Whether we admit it or not, we all want to be liked. We’re hardwired to have that desire to connect and be accepted.
For some of us, being liked comes easy. They’ve got a natural charm that draws people to them right away. For others, not so much.
The good news is, science offers us several smart tricks to make people like us instantly.
Here are 10 psychological tricks to help you connect with people better and make them like you.
I’ll start with the most obvious way to make someone like you instantly – a smile!
I’m sure you already know how smiling and seeing someone smile can make you feel good. But did you ever stop and think about the science behind it?
It’s because smiling triggers our brain’s reward systems. A UK study found that a single smile can stimulate the brain as much as eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving £16,000 (or $25,000) in cash can.
Imagine that! That’s how powerful it is.
Not only that, but smiling also makes us look good to other people. As a Penn State University study confirmed, we appear likable, polite, and more competent when we smile.
However, make sure your smile is genuine. By genuine, I mean the Duchenne smile, which psychologists consider to be the true smile. That’s the kind of smile that reaches your eyes and makes them crinkle, creating crow’s feet.
Now, I know that can be a tall order if you’re a shy person or someone who doesn’t easily warm up to others. So, to help with that, you can do this next trick…
2) Act like you like them
Acting like you like someone may feel like going through the motions at first, but it actually triggers a real psychological response.
The As If principle.
Psychology professor Richard Wiseman points out how positive action – in this case, acting “as if” – can effect real change.
So, even if you don’t really know a person, acting as if you like them can lead to you liking them for real. Which then makes it easier for you to smile naturally.
And the cherry on top is that you then trigger another psychological response.
The reciprocity principle.
An interesting social experiment showed that people tend to like those who like them. This phenomenon is known as “reciprocal liking”.
It all has to do with one’s self-esteem and the human desire to be liked. Just like you want to be liked, so does the other person! We’re truly more alike than different, aren’t we?
3) Mirror the person you’re with
Aside from acting as if you like the other person, how about acting like the other person?
Mirroring is an age-old technique rooted in psychology, and it’s as simple as subtly mimicking the other person’s behavior or speech patterns.
Think of it as reflecting back the best parts of whoever you’re talking to.
Why does it work?
Because mirroring fosters a sense of familiarity and comfort, as it’s a form of limbic synchrony.
In simpler terms, it’s an unconscious cue that says, “We’re in tune. We understand each other.”
The result is that the other person would feel connected to you because you come across as empathetic.
Just don’t overdo it and mimic their every action, though. Because then it stops being empathetic and crosses over to creepiness.
4) The power of touch
Just like mirroring, touch is a powerful tool in human interaction that also needs to be used wisely and appropriately.
You don’t want to overstep and come across as invasive or creepy. A simple pat on the back or a gentle touch on the arm can do the trick.
That’s because physical touch releases oxytocin, often referred to as the “bonding hormone.” It’s so powerful that it can create a sense of connection in a fraction of a second.
But I must emphasize this again – just remember to always be mindful of boundaries and cultural differences when using this technique. Keep it friendly and appropriate so the other person doesn’t feel violated.
5) Pay them a compliment
Another reliable way to make people like you instantly is to pay them a compliment.
After all, who doesn’t love a good compliment? It’s an instant ego boost.
As Psychology Today states, a series of studies showed just how much we tend to underestimate how good compliments make the other person feel.
By a lot.
So, you might think nothing about saying “I like your shoes!” but trust me, you’ve just made that person’s day in a way you didn’t even anticipate.
And you know what? You may even inspire them to be generous in complimenting others, too. That’s another finding from those psychological studies on the power of compliments!
6) Be positive
This one’s all about energy.
Again, let’s refer to psychology here. According to Positive Psychology, “Emotional contagion occurs when someone’s emotions and related behaviors lead to similar emotions and behaviors in others.”
(It also explains why giving someone a compliment can inspire them to do the same thing.)
I can attest to this myself. I’m very blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to be quite sensitive to other people’s energies.
So when I meet a new person who’s brimming with positivity and openness, I can’t help but like them.
The reverse is true as well. I don’t automatically dislike someone who brings negative energy, but I do maintain a little distance. Which means, we don’t connect as much.
So if you want people to like you instantly, choose openness. It lifts the mood of those around you and makes them more willing to engage with you. Be infectious – in the best kind of way!
This leads me to my next point…
7) Show warmth first – then competence
My point above stays even if you want to be perceived as competent.
You see, many of us have this idea that to be seen as good at what we do, we have to be somber. We have to look serious to be taken seriously.
Not so fast. Turns out, it’s more effective to lead with warmth. It builds a foundation of trust that you can later build upon with your competence.
Harvard Business School researcher Amy Cuddy has pointed out that when you meet a new person, they immediately assess two things:
“Can I trust this person? And can I respect this person?”
You nail the first question with warmth. The second one with competence.
The research also shows that “people judged to be competent but lacking in warmth often elicit envy in others.”
Equally, people judged to be warm but incompetent tend to elicit pity.
The bottomline: aim for both. It’s the surest way to leave people with a favorable impression of you.
8) Be a little vulnerable
That said, even when you want to demonstrate competence, a little vulnerability won’t hurt.
Showing vulnerability may seem counterintuitive, but it can actually make you more likable.
I’ve found that admitting a mistake or sharing a personal story often makes people more comfortable around me.
And it would be true for anyone else. Letting people see your flaws humanizes you and makes you more approachable.
The research backs that up – an EU study showed that people respond to displays of vulnerability positively.
That’s kind of surprising, since we always think we’ll be taken advantage of the minute we show our weaknesses.
(What I love about this bit of research is that it tells me that, as messed up as the world is, there are still more good people than bad.)
9) Use humor to connect
Why do motivational speakers – or any speaker for that matter – typically open with a joke?
Because it’s a fantastic bonding tool. Making someone laugh is like a shortcut to their good graces.
It’s an instant icebreaker that relaxes people and makes the atmosphere more enjoyable. And it’s pretty simple – people who laugh together like each other better.
You know what else is great about laughter? It can reveal our shared values.
This brings me to my next point…
10) Emphasize shared values
Finding common ground creates an instant connection. The explanation for this is simple as well – we like people like us.
In psychology, this is a cognitive bias called the “similar-to-me effect”.
I see this in my own interactions. When I meet someone new and I find out they’re into things I like (such as painting, fountain pens, or books), it’s easier to connect.
The same goes for deeper stuff, like values. For instance, I have a co-worker with whom I have nothing in common. Or so it seems. But from the first time I met her, I could see she was a hard worker.
As someone who values hard work and professionalism, I instantly liked and respected her.
So, if you feel like you have shared values or interests with a new person, focus on that. That way, you can create a sense of unity even if you don’t know each other well yet.
As you can see, there are many ways to connect with people and make them like you instantly.
But before I end, I’d like to say this—nothing beats authenticity. While psychological tricks and techniques can nudge things in your favor, they can never replace the pull of genuine human connection.
Authenticity has a way of cutting through the noise and forging bonds that are meaningful and lasting.
Plus, people are drawn to authenticity; they can sense it, feel it, and most importantly, trust it.
At the end of the day, the best way to be instantly likable is to be yourself.