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The Likeability Principle

Who would you trust more: your friends, or a random stranger? Who are you more likely to do a favor for?

It’s an easy question. People like the people they like. Anyone is more inclined to help a friend out than help a complete stranger. People are more likely to say ‘yes’ to people they like. This is the Likeability Principle of persuasion. It’s extremely simple and intuitive, but what most people don’t know is that it’s possible to manipulate this principle. Most people think that likeability happens by random chance, or that some people are naturally born more charismatic. This isn’t the case. Some people are not just born more charismatic than others. Likeability is not random.

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There are many ways to manipulate likeability, make friends, and leave a strong first impression. Research shows that most people decide what they think about you, and whether they like you or not, within the first seven seconds of meeting you. The rest of the conversation is then spent justifying their initial reaction. These first seven seconds are crucial for your likeability.

Impressions are closely related to positive body language. Positive body language includes a strong posture, which means standing up tall and not hunching over, and making sure your body looks stable. When a person stands with their feet right next to each other, they naturally look unstable. Positive body language also involves a firm handshake (but not too firm!), opening your shoulders, and smiling. People respond well to open, positive posture, and clear, confident words. Being aware of both of these factors can help ensure that your first impression is a good one. Positive body language is one of the most powerful tricks to influencing the subconscious. In fact, how you say something is just as important as what it is that you are saying. Being aware of body language is the first and biggest step. The subconscious mind takes in all that information and processes it, but rarely does the conscious mind involve itself. The body language a person uses can divulge many secrets and thoughts. Positive body language includes an enthusiastic tone, eye contact, uncrossing arms and legs, smiling, assuming a relaxed but solid posture, and even turning the whole body toward the speaker. Avoid negative body language, which includes hiding your hands, slouching, crossing arms and legs, avoiding eye contact, and fidgeting.

Along with positive body language is touch. Relationships are built both from words and feelings. A friendly handshake, a hug, or even a simple touch on the shoulder can release the neurotransmitter oxytocin. Oxytocin makes the brain associate you with trust, and many other positive feelings. However, unwanted or inappropriate touching has the opposite effect. Friendly gestures involving touch are a great way to subconsciously cause the other person’s brain to associate you with trust, and register you as a friend and a likeable individual. Touching someone when it is appropriate or wanted is a fantastic way to show that you care.

Often, friends share common interests or habits. People like people that they see as similar to themselves in appearance, background, opinions, likes and dislikes, and more. To get people to like you, it is important to find a balance between fitting in with the crowd, and standing out. Fitting in will make you more persuasive, unless you’re standing out in a positive and respected way. This is where the unconscious comes in. We like people similar to us. This is not only a conscious choice when making friends, but an unconscious calculation as well.

When two individuals like each other, they both tend to mimic each other’s body language. This is known as ‘mimicry’ or ‘mirroring’. Mimicry (or mirroring) is an unconscious, automatic imitation of a person we like. For example, both people may find themselves crossing their legs in the same direction when sitting down, and when one person moves, the other does too. Unless a person is looking for these nonverbal cues, the conscious mind rarely notices them. Mirroring includes the way we dress, gestures we use, our vocal pitch and tone, eye contact, distance posture, and body orientation. This generally leaves people with positive feelings, and makes both people more persuasive, and is considered to be one aspect of being charismatic. People like people who are similar to them with both their conscious mind, and their unconscious mind. Putting in the effort to recognize mimicry and to use it will make a person much more likeable and persuasive without the conscious mind even knowing it.

It’s no surprise, but studies show that physically attractive people are more well received and well liked. Studies have found that attractive people receive better treatment in job interviews and elections. However, basic hygiene and a flattering outfit can go a long way when it comes to looks. It’s cliché, but no outfit is complete without a smile. People feel good when they smile, and they feel good when they subconsciously mirror another person. With the idea of mimicry, smiling really is contagious, and it’s a quick and easy way to make a person feel comfortable.

Being likeable involves being reliable and consistent. No one likes someone who seems fake. Likeable people are comfortable with who they are, and tend to be confident. It’s better to win people over by being an individual and focusing on what makes you happy than by making whatever choice seems like it will win people over. No one likes someone who seems like they’re all over the place, and constantly changing their identity. People should know what to expect when they come to you. To be likeable, you must be honest and reliable. You must ensure that even when your mood changes, it doesn’t change how you treat people.

People tend toward those who are genuine, because those people feel much more trustworthy. If you can trust someone over one thing, it naturally follows that that record will continue. Part of likeability is a genuine, honest transparency. This is applicable in everyday life as well as in business. This doesn’t mean that within a minute of meeting someone they have to know your whole life story. Rather, no one should be afraid to open up when the right time comes. In business, transparency is crucial. If companies are honest with their customers about what their product won’t do, as well as what it does do, the customers are more likely to respond positively and trust the company’s word. Though it seems counter-intuitive, arguing against your own interests creates a perception that you are trustworthy and honest. That puts you into a position to be much, much more persuasive when discussing things that are in your own self-interest. Several well regarded companies have come up with slogans over the years that use this principle. For example: “The taste you hate, twice a day. Listerine.” Listerine admits that it tastes terrible, but it doesn’t let that negative perception ruin its reputation. Another clever slogan says: “Avis is No. 2 in rent-a-cars. So why go with us? We try harder.” This slogan is catchy and clever, but also is open about the fact that the company may not be the best out there. Yet, both of these companies were very successful. It takes a great amount of courage and confidence to be that transparent and promote something that seems averse to your self-interest, but it it creates the trust and credibility you need to be persuasive when it comes to things you want and need.

The Authority Bias is all about knowing your stuff. However, to be a likeable person, it’s important to ask questions. When people are listening, they often make the mistake of focusing too much on what the next thing they will say is, or how they’re coming across. When a person focuses just on themselves and how they act and look and what they say, they can lose the meaning of what the other person is saying and feeling. Likeable people look beyond their own feelings and thoughts, and try to listen to what other people are saying, and pick up on verbal cues and nonverbal cues. The simplest way to achieve this is to ask a lot of questions. Asking questions shows not only that you’re listening, but also that you care about what is being said. The respect, appreciation, and love you’ll receive from asking good questions will no doubt surprise you and feel rewarding at the same time.

Likeable people are able to recognize good and positive characteristics in other people, but the most likeable people take the time and effort to compliment others when they deserve it. Likeable people try to see the best about other people, and forgive and move past failures. A simple compliment can make a person’s day, which makes them like you more. Along the same lines, likeable people greet other people by name. Your name is a part of who you are. Essentially, it’s the label put on your identity that no one else can share or take away. It feels good to hear people address you with your name. People feel validated when their name is used in conversation.

Likeable people use other people’s names when they see them. However, most people struggle with remembering names of brief acquaintances. Remembering names starts with a conscious decision to remember the name of a person you meet. When they say their name, concentrate on it. Whenever they’re speaking in the conversation, try to replay their name enough that it gets engraved in your memory. And then, associate their name with something about them. Their eyes, figure, voice, perfume, etc. Our brains remember things better when there is a trigger to activate the memory. Remembering names is a habit. Once you start, it only gets easier.

Popular and likeable people may tend to receive a lot of attention. People gravitate toward friendly, likeable people. This attention is natural. Humans are social creatures, and we enjoy the company of those we trust, and who make us feel safe: likeable individuals. However, the attention is the result of the likeability. The likeability is not the result of the attention. People do not enjoy the company of individuals who are desperate for attention. Being friendly and considerate of others is all that is required to develop a likeable persona.

Speaking concisely, confidently, and in a friendly matter is valued more than trying to prove and justify self-importance. People are much more attentive and much more easily persuaded when they feel like they are among friends than when they feel like they’re around a politician. Asserting importance or hogging the spotlight rarely comes across as genuine. Even when you do have attention, shift the focus from yourself to other people who deserve it equally. Being humble and being appreciative of others are qualities linked to likeability. Likeability is closely related to availability and engagement. When a person is an active listener, and is actively engaged in conversation, people respond positively to them, and come to like them. Part of being engaged in a conversation, though, is setting down the phone. An iPhone can be a huge distraction in any event. Nothing is worse for concentration than a quick text message or even just a glance at your phone. Committing to a conversation means committing to focus all your energy on that conversation while it lasts. Not only will people like you more for engaging with them, but conversations will also be more effective for you, and enjoyable. Immerse yourself in the conversation by putting away your phone for a little while, and it will have numerous benefits all around. The Likeability Principle is the simplest persuasion techniques. People are more easily influenced by individuals they like, and see as trustworthy.

Likeable people are always unique. They are special and invaluable members of society. They seem to have the most fun, they express the most positivity, and they bring out the best in everybody around them. The skills for developing a likeable persona are healthy likeable people are the most influential and persuasive people out there.


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