One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that someone likes you. In this post I explore 5 science backed ways you can be more likable.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your crush, your boss, a new friend or your favorite barista.
It’s possible that these three words are some of the most powerful in the English language:
I like you.
Okay, okay, I love you is pretty good, too. But “I like you” precedes I love you. In that way, like is kind of the appetizer of love. And no one loves appetizers more than me!
There is some fascinating science that will help you become more likable. And being likable is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have.
The Science of Likability
There’s no doubt about it: Highly likable people have more.
They have more friends, they land more deals, they get more dates. When an exceptionally likable person walks into a room, people want to know them. Highly likable people are more charismatic and influential.
Basically, highly likable people are superheroes…And I think you can be one too.
In case you don’t believe me, here’s some science for you:
- Australia Journal of Psychology found that likable people are more likely to keep their jobs–not due to technical skills, not due to talent, but due to likability! Why? Because likable people are easier to work with, are great on teams and get people to work with them seamlessly. In fact…
- A study by TalentSmart of more than one million people found that people who are highly likable outperform those who aren’t.
Likability is the greatest predictor of popularity and social acceptance in a group for adults, more important than wealth, status or physical attractiveness.John Kinnell
It’s time to make likability a priority. Here’s how:
Here’s something crazy. In the last seven days, more than 3,400 people searched “How to know if people like me” on Google. Even more searched for “How to know if a guy likes me” and “How to know if a girl likes me.”
We are constantly trying to gauge if people like us. And it’s not easy to know. You know why? We try to hide it! This phenomenon is called:
Signal Amplification Bias: People tend to think their social cues are obvious but, in fact, they are not.
Research has found that we are so afraid of rejection that we hide our feelings of liking. In other words:
We are so afraid people won’t like us back that we don’t show we like them at all.
And this creates a terrible loop.
- You hide your feelings of like.
- So they hide their feelings of like.
- And then no one knows if anyone likes them.
This is why thousands of people are searching Google for likability tips!
Let’s stop the liking loop madness!
Remember when you were little and you met a new friend at camp? If you liked them, you were very direct. I remember having a new friend say to me, “I like you. Let’s be friends.” Um, easiest friendship ever. Now as adults, we try to play it cool. This happens professionally, romantically and even with new friends.
Researcher Monika Moore found that even when we think we are being obvious, we are not. For example:
How many direct glances does a woman have to make before her intended will approach her?
- a. 2
- b. 5
- c. 9
- d. 13
The answer is D. 13! Yes, 13 glances. I don’t know about you, but my friend looks at a guy once maybe twice, and if he doesn’t come over, she assumes he doesn’t like her.
When we don’t use signaling, we are missing opportunities for mutual like. If you don’t signal likability enough, people will assume you don’t like them and then they will have trouble liking you.
Bottom Line: You think people know when you like them, but they don’t. Here’s why that’s important…
We Like People Who Like Us
Here is the simplest, most powerful tip I can give you on likability. It completely changed every interaction I have.
If you like more people, more people will like you.
Yes, humans are funny. The moment we know someone likes us, we like them more too. Why? There is no risk of social rejection. If we know they like us, we don’t have any risk in liking them back. And subconsciously, if someone likes us, we think, “Hey, they must have great taste!”
In my book Captivate, I share a study that looked at popular kids in high school. What do you think made the most popular kids popular? The most liked students also liked the most other people. The most popular kids weren’t afraid to say hello to people in the hallways, smile first and be clear with their social signaling.
Bottom Line: Like more people, and more people will like you.
Use the Similarity Attraction Effect
Let me tell you a quick story: This story is about my friend Elon, who emailed me a few months back with an idea. To give you a little background on Elon, he works for a sporting events company selling raffle tickets to game-goers. In his job, he usually sets up a table for fans to purchase tickets before the game, during halftime and after the game. Here’s what Elon wrote in to me:
“Hey Vanessa, I hope this message finds you well. I had a quick question for you. As you know, in my current job I sell raffle tickets. Typically, while at games I will wear traditional business attire in the color of the home team. However, I have been beginning to wonder if it’s not only impractical to wear a shirt and tie but, for the purpose of selling raffle tickets, if it’s ineffective to wear such garb. Given your immense knowledge in the power of body language, I was wondering if you would be willing to impart any advice as to the type of outfit that is likely to elicit a positive response. With the exception of a straight-up clown suit, I am willing to make the necessary fashion changes to raise more money for charity. Thanks, Elon”
Don’t worry, I didn’t have Elon wear a clown suit, but he was on to something. Elon was tapping into the idea called the ‘Similarity Attraction Effect‘.
Similarity Attraction Effect: We like people who are like us.
I know that the cliché says that opposites attract, but when it comes to instant likability, we tend to like people who have similar values to us, similar interests to us and look more like us. In one study, researchers found that we help strangers who are dressed more like us. For example, if you are dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and another person is wearing the same items, and they ask to borrow $1 for the subway, we are more likely to help them than someone dressed in a business suit asking for the same favor. So, I told Elon to dress as close to his ideal raffle buyer as possible, and to track his numbers to see if it made a difference in his success rate.
A few weeks later, Elon told me that this greatly affected his sales. Instead of showing up in a business suit, Elon now wears team apparel at every game. He looks more like the fans he is selling to and this made them like him more.
So, how can we use the Similarity Attraction Effect to be more likable? Easy. You highlight your similarities. The next few steps show how to do this in an authentic way.
When you first meet someone, you constantly should be on the lookout for similarities. Are you both drinking the same red wine? Do you both know the host from work? Do you both love Thai food? Orient your first few conversational topics to find mutual likes and dislikes. Then, once you find a similarity, don’t let it pass you by. Examples:
- They think cilantro taste like soap (because it does!) Share in the grossness with them and double-down on that disgusting green herb by saying, “Oh yeah, cilantro is the silent food killer. I am totally on the same page.”
- You overhear someone mention they are addicted to the new Netflix show The Handmaid’s Tale. Pipe in with your favorite scenes.
- Someone is brave enough to mention that something makes them nervous, stressed, afraid–don’t let them be alone. Take them aside and tell them you have felt exactly the same way.
Insider Tip: I am also a big fan of high-fives. If I hear someone who is into Seinfeld, I’m, like, “high-five!” If I hear someone loves to eat breakfast for dinner, I’m, like, “high-five!” If I hear someone who also sneezes when they eat chocolate, I’m, like, “high-five!” Okay, that’s a weird one and I get that.
Finally, you want to extend those similarities by using the similarity as a conversational diving board. If you both love watching soccer, ask if they ever have played. If they are big into hiking, ask for their favorite trail. You even could go a step further by asking them to go on a hike together. This builds on the Similarity Attraction Effect and creates rapport with the other person.
Bottom Line: We like people who are like us. So, get real on what you love and highlight that love in other people.
Be the Real Deal
I want you to highlight similarities — but these have to be real similarities. The absolute worst thing in the world is pretending to like something you don’t, pretending to be something you are not or sucking up.
- Research from UCLA had participants rate more than 500 adjectives based on their significance to likability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being extroverted, smart or attractive (stereotypes of likability). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency and capacity for understanding.
In other words, be real. If you are the real deal, people will be more real with you in turn.
Action Step: Know who you are. Being the real deal means having opinions, hobbies and values and sticking to them. Make it a priority to find passions you love, read more books and strengthen your perspectives.
Start Here: 10 Books to Stimulate Interesting Conversations
Bonus Tip: Like Yourself
As I was writing this post, I realized the biggest challenge we face in likability is internal not external. If we don’t like ourselves, it’s hard for others to like us. People pick up on self-hate, low self-esteem and fear. If you feel that you don’t truly like yourself, I would say your first step is working on who you are and loving yourself for it. You are awesome, others need to know you too.
Remember: I like you.
To your success,