How To Enhance Your Likability Score
You don’t have to change who you are
Likability was an elusive dream for much of my life — always in sight but beyond my reach. I’m kind of aloof, introverted, and a poor conversationalist. It makes for an unfortunate combination of traits.
It took decades, but I gradually learned strategies to improve my likability score. Most of these strategies are intuitive. We know what to do, but we sometimes forget.
Then there are those times our emotions run wild, and we don’t want to be likable. We take it out on folks who cross our path.
A peer of mine recently dealt with someone like that. She experienced a sudden flat tire on a busy road. Of course, there was no jack in the car, so she limped into an auto body shop down the road.
The owner greeted her as she exited the car. She asked if she could borrow a jack and then asked if he would mind helping her. He declined, stating it was an auto body shop, not an auto mechanic shop.
She said she understood and mentioned her AAA membership. He responded by saying she had to move her car. She was about to suck it up and offer him money to allow her to remain until AAA arrived, but she was put off by his attitude.
No surprise, she had a few choice words about the business owner who kicked her to the curb. His actions sum up the first rule of likability.
Rule 1 — Don’t be an ass
It seems so obvious, yet folks regularly violate this rule. The auto body shop owner could have spent two minutes helping this woman change her flat tire, or at least given her a jack and allowed her to use his lot.
Being an ass means doing things just to be mean or refusing the smallest accommodation even when it doesn’t burden you. These folks seem to go out of their way to make things difficult for people.
Sometimes you have a bad day, and you want to take it out on someone. I sometimes feel the urge too.
Perhaps this autobody shop owner suffered some bad luck. He saw an opportunity to expel his negativity when the car with the flat tire rolled into his shop.
Here’s the problem with that approach.
People don’t forget inconsiderate acts of assholery.
Rule 2 — Show courtesy
Say please. Say thank you, not thanks. Smile. These basic acts get you quite far in life. I remind my kids at least once per day to follow these simple rules. It infuriates me how often they forget.
Here’s something even more powerful.
When you say thank you, say what you’re thankful for. Thank you for picking me up on short notice. It’s the recognition of their action that means something special to the other person.
Always do it with a smile. One of my first managers in the business world told me on my first day of work, “If you want to survive, smile a lot. Nobody likes a downer. They’re the first ones let go in a downsizing.”
Rule 3 — Be kind and generous
Our crabby auto-body shop owner blew it. All he had to do was show a modicum of kindness to help someone in need. He would have benefitted from the reciprocal urge we feel as recipients of kindness and generosity.
She would have boasted about his kind act on social media, yielding far more favorable marketing than anything he could have paid for with an ad. Instead, he reacted reflexively, not thinking about the consequences of his actions.
As Robert Cialdini wrote in The Psychology of Influence:
We should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us — the rule for reciprocation
But it’s more significant than that. In my experience, the value of the reciprocal act often far exceeds your initial token of goodwill.
Sure, acting kind and generous as a means to end — with the intent to extract something from someone — is hardly a noble act. A genuinely kind and generous gesture is made out of principle or a desire to help someone, not as the means to achieve a goal.
Think of reciprocation as a side effect that occasionally crosses your path in response to your actions.
Rule 4 — Don’t be self-obsessed
I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking about myself. I preferred to stay in the shadows and let the spotlight shine on someone else. There are problems with that too, of course, but it has allowed me to observe the self-obsessed.
They may not rise to the level of narcissistic, but they talk about themselves at the expense of listening to others.
These folks often charm you in the beginning. They make fantastic first impressions, but their inward focus grates on you.
Dale Carnegie writes in How To Win Friends And Influence People, “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than in two years by making them interested in you.”
Show interest in others, and you’ll earn plenty of opportunities to talk about you.
Rule 5 — Validate something they cannot articulate
A mentor once told me that articulating and validating someone’s thoughts, endears them to you. Your validation of their thoughts acts a gesture of support and loyalty.
Let’s suppose your acquaintance speaks little and prefers her alone time, but everyone nags her to act more social.
Articulate and validate her thoughts: “You’re fine the way you are. Not everyone needs to be a social butterfly. There’s value in listening rather than blabbing.”
Hearing your thoughts articulated and validated by someone you respect puts you at ease. It makes you feel like you’re not alone in the world.
You don’t come across these opportunities every day, but if you keep your antenna up, you’ll find they occur more often than you imagined.
Rule 6 — Remember something insignificant, mentioned in passing
Remember something insignificant but important about someone you meet, and you demonstrate the value you place on the friendship. People reveal clues about their likes, dislikes, and passions in their everyday speech.
Your coworker strikes up a conversation at the water cooler, so you ask her about her weekend plans. She says she’ll write poetry in the morning, hang with the kids during the day, and watch Hitchcock movies at night.”
A month later you see an article about a Hitchcock movie and send it to your friend.
“Hey, I remember you mentioned you love these movies. I found this article. I thought you might enjoy.”
Your friends and peers expect you to remember the important stuff: kids, material desires, job duties. Nobody expects you to remember those offhand clues stealthily revealed as part of ordinary discourse.
But it shows you value them when you make a point of remembering.
All of these strategies rely on one pre-requisite. You need to pay attention to people. Observe their actions and listen to their words. Notice the subtleties. And follow the six rules.
- Don’t be an ass
- Show courtesy
- Be kind and generous
- Don’t be self-obsessed
- Validate something they cannot articulate
- Remember something insignificant