like the real you.
They ask for nothing.
You know the moment: You’re having a great conversation, you’re finding things in common… and then bam! Someone plays the networking card.
And everything about your interaction changes.
Put away the hard-charging, goal-oriented, always-on kinda persona. If you have to ask for something, find a way to help the other person, then ask if you can.
Remarkably likeable people focus on what they can do for you–not for themselves.
They “close” genuinely.
“Nice to meet you,” you say, nodding once as you part. That’s the standard move, one that is instantly forgettable.
Instead go back to the beginning. Shake hands again. Use your free hand to gently touch the other person’s forearm or shoulder. Say, “I am really glad I met you.” Or say, “You know, I really enjoyed talking with you.” Smile: Not that insincere salesperson smile that goes with, “Have a nice day!” but a genuine, appreciative smile.
Making a great first impression is important, but so is making a great last impression.
And they accept it isn’t easy.
All this sounds simple, right? It is. But it’s not easy, especially if you’re shy. The standard, power pose, “Hello, how are you, good to meet you, good seeing you,” shuffle feels a lot safer.
But it won’t make people like you.
So accept it’s hard. Accept that being a little more deferential, a little more genuine, a little more complimentary and a little more vulnerable means putting yourself out there. Accept that at first it will feel risky.
But don’t worry: When you help people feel a little better about themselves–which is reason enough–they’ll like you for it.
And you’ll like yourself a little more, too.
I also like Jeff Haden’s other article: 10 Things Extraordinary People Say Everyday
Want to make a huge difference in someone’s life? Here are things you should say every day to your employees, colleagues, family members, friends, and everyone you care about:
“Here’s what I’m thinking.”
You’re in charge, but that doesn’t mean you’re smarter, savvier, or more insightful than everyone else. Back up your statements and decisions. Give reasons. Justify with logic, not with position or authority.
Though taking the time to explain your decisions opens those decisions up to discussion or criticism, it also opens up your decisions to improvement.
Authority can make you “right,” but collaboration makes everyone right–and makes everyone pull together.
“I was wrong.”
I once came up with what I thought was an awesome plan to improve overall productivity by moving a crew to a different shift on an open production line. The inconvenience to the crew was considerable, but the payoff seemed worth it. On paper, it was perfect.
In practice, it wasn’t.
So, a few weeks later, I met with the crew and said, “I know you didn’t think this would work, and you were right. I was wrong. Let’s move you back to your original shift.”
I felt terrible. I felt stupid. I was sure I’d lost any respect they had for me.
It turns out I was wrong about that, too. Later one employee said, “I didn’t really know you, but the fact you were willing to admit you were wrong told me everything I needed to know.”
When you’re wrong, say you’re wrong. You won’t lose respect–you’ll gain it.
“That was awesome.”
No one gets enough praise. No one. Pick someone–pick anyone–who does or did something well and say, “Wow, that was great how you…”
And feel free to go back in time. Saying “Earlier, I was thinking about how you handled that employee issue last month…” can make just as positive an impact today as it would have then. (It could even make a bigger impact, because it shows you still remember what happened last month, and you still think about it.)
Praise is a gift that costs the giver nothing but is priceless to the recipient. Start praising. The people around you will love you for it–and you’ll like yourself a little better, too.
Think about a time you gave a gift and the recipient seemed uncomfortable or awkward. Their reaction took away a little of the fun for you, right?
The same thing can happen when you are thanked or complimented or praised. Don’t spoil the moment or the fun for the other person. The spotlight may make you feel uneasy or insecure, but all you have to do is make eye contact and say, “Thank you.” Or make eye contact and say, “You’re welcome. I was glad to do it.”
Don’t let thanks, congratulations, or praise be all about you. Make it about the other person, too.
“Can you help me?”
When you need help, regardless of the type of help you need or the person you need it from, just say, sincerely and humbly, “Can you help me?”
I promise you’ll get help. And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen–which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader.
And are all qualities of a great friend.
We all make mistakes, so we all have things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, show support…
Say you’re sorry.
But never follow an apology with a disclaimer like “But I was really mad, because…” or “But I did think you were…” or any statement that in any way places even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Say you’re sorry, say why you’re sorry, and take all the blame. No less. No more.
Then you both get to make the freshest of fresh starts.
“Can you show me?”
Advice is temporary; knowledge is forever. Knowing what to do helps, but knowing how or why to do it means everything.
When you ask to be taught or shown, several things happen: You implicitly show you respect the person giving the advice; you show you trust his or her experience, skill, and insight; and you get to better assess the value of the advice.
Don’t just ask for input. Ask to be taught or trained or shown.
Then you both win.
“Let me give you a hand.”
Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness. So, many people hesitate to ask for help.
But everyone needs help.
Don’t just say, “Is there anything I can help you with?” Most people will give you a version of the reflexive “No, I’m just looking” reply to sales clerks and say, “No, I’m all right.”
Be specific. Find something you can help with. Say “I’ve got a few minutes. Can I help you finish that?” Offer in a way that feels collaborative, not patronizing or gratuitous. Model the behavior you want your employees to display.
Then actually roll up your sleeves and help.
“I love you.”
No, not at work, but everywhere you mean it–and every time you feel it.
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. If you’re upset, frustrated, or angry, stay quiet. You may think venting will make you feel better, but it never does.
That’s especially true where your employees are concerned. Results come and go, but feelings are forever. Criticize an employee in a group setting and it will seem like he eventually got over it, but inside, he never will.
Before you speak, spend more time considering how employees will think and feel than you do evaluating whether the decision makes objective sense. You can easily recover from a mistake made because of faulty data or inaccurate projections.
You’ll never recover from the damage you inflict on an employee’s self-esteem.
Be quiet until you know exactly what to say–and exactly what affect your words will have.