Want people to like you? Practice!

By Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.

Dr. Michael Mantell

Dr. Michael Mantell

SAN DIEGO — Life, to many, seems like it is a series of popularity contests. The only people who don’t like popularity contests are those who either believe that they will lose them, or worse, do lose them. They hold their breath each time they walk into a room, get up to speak, raise their hand in class or go to a party. They believe they have finite skills and abilities and are always trying to prove they are ok from the perspective that they aren’t ok. They barely breath, and barely live.

This column will teach you how to live more fully, while breathing well. One place to begin is to increase your likeability.  Being likeable means you have the ability to create positive attitudes in other people through the delivery of emotional and physical benefits to them.  Being around likeable people can give you a sense of joy, happiness, relaxation, or rejuvenation.  Likeable people can bring you relief from depression, anxiety, hostility or boredom.  After all, the quality of your life and the strength of your relationships are the product of choice, but not necessarily your choice.  The more likeable you are, the more likely you are on the receiving end of a positive choice made by others towards you.  And the more likeable you are, the more positive you are and that determines how you will live your life.

It doesn’t come naturally or easily to some. It’s a daily decision that we make to look for the good in yourself and in others, but that’s the basis of being likeable, of living fully and not just breathing.

Being liked requires the work of zipping the negative, deleting the thorns, and erasing the downers.  Sure, some people seem naturally likeable.  Similarly, some people seem like natural athletes.  There are very few of these fortunate people.  The rest of us work at it.  Unfortunately, there are some who don’t believe they “should have to” work at it, put down others who want to strengthen their social fitness, and may even incorrectly and erroneously rationalize that being likeable, or wanting to be, is a sign of weakness. It isn’t a weakness any more than wanting to be, or working at becoming more athletic, is a sign of weakness. Being likeable, living and not just breathing, starts with understanding that you weren’t made imperfect. You need to see yourself not as a mistake, but as perfectly formed.

Being likeable has its advantages.  Likeable people bring out the best in others.  They inspire others to give more.  You always get more out of others when you present your most likeable self.  And what you get in return is a life worth living.

Second, likeable people get recognized, praised and acknowledged.  This helps in the classroom, the office, on the playground and at home.

Third, likeable people typically outperform through the creation of a positive atmosphere created by a likeable personality.  Likeable people get the job done through teamwork, motivating others and encouraging positive attitudes.

Likeable people overcome life’s challenges with more ease and less stress.  They elicit support and help from others.  They more easily get the helping hand they need.

Likeable people appear to enjoy better health.  I did not say that likeable people have better health.  They may. But the point is that they appear to enjoy their health more than unlikeable personalities.  Likeable people laugh more and we know that laughter is indeed medicine, releasing the healthy chemicals of wellbeing and relaxation. We tend to feel increased self-esteem and this helps us deal more effectively with stress, one of life’s great detractors.  The social support system created by likeability can provide you with a lifeline to health.

People who are just breathing but not living, believe that life is a constant test of their carved in stone intelligence, unchangeable intelligence and abilities. Those who live life fully believe alternately that their character and personality, their abilities can always change for the better.  The first group sees every interpersonal life situation as a test and challenge to them, with resulting fear. The second group, sees situations as opportunities for growth and expansion. This second group embraces challenges while the first group avoids life’s challenges.  Who do you think is more likeable, living more and breathing more?

Laughter makes blood flow more freely, positivity releases oxytocin and reduces stress, being willing to hold hands with another calms nerves and being likeable is the key to these behaviors—thus promoting living and not just breathing.

Friendliness is the threshold of likeability.  Friendly people express a liking for others.  They communicate a welcoming attitude.  They express a generally positive feeling towards others.  Unfriendly-first encounters tend to have big ripples throughout the lifetime of a relationship.  We know that when someone acts in an unfriendly way towards us, our brains send a signal to our bodies’ command centers to react by deploying hormones.  Two are especially related to our emotional well-being:  DHEA and cortisol.  DHEA is the feel good hormone when we encounter friendliness, while cortisol makes us feel stressed out when we encounter unfriendliness.

What many don’t understand is that likeability is more than the knack for getting others to hang out with you after work and share a couple of beers.  After all is said and done, hiring decisions, for the most part, are based on whether or not the candidate is likeable. Likeability has long been viewed as a necessity in developing the trust that determines our credibility.

So how do you create this likeability?

  1. Observe no unfriendliness.  When you sense it bubbling up inside of yourself, talk yourself out of it immediately by asking yourself if being unfriendly will fix anything.  It won’t.  If you do act unfriendly, immediately repair it by apologizing.
  2. Develop a friendly mindset.  See yourself in others.  Play “greeter” for a day by instilling a sense of welcome in others.
  3. Communicate friendliness.  There is no such thing as a friendly person, but rather, there are only people who are perceived as friendly.  If others don’t see you as friendly, your simply aren’t.  Your facial expression, your eyes, your body language, your tone of voice, and the words you use all communicate friendliness.
  4. Connect with the interests of others.  You develop a bond when you share an interest with others.
  5. Connect with the wants and needs of others.  Volunteer to help others. When you do, don’t make a fuss about what you’ve done.  Don’t forget people have emotional needs too.  There is no perfect time to help someone other than now.  Exceed their expectations when you do help.
  6. Show an interest in how others feel.  This includes recognizing the emotions of others, listening thoughtfully and responding to the emotions of others.  Watch and study faces.  Don’t’ jump to conclusions or assumptions about what others feel.  Think about what other people say to you and how they must feel.  Ask, don’t tell.  Pay attention to what is not said.

There are so many ways to create likeability and we all have the potential to do so.  Follow some of these guidelines and watch how much better you feel, and how friendlier others seem to become and how you begin living and not just breathing.

Mantell is author of the recently published 25th Anniversary Edition of his 1988 original, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff — PS It’s All Small Stuff. To purchase a copy, connect to Amazon by clicking on the picture of his book on the right hand panel. Comments on the above column may be placed in the box provided below or you may contact the author directly via [email protected]


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