We all want to be liked.
You can have the strongest self-esteem in the world, and still care what people think of you.
Because to a certain extent, the need to fit in is innate. That’s why social rejection is even felt the same way as physical pain in the brain.
Being liked brings plenty of advantages.
It not only improves our sense of connection and our relationships with others, but it also plays into our success.
So how can you become more likable in a conversation?
This article offers 8 communication tricks to do just that.
1. Make a great first impression with these simple hacks
I don’t want to freak you out:
But research has suggested it can take as little as one-tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger.
That’s pretty much a blink of an eye.
Oh, but it gets worse:
Thanks to our natural tendency towards confirmation bias, we then spend the remainder of our conversation looking for reasons to justify our initial hunches about someone.
Ok, so that’s the bad news.
The good news is we can quite easily make good first impressions. We do it through very simple signals.
So when you meet someone:
- Give off confident body language. Things like good posture, gently pressing your shoulders back and giving good eye contact.
- Use open body language so you don’t seem guarded or shifty
- Have a firm handshake (when a handshake is appropriate)
- Use someone’s name in conversation
All these things show that we are friendly, engaged, and comfortable in someone’s company.
2. Be aware of how much you’re talking and don’t hog the conversation
One-sided conversations are bound to happen from time to time.
For example, when you’re going through a rough patch, or looking for some support and guidance on a particular problem.
It’s not that every single conversation needs to have an even split of attention between you and who you’re chatting with.
But people who hog the limelight come across as self-absorbed.
So let’s just say, if you want to make a bad impression, a quick shortcut to that is totally taking over the conversation.
Reading that now, it sounds kind of obvious.
Yet research has found we often talk a lot about ourselves, particularly when we meet someone new.
But this is a mistake.
The Harvard team of scientists also noted that it’s a misguided strategy in getting others to like us.
Because when we focus on ourselves or redirect the topic back onto us, it decreases our likability.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, other faux pas that make us seem less favorable include bragging and boasting.
The bottom line is, if you want to be more likable, make your communication less about you and more about the other person.
3. Practice active listening so that the other person feels truly heard and understood
Ok, so talking too much is a bad thing. But staying silent isn’t the solution either.
Otherwise, we run the risk of looking disinterested or like we have a boring personality with nothing to contribute.
So where is the sweet spot?
A practice known as active listening can help.
Because we all want to feel understood when we speak. And active listening makes this the overall objective.
It’s about looking beyond just words and trying to understand and empathize with the speaker.
We do this by staying really present and engaged in the conversation
Practically speaking, that looks like this:
- Giving off non-verbal cues to show we are listening, such as nodding
- Making plenty of eye contact
- Trying to read their body language to get clues about how they’re feeling
- Mirroring their body language and facial expressions
- Really listening to what they tell you, rather than thinking about how you will reply to them
Active listening allows us to respond better to the people we’re speaking to, which makes us more likable.
4. Encourage people to talk about themselves by asking them plenty of questions
I’ll cut to the chase:
We like people more who ask us questions.
And research has backed this up. One study noted that:
“When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.”
In layman’s terms, I guess you could say that you look less like an attention-seeking ass, and more like you give a damn about others.
And it’s hardly shocking news that is very likable in someone.
As we saw earlier, most of us like to talk about ourselves. So we can tap into this by offering someone else the encouragement and space to do so.
Asking questions is a good way to make a positive impression, but this next trick takes it one step further…
5. Prove that you are really paying attention by asking follow-up questions
The same study I mentioned above not only found that people asking questions was a powerful tool for likability.
They discovered that in particular follow-up questions were extra impactful.
They made these observations after researchers studied face-to-face speed-dating conversations.
They noticed that speed daters who ask more follow-up questions during their dates are more likely to get a second date.
Something they refer to as a “behavioral indicator of liking”.
Asking follow-up questions shows the other person that you’ve been paying attention to them and that you are taking a genuine interest.
6. Put away your phone and give someone your undivided attention
I say put away your phone, but really this goes for any distraction.
And let’s face it, our modern-day lives have lots.
I suspect we’ve all experienced being with someone who starts texting in the middle of a conversation.
How did it feel?
It’s pretty annoying, right?
It’s difficult to believe that someone is actually listening and engaged in our conversation when they are multi-tasking.
Whether that’s scrolling on their phone, watching the game on TV, glancing around the room, or doing some other task.
If you want someone to feel special and worthy of your time, you’ve got to give them your undivided attention.
7. Rather than trying to impress, focus on being your sincere self
This isn’t some kind of self-help platitude.
It’s not a “be yourself, everyone else is taken” motivational pep talk. It’s practical advice based on research.
That’s because a study conducted at UCLA discovered sincerity and transparency ranked as some of the top adjectives when it came to likeability.
They won out in the popularity contest over more innate characteristics such as being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive.
Anecdotally, I know that this is true for me. I always say that the people I like the most don’t have one particular personality. I simply like people who are themselves.
I even joke that you can be a bit of an asshole, just as long as you’re being an authentic asshole.
The point is, we don’t like fake people. We find it hard to warm to them. We can’t trust them.
We like authentic people, because they’re clearly honest enough to be themselves. They know who they are. And it takes quiet confidence and deep-rooted self-esteem to be real.
All of which is very appealing to us.
Basically, we can’t like someone when we don’t have a clue who they really are. So being yourself is vital.
8. Resist the urge to over-share or pass judgment and be mindful of what’s appropriate given the situation
Yes, we should be ourselves but that does come with a caveat.
Because we have to be our appropriate selves.
What I mean by that is presenting yourself in a way that’s still fitting for the social context you’re in.
The reality is that we’re all complex and have different sides to ourselves.
It’s not always appropriate to reveal everything, and certainly not all at once.
Oversharing can stand against you when you’re trying to be likable.
Whilst it’s important to know when to open up, sharing your problems or your deepest darkest secrets too early can be pretty intense.
It’s important to establish relationships before we off-load onto someone.
Similarly, kick off with lots of complaints and niggles, and you may well be seen as a bit of a complainer.
And nobody likes a negaholic!
Lastly, remain as open-minded and non-judgmental towards others as possible. Passing judgment on people makes you the opposite of being approachable.
None of us want to talk to someone who we feel like is closed-minded and has already formed opinions about us.
Bottom line: The most likable people show strong emotional intelligence
Most of the tricks and tips on our list come down to one key skill:
People with a high EQ are more likable because they are better are reading, understanding, and reacting to others.
So ultimately, working on our emotional intelligence gives us better social skills that leave a good impression.