The word “popularity” may elicit embarrassing high school memories of trying to sit with an exclusive group of Mean Girls and being glaringly rejected: “you can’t sit with us.”
Thankfully, real life isn’t Mean Girls. Truly popular people create their own table and invite others to sit with them. They uphold great character values that win them true friends.
Being popular as an adult is not dependent on your looks, style, wealth, athletic abilities, or even your social status.
In fact, popularity results from personality traits and social skills that anybody can learn.
If you want to make people like you more, start recognizing these key traits of popular people and use these 16 tips to become more popular.
What Makes Someone Popular?
Some people are popular because of their wealth, good looks, or fame. However, most popular and influential individuals earned their reputation by cultivating certain traits that other people admire, such as excellent people skills. In this article, we want to focus on gaining popularity authentically.
We’ve all been around those magnetic people who friends and admirers constantly surround. People flock to them because they are authentic, charismatic, kind, engaging, and genuinely enjoyable to be around. Popular people magnetize friends.
16 Traits of Popular People + How to Cultivate Them
Popular people tend to share these crucial traits that attract friends everywhere they go. With a little bit of attention and practice, you can cultivate them, too.
Be Genuinely Kind
You can smell fake kindness from a mile away. When you are trying to get something out of someone, people can sense your lack of authenticity.
Popular people generally don’t “use” others to raise their social status or get more business deals. Instead, they express genuine kindness everywhere they go.dal
Contrary to the cliquey portrayal of in-vogue characters in movies, popular people are not exclusionary.
They are nice to janitors, waiters, and random people on the street. They offer to help their friends when they’re going through a tough time. They have stand-out character traits that exude friendliness and courtesy, even when they get nothing in return.
Popular people are kind and compassionate, constantly inviting others into the conversation and making people feel important, no matter who they are.
But kindness is more than opening doors, smiling, and daily manners. Kindness requires truly looking inside yourself and thinking about the kind of person you want to be in your everyday life, even when nobody else is looking.
Bottom Line: Popular people are kind because it is their second nature. They care about others and want to make people feel good while in their presence, not because they want something from them.
Their genuineness comes down to their intentions. Evaluate whether you are being nice because you want people to boost your popularity or because you care.
Be the “Social Glue” of Friend Groups
Have you noticed how popular people always bring people together?
They frequently host parties and get-togethers, create plans, and reach out to invite new people into their social circles. Essentially, they are the “glue” of a social group.
But you don’t necessarily need to have an extroverted “Type A” personality to bring people together.
There are many different ways that someone can be the “social glue” of their friend group:
- Always introduce people to new settings. Popular people have superb social skills when introducing their friends to each other. They don’t create awkward scenarios where they talk to a friend publicly while their other comrade stands idle. If they hang out with you and run into a friend on the street, they quickly introduce you both and “glue” separate friend groups together. If you forget to introduce people in these settings, it can come across as socially unskilled or potentially rude. Popular people make others feel comfortable and at ease by weaving together new connections.
- Reach out and make plans. Friendship takes effort, and popular people are excited to do the work of bringing more people together. No matter how busy you may be, taking the time to invite people to do things with you demonstrates that you care about growing your friendships.
- Invite new friends into your group. Whenever you go to a social gathering, try to introduce a new friend to others (don’t forget to check with the event host ahead of time). This benefits everyone involved by expanding the circle of friends and making you appear more pleasant and likable.
Being surrounded by a lot of people comes with great rewards and responsibilities. But at the end of the day, the more you can bring people together in a positive convivial setting, the deeper your friendships will grow. As a result, you will attract more and more quality people into your life.
Research shows that people are biologically predisposed to be attracted to confident people. The most beloved people in a social setting have unshakeable confidence. They have a powerful presence.
They radiate courage, poise, and assuredness. People want to bask in that light.
Popular people own who they are and accept themselves despite their flaws.
Instead of beating themselves up for their shortcomings, they embrace their quirks. Because they don’t harshly judge themselves, they are inherently more accepting of others.
If someone doesn’t like them, they don’t sweat it. Popular people don’t bend over backward to win other people’s approval.
Why? Because their confidence comes from within.
They don’t need anyone’s validation, which makes them even more pleasant to be around.
Being secure in yourself is one of the most alluring qualities you can have.
Insecurity leads to fishing for compliments or surrounding oneself with people for the sake of an ego boost. Confidence leads to charm, charisma, and more freedom to embrace your authenticity in a social setting.
This creates a compounding effect. Your confidence becomes contagious, and other people feel free to open themselves up and embrace their uniqueness as well.
“Confidence becomes contagious, and other people feel free to open themselves up and embrace their uniqueness as well.”
Bottom Line: Confidence is attractive. If you want to have more self-esteem, try these scientifically-proven strategies to grow your confidence.
Cultivate a Tolerant and Pleasant Attitude
Lots of friends rarely surround complainers, downers, and pessimists. You don’t often see popular people with frowns on their faces or overtly negative outlooks. People tend to be attracted to those that are pleasant to be around. Just seeing another person smile triggers the part of our brain associated with rewards.
But that doesn’t mean you should be toxically positive. It isn’t usually productive to ignore the negative altogether. Instead, popular people seek ways to decrease stress, help their friends, or find solutions to problems. If you want to have a larger social circle, try to maintain a good attitude even during trials and tribulations.
“Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”—Author Unknown
Moral of the story? Smile often—compliment people. Try to be as non-judgmental of yourself and others as possible. But remember that toxic positivity is not productive either. Instead, be as tolerant and empathetic as possible when others are going through a hard time. Rather than shrugging off your friends’ struggles with “it’ll all be OK!” try asking, “how can I help?”
Tell It Like It Is
Kindness is a magnetic quality, but being a pushover is not.
Popular people don’t sugarcoat the truth. They tell it like it is.
People inherently want to be around those who are confident enough to speak the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. This manifests itself in three significant ways:
- Popular people don’t avoid tough conversations. They are open to respectful conflicts or interventions. It’s not kind to tiptoe around challenging issues just for the sake of keeping the peace. Don’t bite your tongue in times of conflict or avoid expressing your opinion just because you want to be accepted.
- Popular people tell the raw truth (while still being polite), and their friends love them for it. It’s not kind to lie to make people feel better. If you’re overly judgmental of someone else, they’ll let you know. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, they’ll remind you. If you have spinach in your teeth, they’ll tell you.
- Likable people push you to be better. It’s not kind to be an enabler of friends’ bad habits. Likable people call their friends out kindly because they want to help them grow and improve. They also openly welcome constructive criticism in return.
People like to be around friends that help them become better versions of themselves. That means they avoid sugarcoating the reality of a given situation. They’re genuine and straightforward.
Bottom Line: To be more popular, you have to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Be Interesting to Talk To
Let’s be honest: you don’t often find boring people surrounded by friends. People want to be around individuals who are interesting and engaging.
To expand your circle of friends, learn how to talk to people about intriguing topics.
This is a two-in-one skill, with both aspects working in conjunction:
- Become a better conversationalist
- Be an interesting person
Become a Better Conversationalist
Paradoxically, the people who are most interesting to talk to are the ones who avoid talking only about themselves.
According to the best-selling book Captivate, having a genuine interest in others can lead to dazzling conversations.
“Be more memorable by really remembering the people you meet—from their names to their interests. ”—Vanessa Van Edwards
Popular people are not narcissists. They magnetize friends because they are genuinely interested in learning from other people. They make great conversation because they’ve practiced the art of asking others about their opinions, passions, and interests.
Action Step: Become a better conversationalist by practicing these 57 Killer Conversation Starters. The next time you go out to the grocery store or coffee shop, find the longest line you can and try your favorite conversation starter with a stranger! People want to be around you more if you initiate interesting conversations and ask them about themselves.
Be an Interesting Person
But good conversation skills alone aren’t enough. Humans naturally flock towards novelty and excitement.
To be an interesting person, you have to be doing things in life. Sitting on the couch all day watching TV or scrolling through social media is a one-way ticket to boring conversations and fewer friends.
The secret sauce to an interesting conversation has hobbies, opinions, interests, and passions that you like to talk about.
- What are you most excited about in the coming months?
- What books are you reading?
- What new skills are you practicing?
- What creative endeavors are you undertaking?
- What do you like to learn about?
If you’re always learning, you’ll have a lot of exciting things to talk about. Repeating the same things can make it hard to find new friends or expand into new social settings.
People who regularly try new things have more confidence, better memory, more creativity, improved brain health, and more happiness. Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to expand your social circle while simultaneously adding some zest to your life.
“All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.”—Tony Robbins
Suppose you’ve been stuck in a rut or feel intimidated by meeting new people. In that case, it may be time to seek out a new hobby that will get you excited about socializing again.
As a bonus, you’ll have more to talk about in conversation with new people, making you seem more interesting and exciting to hang around.
Action Step: Write down 3-5 new things you’d like to learn or try out in the next month. These could be as simple as learning how to cook Thai curry or do a handstand, or exciting new hobbies like training for a 5K or taking a painting class.
Whatever it is, add a little zest to your free time, so you have more interesting conversation topics. You may even want to use a friendship app to connect with like-minded people in your area who are doing similar activities.
Be a Good Listener
Popular people do just as much listening as they do talking. People enjoy being around them because they feel valued and heard.
But most people think they are better listeners than they are.
We’ve all been caught in that trap of thinking about the next thing we will say rather than attentively listening to another person’s side of the conversation.
This can be detrimental to our relationships because a shocking 45% of all communication involves listening.
People who have a lot of social connections are constantly practicing the art of deep listening:
- They provide their full attention when someone is talking to them.
- They use eye contact and nods or verbal acknowledgments to show that they are genuinely interested in what others say.
- They repeat back interpretations, questions, and comments about what was said.
- They listen to remember important details about their friends’ lives (for example, their birthday, favorite food, or recent struggles).
- During conversation, they avoid distractions like phones, shifting gaze, or interruptions from other people.
People naturally want to spend more time with those that care about them. Being a good listener shows empathy and compassion for friends and strangers.
Action Tip: Improve your communication skills by practicing better listening during your day-to-day conversations.
Popular people talk about many things, but they don’t speak poorly about others.
Research in social psychology explains how gossip reduces the feeling of social safety and can even make people feel lower self-esteem.
Gossip severely reduces the likelihood that people want to trust you with intimate details about their life. Suppose people hear you speaking negatively about others. In that case, they may assume that you will talk badly about them when they’re not around as well. It can also make you appear shallow, self-centered, and judgemental.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”—Eleanor Roosevelt
There are far better things to talk about anyways. People want to be around individuals who uplift others rather than tearing them down.
Show That You Like People
Whether in a romantic, platonic, or professional interaction, people are constantly trying to figure out whether others like them or not.
Why is it so hard to gauge someone’s opinion of us? Because we’re trying to hide it!
As adults, most of us conceal our feelings to “play it cool .” But as kids, we were a lot more straightforward. We’d run up to someone on the playground and say, “I like you! Let’s be friends!”.
There is an intriguing cognitive phenomenon called the Signal Amplification Bias. It explains why people don’t openly communicate how they feel.
The fear of rejection keeps us from overtly expressing whether or not we like someone. We don’t want to risk liking them more than they like us. But this creates an unproductive loop of everyone questioning, “do they like me or not?”
The most likable people use signaling to demonstrate their interest in others. They openly tell people that they like them and why. This shows that they accept others for who they are and want to spend more time together.
Pro Tip: If you want to be more likable, be sure to express when you like other people. Let them know the positive qualities that you see in them. When in a social setting, talk positively about your other friends. Avoid the pitfalls of saying things like, “people are the worst” or, “I hate people!”
Help Others… Intentionally
Being helpful is the easiest way to improve your social value and win more friends. But it’s essential to go about helpfulness in a certain way so that you don’t appear needy or self-interested.
For example, suppose you are technically savvy, and your friend is having trouble setting up a new device. In that case, you can easily offer to help them out. You have a skill that can make their life easier, and you’re glad to share it with them.
On the flip side, assume you work in the real estate business, and your friend is looking for a new condo. Perhaps you remember when you moved to the same city and found it impossible to find a new place. You empathize with your friend and know some good connections to help them find a home more quickly. You can provide high-value assistance that comes from a real place.
But if you are secretly trying to close a deal that you get commission on, or you are trying to subtly exchange the favor for something that person can do for you in return, your helpfulness can easily be seen as fake or self-interested.
Offering to help others by sharing your skills is a phenomenal way to establish new friendships. Just be sure that you are aware of your intentions behind assisting people. You don’t want to come across as needy, nor do you want to seem like you are helping someone just for the sake of getting something in return.
Become Great at One Skill
People who are good at what they do tend to have a broader social sphere.
It’s not necessarily because skillfulness makes you more popular. Instead, the confidence and passion you have about your field of work draws people to you.
Being good at what you do can attract positive attention in school, your workplace, and beyond. People will notice your success and ask about it. They may even come to you for advice.
Nobody is born with skills. We all work to achieve them. Whether you are already on the path to growing your knowledge in a specific field or just learning a new skill, remember that everybody starts at the bottom. We were all once helpless infants who had to learn everything as we grew.
Asking for advice, finding mentors, networking with peers, reading, and constantly learning are incredible ways to grow your skill sets while simultaneously growing your social connections.
Pro Tip: Focus on only ONE thing you want to excel in. Head on over to this list of 50 hobbies to find your match.
Work on Your Personal Growth
It may seem a little contradictory to focus on improving yourself to grow your popularity. The truth is, to help uplift and attract people around you, you first have to help yourself.
It is challenging to juggle a wide circle of social connections if you don’t yet know who you are or what you want in life.
This doesn’t mean you need to go into isolation to figure it all out. It simply means that you should focus on your internal journey first to have more to offer in your friendships.
As you grow your confidence, self-awareness, patience, and mindset, more people will want to be around you because they feel inspired by your progress.
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your self.”—Aldous Huxley
As you work on becoming the best version of yourself through personal development and getting out of your comfort zone, you can consciously shift your social interactions to be more likable and popular.
Support Your Friends
If you want to gain more friends, don’t forget to support the friends you already have.
It’s crucial to regularly check in on your friends, listen to what’s going on in their life, and be there for them in times of need.
Supporting your existing friends is often overlooked in becoming a more likable person. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple:
- Be their number one cheerleader when they reach big or small milestones.
- Be the shoulder to cry on when they’re going through a breakup.
- Offer your best advice when they ask for it.
- Reach out regularly. A simple call or text can make someone’s day.
- Remember big dates like birthdays or anniversaries.
The more you are there for other people, the more they will be there for you. Popularity comes from a place of genuine love and care.
When you help your friends in their times of need, you contribute to a more robust support system for yourself and others in your circle.
Action Step: Go through your contacts list and reach out to old connections! Text 3 people a warm hello to make their day.
Initiate New Connections
Once you begin to master small talk in your daily life, you can actively seek out new connections everywhere you go.
You may notice that popular people constantly initiate new conversations with a coffee shop barista, random people in line, the valet guy, or someone at the dog park.
They start social interactions quickly and often talk to strangers as already friends. Suppose there is mutual interest or chemistry between them. In that case, a friendly person is often the first to exchange contact info or ask about themselves.
The world is a massive place, and new friendships could be waiting for you around every corner.
You just have to be willing to look for them! It can be a bit uncomfortable at first. Still, the more you practice talking to strangers, the easier it becomes to initiate new connections.
Pro Tip: Lead with compliments. One of the easiest ways to begin a conversation is to compliment someone and ask them about that topic.
For example, if you are interested in jewelry making, you probably notice people’s jewelry a lot. You can initiate a conversation by complimenting their necklace and asking where they got it. Perhaps it was their grandmother’s, and there is a whole story behind it!
Another example is noticing someone wearing a sports jersey. If you are interested in sports, you can say “I like your jersey” and spark a discussion about your favorite players.
Practice the Art of Small Talk
Statistically speaking, the more conversations you spark up daily, the more likely you will expand your circle of friendships.
While most of us loathe small talk, it’s pretty simple to turn daily conversations into deeper connections.
What may start as a shallow, boring chat about the weather or traffic can turn into an important friendship if you reroute the conversation towards a funny story, a question about their hometown, or even a potential mutual interest.
Learn how to master small talk in the video below, or check out our small talk article:
If you can master the art of small talk, you can have a far better chance of becoming more popular at work, school, and beyond.
Embrace Your Authenticity
When you look at the most influential and popular people in the world, what do they all have in common?
They are unique! They are authentic! There is no one else quite like them.
People are most drawn to individuals who fully embody their true selves. But what does that really mean?
Authenticity is a big, ambiguous word that boils down to knowing who you are and what you stand for.
To embrace your authenticity means to avoid conforming for the sake of being accepted. It means wearing your quirks and peculiarities without shame or embarrassment. It means harnessing the power of your unique life experience and owning your story rather than trying to change it for the sake of impressing others.
Authenticity is one of those hard to define but easy to recognize.
When someone embraces their authentic self, they aren’t afraid to be goofy, vulnerable, honest, and raw. They do not need to copy or mimic others because they have their ideas. They are honest and imperfect. They own their flaws. They aren’t afraid to share themselves with the world.
You are innately unique, and there is no use wasting time trying to impress others with costumes or facades.
Amidst a sea of conformity, people are most drawn to those who dare to be authentic. If you can learn this skill alone, you are sure to attract an abundance of friends who value you for who you indeed are.
Pro Tip: Invest a lot of time into your personal development. Learn more about yourself and how to be more authentically you. Remember that no one else on Earth has the same genetics, thoughts, or life experiences. Don’t waste any time trying to conceal them or be like somebody else.
How to Be Popular in College or School
Let’s do one more special use case: School!
Adolescence and college are some of the most challenging and exciting chapters of life. But it can be tough to go through school without a support system.
Gaining popularity in college or high school is a double-edged sword. Everyone is still figuring themselves out and trying to find their way in the complicated social spheres of young adulthood.
If you want to establish social skills that will create lasting popularity into adulthood, try a few of these tips:
Join a Group
Join a sports team, try out a new hobby, or become a member of a club. The easiest way to grow your popularity in school is to get involved in a group of like-minded students.
New students’ biggest mistake is isolating themselves or expecting friends to come to them. Schools offer a vast range of extracurricular activities for a reason. The more you get involved in them, the more likely you will find a group of quality friends who share your passions.
Suppose you don’t know what your passions are. In that case, you have even more reason to try out some new extracurricular activities and explore the vast diversity of people on your campus.
Establish a Few Close Friends
Being the “cool” kid we see in the movies is often overrated. People with “cool” reputations or high popularity status are often not regarded as good people or respected for their character. Many of them are downright bullies.
Instead of trying to be the coolest kid in class, just be yourself. Focus on being nice to people and establishing close friendships with your roommate(s) or a handful of peers.
Research shows that the most socially content students are those with a tight-knit group of friends rather than those perceived as “popular” and have a large circle of social ties. So be sure to nourish existing friendships before seeking popularity status.
Avoid Shallow Friendships
One of the easiest “popularity pitfalls” of college is the illusion of friendships from partying or drinking. Often, young students think that they will be more liked by attending more late-night social gatherings.
The opposite can be true. While it may feel like you have a lot of friends at a big party, focusing on “nightlife” connections can result in shallow, party-based friendships that don’t transfer over into your daily life.
Don’t worry. There is no harm in having fun and safely enjoying your college years. But genuine connections are far more likely to be formed in after-class study groups, movie nights, or club meetings where you can have level-headed conversations with people who share your interests.
Dare to Make the First Move
Suppose you are willing to approach fellow students and invite them to coffee or a study group after class. In that case, your chances of developing friendships will skyrocket.
It’s hard. It’s scary. But initiating conversations or hangouts is what pays off.
Why? Because most students are too afraid to do it!
One of the most important things to remember about making friends during adolescence is that everyone feels equally as awkward and nervous as you do.
Gary Vaynerchuck tells a funny story about his high school experience when he was too nervous about approaching potential friends because he had a zit on his face. Then one day, he realized that nobody was paying attention to the zit on his face because they were focused on their zits.
Most of us in high school and college are so concerned with overcoming our insecurities that we aren’t even paying attention to other people’s flaws.
When you dare to make the first move, you portray yourself as confident and non-judgemental. You are more likely to establish new friendships simply by putting yourself out there and being kind.
Bonus Tip: Don’t try super hard to be popular! It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you try to be popular, the fewer friends you attract. Why is that? Because people who put on extravagant facades to get validation from others may attract the wrong type of people.
Trying to impress people for the sake of popularity is usually a dead-end street. It inflates your ego and conceals your true self. Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting, anyhow. People are magnetized by those who embrace their uniqueness, not those who try super hard to be something they’re not.
Instead of trying too hard to be popular, work on cultivating better character traits and social skills.
How to Be Popular Takeaways
Being popular comes down to being a good person. People want to be around individuals that stand out from the crowd with their kindness, confidence, positivity, authenticity, and charisma.
Apply these bite-sized principles to your life today, and maybe you will start attracting more popularity in your social circles:
- Be the Social Glue: Practice bringing people together in every aspect of your life. Invite someone from the office to eat lunch with you and a friend. Host a small get-together at your house this weekend and invite people from different social groups. Most importantly, always introduce people to each other when you’re out and about.
- Radiate Confidence: Boost your self-esteem, practice proud posture, and learn to love yourself for who you are. Confidently embrace your authenticity so that other people feel comfortable opening up around you.
- Practice Small Talk Regularly: Strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store or coffee shop. Ask people questions about themselves.
- Give People Your Undivided Attention: No matter who you are talking to, show them the utmost kindness and respect by giving them your full attention. Use eye contact, nods, verbal cues, and undistracted attention to show them that you care.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Make the First Move: Popularity ultimately comes down to courage. Friends don’t often just fall in your lap. Most people are yearning to be accepted and included in a social setting. Are you brave enough to reach out to others and make the first move in establishing a new friendship? Invite someone to coffee or lunch; what do you have to lose?
Remember, popularity is not an exclusive club that you need to be invited to. Anyone can learn all of the traits and skills required for popularity. It may not be easy, but the effort in developing your social skills can pay off tremendously with deep, fulfilling social connections that last a lifetime.
If you want to attract more people into your life, try these 5 science-backed strategies to be more likable.