3 Steps To Being Ridiculously Likable

One night I was having dinner with a few friends when someone pulled a Pilot G-2 pen out of their purse to take some notes. My friend Tyler spotted it instantly and asked, “Does your G-2 pen have a point- seven-millimeter tip?”

She didn’t even have to look. “Well, of course it does. Point- seven-millimeter tips are the only sensible choice for Pilot G-2s.”

Tyler smiled knowingly. “We are going to be friends,” he said simply. Now, I am no pen expert, but according to Tyler, the Pilot G-2 .7mm pen is simply the best. So good, in fact, that Tyler not only fiercely guards his against borrowing thieves, but also uses it as a sign. “If someone has a G-2 pen, I know we are going to get along,” Tyler explains.

What’s going on here? As I explain in my book, Captivate, humans are constantly on the lookout for people who are similar to us. “Birds of a feather flock together” is a far more accurate cliché than “opposites attract.” This is called the similarity-attraction effect. It says that “people like and are attracted to others who are similar, rather than dissimilar, to themselves.”

You can hack the similarity-attraction effect for your benefit with what I call: Thread Theory.

Find and follow threads of similarity to be more socially attractive.

Every interaction should be about finding threads of commonalities. Every thread that binds you brings you closer to a person. The more threads you have, the more socially attractive you become. Here’s how you can use thread theory to connect with the people you meet instantly.


Thread Theory is the ultimate tool for opening any conversation. Whether you are cold-calling, e-mailing a new contact, or meeting someone for the first time, the Thread Theory can help you blast through the dialogue door.

Imagine that each person is walking around carrying a big knotted ball of string. All of these strings are their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. We often wish our thoughts were more organized, but they are usually in a jumble — especially when we first walk into an event. We might be thinking about our to-do list, our parking meter, what we want for dinner, that good- looking person across the room, our neck ache, where to hang our coat — you get the idea. So we are all walking around carrying this mass of thoughts.

The Thread Theory is an incredibly easy way to both open conversations and never run out of things to say. When you first begin in an interaction, I want you to try to tease out some thoughts you both share. The more threads that you share, the more you will be able to talk about — and the more ridiculously likable you will be.

There are three main categories of commonalities that you can pull from at any time:

  • People: Mutual contacts are the best way to find threads of similarity. You can also liven up the conversation by searching for mutual friends.
  • Context: Think you don’t have anything in common? Think about the context of your meeting. Maybe you’re both on LinkedIn or both at the same conference. All you have to do is ask about it to get the conversational ball rolling.
  • Interests: Common interests are the best kind of threads because they introduce a topic you both invariably know a lot about, ripe territory for great stories and interesting conversation.

Here are a few openers and ideas for tapping into each type of commonality:

These Thread Theory questions can be used in groups, with new people and even in emails and cold messages. Every time you discover a common thread, it links you together:

You might have also noticed that some of these Thread Theory questions are also my favorite conversation sparkers — that’s no coincidence!

Simple questions can lead you into exciting conversational territory when you ask strategically and follow up with good listening. If you ask one of these questions and don’t find a similarity it’s totally okay. For example, if someone says “Oh, I don’t know her,” or “Nope, never been here before.” No worries! Use that as an opener. You can say, “Yeah, it is a pretty big school. I think she studied political science. What did you study?” or “Me neither! Do you have any favorite local watering holes you go to?” Every answer you hear is one more step in getting to know them and being farther along in conversation. Don’t let it faze you, let it fuel you.

Be on the lookout for physical examples of similarities, too. For example, if you notice someone’s USC keychain you can say, “Go Trojans!” Or if someone is driving a car you like, you can comment, “I was thinking about buying that car, how do you like it?” It can even be as simple as noticing what someone is drinking: “The red wine isn’t bad, huh?”

Making conversation has never been so easy.


The Thread Theory is not about simply pointing out similarities; it is about exploring them. Once you have found a common thread, you can make it stronger by following it.

How do you follow a common thread? Easy. Ask for why.

Revolutionary Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda founded Toyota Motor Company in 1937. He is also known for his innovative managerial techniques, one of which is called the 5 Whys.

Toyota employees use the Five Whys to problem solve and get to the bottom of issues. This technique is now used across industries to quickly and effectively find solutions and root causes of problems. You might use the Five Whys to figure out why a colleague is late on a project:

1. Why? I couldn’t get the numbers on time.

2. Why? I didn’t know the right person to talk to.

3. Why? I have never worked with that department before.

4. Why? I usually go through my manager.

5. Why? Interdepartmental communications only go through managers, which causes a bottleneck. (Root cause)

Of course, in day-to-day conversations you can’t ask why over and over again, but you can get a conversation to go much deeper much faster if you use the spirit of the Five Whys.

When you find a commonality, don’t let it pass by, ask the other person why it’s important to them. When you stumble upon a similarity, don’t jump to the next topic, take it a step further and find out how they got started. If you hear a shared interest, don’t let it hang without comment; dig a little deeper.

Let’s say, through the Thread Theory, you find out the person you are speaking with is also an entrepreneur. If you follow that thread, you get a much deeper interaction:

You: Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

Them: I always wanted to start my own business.

You: Interesting! Why did that appeal to you?

Them: I really wanted flexibility and freedom in work hours, and I knew I could never get that with a boss.

You: I feel the same way! Why were you looking for more flexibility?

Them: Oh, I love to travel so I wanted to be able to work from anywhere.

You: That’s wonderful — I’m also a huge traveler, I just came back from Chile! Why do you love to travel?

Them: I have been dying to go to Chile! You know, I think I love travel so much because I think it’s so important to get out of your comfort zone and learn from people around the world.

You: That’s so true! I have met the most interesting people on my travels. Why do you think being out of our comfort zone is so important?

Them: Hmmm, good question. I guess I think true happiness comes from trying new things, seeing new things, experiencing new things. How about you? Where do you think happiness comes from?

This is a synthesized version of the kind of robust, deep conversations that come when you ask more whys. “Why” gets you beyond small talk into an exploration of motivations, dreams, and interests. And every why helps you find more threads.

In this way, the Thread Theory ensures you will never run out of things to talk about. Nor will you ever have to be worried that you won’t have something to say. Just search for the commonality and follow the thread with why.


The last step of the Thread Theory is optional and reserved only for special interactions. When you are having a really great discussion and clicking with someone, you can take your connection to the next level by using your common threads to tie you together. Let’s look at how Lewis Howes did this.

After he searched for commonalities and followed the threads he found, he asked people what they needed and how he could help. In other words, he tied his abilities to their needs. When you say, “You have a problem, I’m going to help you fix it,” you create the ultimate similarity.

Every time you offer help, support, and advice, you create a deeper bond with someone and a permanent similarity.

Most of the time, opportunities to help people find solutions come up organically. You hear someone has a need and know you can help. Here are some examples:

  • Since you’re new in town, I can send you a list of my favorite local restaurants.
  • I’m sure I know someone in that industry — connect with me on LinkedIn and I can introduce you.
  • I frequently get extra tickets to the game, I’ll text you next time!
  • It sounds like that is a real problem. Let’s set up a consult call and I can see if my company can help.
  • Yeah, going vegan is so hard. I have a few recipes I can send you.

If nothing comes up during a conversation, you can also end with a tie. I typically end most of my great meetings with a single question:

Can I help you with anything?

Th is is my favorite Thread Theory question. Not only does it give me a chance to create a tie, but also I usually end up learning something new about them. It’s a tiny hack that goes a long way.

In fact, every step of Thread Theory is others-oriented in that it helps people untangle their own bundles of thoughts. For example, going through the Five Whys with a friend can help them figure out why things aren’t working at their job. Following a thread with a partner could help you both figure out vacation plans.

Remember: Since step three of the Thread Theory is optional, you actually have to mean it when you use it. Don’t offer help you can’t give. Don’t make hollow promises. Create ties only with people who you genuinely want to be connected to.

The more you have in common with someone, the more likable you become. We like people like us. The Thread Theory is an easy way to captivate attraction by simply searching for shared interests, asking why, and then offering to help. Always be on the lookout for ways to say, “Me too!”

This is just the start! If you want to learn more science backed human behavior hacks check out my book Captivate.

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  • The art and science of understanding people

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