How Likable Are You?

What Makes You “Likeable”?

In a previous article on what hiring managers look for in a candidate I wrote about the “likability” factor as an important qualitative attribute. In this post I will explore the ways likable people behave that endears them to others. Everyone can agree that we are more likely to do business and build professional and personal relationships with people we like. We are naturally drawn to people who are polite, modest, agreeable, and kind — in short, people who are genuinely likable. Want to be easy to like? Try these behaviors:

Show Vulnerability

Don’t try to one-up another person and engage in the “who is more successful?” game. Likable people don’t try to win any unstated competitions with people they meet. They’re complimentary. They’re impressed. They’re even willing to admit a weakness or a failure. Likable people are confident enough to not worry about showing a little vulnerability. They know that while some people may be impressed by the artificial, everyone instinctively appreciates the genuine.

Look for Agreement

Many of us want to discuss, challenge, and play the devil’s advocate. Unfortunately, going contrary is an easy habit to fall into. It’s easy to automatically look for points of disagreement rather than agreement. And it’s easy to end up in what feels like an argument. Likable people don’t actively (or unknowingly) look to disagree; they look for points of agreement. Then, if it’s appropriate, they gently share a different point of view — and in that way they help foster an engaging conversation.

Use the Power of Touch

Used selectively, nonsexual touch can be incredibly powerful. It can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly, and can even help make a sale. Say you’re congratulating someone; shaking hands or (possibly better yet, depending on the situation) gently patting that person on the shoulder or forearm can help reinforce the sincerity of your words.

Laugh at Yourself

Likable people willingly admit their mistakes. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter, for others and for themselves. And they’re also not afraid to look a little silly. They don’t mind being in situations where they aren’t at their best.

Oddly enough, people tend to respect them more for that — not less. When you genuinely own your mistakes, people won’t laugh at you. They’ll laugh with you. And they realize it’s OK to let down their own guard and meet you at a genuine level.

Master the Art of Social Jujitsu

Some people have a knack for getting you to talk openly. They ask open-ended questions. They sincerely want to know what you think, and that makes you open up to a surprising degree. You feel like the most interesting man (or woman) in the world. And you like them for making you feel that way.

As soon as you learn something about someone, ask why he or she does it. Or how. Or what the person likes about it, or has learned from it. Likable people ask sincere questions that make it easy to answer in a thoughtful, introspective way. They make you think, in a good way, about yourself … and in the process make you feel likable, too.

Pass the Server Test

Some people put on a great show in certain situations, but they don’t try nearly as hard when they think a person is “beneath” them. Some call it the server test. If you really want to know how an individual treats people, take him to lunch. How he interacts with the server is a much better indication of his interpersonal skills than how he interacts with you. Likable people treat everyone the same way: as deserving of respect and kindness.

Be Genuinely Glad to Meet Him or Her

Upon meeting someone for the first time show sincere interest in them. If they feel you “get” them, and respect their opinion and point of view, then they will naturally feel validated and like you. You don’t have to agree with them; you just have to show you respect them.

Maintain Eye Contact & Mirror Them

Smile when he/she smiles and frown when they frown. Nod your head when they nod. In simple, nonverbal ways, this mimics or mirrors their behavior — not slavishly, but because you are focused on and in tune with what they are saying. This feedback loop helps two people bond and is the essence of “likability”.

Be Great with Names

If there’s one thing almost as bad as that sinking feeling when you forget someone’s name, it’s realizing that another person has forgotten your name. Likable people remember names and even small details, often to a surprising degree. The fact you remember instantly makes them feel a little prouder and a little better about themselves. There are many tricks to remembering names, like word association, but the beast approach is to be sincerely interested in the person you are talking with — that will anchor their face and name in your memory.

Never Name-Drop

Even though likable people remember names, they avoid dropping names. In fact, while playing golf with Tiger Woods last week I mentioned that this is one of my biggest pet peeves. See how I “innocently” wove Tiger’s name into the conversation? Nice try but it’s quite transparent and people resent it — even if it’s true (which it wasn’t for me!). Likable people may know famous or cool people, but they don’t talk about it. And that only adds to their likability.

Always Say Less

As in many things, less is more. Likable people already know what they know. They want to know what you know. So when engaging with others talk less than they do. That makes them feel more important and they will like toy more. As well they should, because you are. And when you’re likable, people know it and want to do business with you.



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Frank Manfre

Frank Manfre


Business consultant & coach w/ 35 years experience in leadership roles in for profit and nonprofit organizations focused on developing leaders & org health