Ever wonder why some people are likable and others aren’t? Without a high likability quotient, it’s tough to succeed in almost any area of life—especially as a leader or entrepreneur.
If you want to win with people, they not only have to know you; they also have to trust you. Likability is the bridge between the two. It’s a prerequisite to trust. Why? I’m not going to trust someone I don’t like.
Every now and then you meet someone who’s a complete jerk. I’ve worked with a few like that over the years. The worst was a guy who ran the small motors shop where I worked one summer in college.
I knew just about nothing when he hired me. But no matter how much I learned and grew in the job, he constantly belittled me. He even humiliated me in front of our customers.
But get this. At the end of summer, he asked me to stay on. He even offered to up my pay and give me a promotion. Are you serious? There was no way. I’d met snakes more likable than this guy.
Perks and pay only go so far, right? Unlikable leaders are like talent repellant. They won’t keep high-quality teammates for long. And that’s a shame because it’s really not that hard to be likable.
Here are seven easy ways you can improve your likability quotient and up your trust with the people you meet and work with.
- Smile more. Smiling is ground zero for likability. It puts people at ease and draws them in. It’s also contagious, so it lifts everyone’s mood. Of course, the reverse is also true.
I once had a consultant pull me aside in a meeting and ask if I was angry. No, I said. “Then you might want to let your face know,” she said, “because it looks like you are ticked off! It’s intimidating and shutting people down.” Not what I was going for.
Remember people’s names. This isn’t easy for most of us. And that’s all the more reason to try to improve. It sets you apart and gives you an edge. Why? People love being remembered and acknowledged by name.
As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” There are a lot of different tricks for improving this skill. Here’s the simplest one I know.
Look in people’s eyes. Looking into people’s eyes communicates interest and worth.
My college boss never looked me in the eye when he talked to me. Whatever he told me, his body language said, “You don’t matter right now.” But when we connect eye-to-eye we demonstrate how much we value and appreciate the other person.
Ask questions. People love talking about themselves. That’s important to know for two reasons. First, it’s easy for leaders to monopolize conversations and alienate people. Watch for that!
Second, if you want to help people feel happy and engaged, giving them the freedom to talk about their own interests and projects is one of the easiest ways to do it. That starts by asking great questions.
Listen carefully. It’s not enough to ask questions, you need to really listen. We crave empathy and tend to like those who offer it to us.
The good news is that even if you don’t consider yourself a good listener, anybody can develop this skill. Try these five practices:
- Be fully present.
- See it from their perspective.
- Clarify and echo key points.
- Focus on them, not your response.
- Develop genuine curiosity.
- Be grateful. If you want to make people feel as if their contribution really matters, take note and show gratitude. When a teammate does something positive or helpful, recognize it. When people feel valued by others, they usually respond in kind.
Celebrate milestones. High achievers sometimes struggle with this last one. I used to. After a win, I rarely stopped to celebrate before jumping into the next project. But my daughter Megan has taught me the value of this. Writing in Harvard Business Review, Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer say this:
Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Leaders, they say, “have more influence than you may realize over employees’ well-being, motivation, and creative output.” When we celebrate our progress we not only validate our work, we also improve the mood. My old college boss didn’t get that memo. But today celebration is an essential ingredient in my company’s success.
All seven of these ways share one thing in common. They demonstrate value and appreciation, and that’s the key to likability.
Humor is good. But we’ve all met funny people who hurt others with their words. Smarts are good, too. But we all know intelligent people we can’t stand. Energy is important. But energetic people who don’t value others run right over the top of them.
If you want to be likable, demonstrate that you like people.
Question: Who was the most likable person you’ve ever worked for and how did their likability affect your work?