World domination isn’t something I spend a great deal of time thinking about, as I have a hard enough time trying to keep up with my two kids.
But recently, Greg Isenberg, growth advisor for TikTok US, broke Twitter with a thread about the lessons he’d learned about life, entrepreneurship, and business by interviewing five billionaires in as many days. As a whole, Greg’s takeaways were fun to read, but there was one lesson in particular that stood out for the simple fact it got a rise out of some people: “Likable people win. People sense those good vibes. It does wonders for your startup, career, and life.”
It’s surprising how polarizing a topic like likability can be for people. A solid majority feel it really is a superpower. Others, however, think it isn’t. In fact, some people think working to be more likable is a massive waste of time, as it implies you’re a person of many masks.
Personally, I’m with the filthy rich people Greg interviewed.
Everything good in my life has come from other people, and I’m fairly certain these good things wouldn’t have come into my life if other people didn’t like me very much.
If you too believe likability is important, but at times struggle to make connections like I did when I was a stuttering, introverted kid, below are a few lightweight but highly effective ways to help you on your way.
The best part is, as promised, you don’t even need to say much.
1. Remember Anthony Bourdain’s advice
In typical Bourdain fashion, when asked by author and entrepreneur Richard Reed for one piece of advice to share with the world for his book, If I Could Tell You Just One Thing, Bourdain listed 8 things.
In addition to being kind to waitstaff and a few other points, Bourdain ended his list by giving a piece of advice that can seriously help boost your likability factor: “Don’t be a dick!”
If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that dicks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But from living all over the world, there are a few commonalities that link them together.
For starters, looking down on people is a typical dick move. Regardless of color, race, culture, or background, all people want to be acknowledged and treated with respect.
Speaking poorly of others is also a giant dick quality. But here’s an interesting bit of science that may get you to think before you speak. According to the phenomenon spontaneous trait inference, how you describe other people is how other people see you. So if you speak poorly of others, people will think poorly of you.
Gossiping, lying, being a one-upper or an over-interruptor, and being negative all the time round out a lot of the traits that turn most people off from what I’ve gathered.
So if you want to boost your likability, take note of these behaviors and try to limit them. Of course, not doing them doesn’t automatically make you likable, but it sure helps.
2. Drop the confident act and aim for comfort
“Hold your head up high!” “Let people feel your presence!”
I don’t know about you, but I think society has this one backwards. When I’m meeting someone new, I’m more focused on leaving a kind impression than an alpha one unless maybe they’re a venture capitalist.
If this thought resonates with you, give Robin Dreeke’s recipe from his book It’s Not About Me a shot:
When you’re approaching someone, tilt your head down a pinch, turn it slightly to the side, and give a slight smile. If you aren’t following my lead here just think of a puppy eyeing up a burger, as everyone loves puppies. Plus, high chins give off an air of high-society and not everyone I know loves people in high-society. In short, aim for warmth, not coldness, so don’t worry about having superhero posture.
Stand slightly to the side instead of directly in front of them as you get closer to someone. If human beings value anything, it’s the power to make their own decisions. So don’t block people’s paths, as the odds are high you don’t like it when someone blocks yours.
Lead off your conversation by letting them know you won’t take up much of their time. The phrase “I’m walking out the door to meet my wife, but I’m curious…” works well. The same goes for “I’m running to a meeting, but I’m interested…”, as letting people know you won’t be taking up a lot of time helps to put their guard down.
Try this three-step process. Then listen and observe their response to make sure their body language, facial gestures, and tone reflect a willingness to talk to you. It may sound basic, but basic things done well are good.
3. Subtly prove to people you care
On a recent call, I asked Fred Dust, the author of Making Conversations and all-around interesting guy, how he chooses who he spends his time with.
At first, he began listing off a few different answers. But halfway through, he stopped himself and said the following words: “When I cut it down to one quality, for me, I choose to hang out with people who listen. This is for the simple fact that if they don’t listen to me, it’ll only be a matter of time before I won’t want to listen to them!”
I don’t know about you, but I thought that was pretty smart.
But this doesn’t mean you need to always follow the typical advice that you need to listen more than you speak—if everyone did that, our conversations would be pretty uneventful.
It simply means to make sure the other person feels like an equal partner, and the best way to do that is to shut up and listen when they’re speaking.
At our core, we’re selfish creatures. Being a good listener takes work. In addition to adopting a curious mindset and the typical advice of keeping your phone out of sight, below are a few unconventional tips that can help you improve this seriously attractive skill.
Don’t just repeat back what people say, distill it. I was talking to a friend last week, and after telling him about moving to Spain and meeting my wife, he replied, “Ah, the key to being interesting is to go where you aren’t boring!” Not only did his summation lead to a laugh, but it opened the door to a great conversation about how sometimes the best way to stand out is to go where you’re different by default.
Gamify your conversations. Prior to meeting with someone, think about what you think their answers will be for a few questions you have in mind as it will help you stay present when the topics come up. What hobbies they’re into is an easy one. The same goes for side projects or why they do what they do for work.
Challenge yourself to learn three new things about someone and write them down after your conversation. This may sound basic, but as a kid with a stutter who often worried about what I was going to say instead of listening, this tip from my therapist really helped.
I personally love it when people say things during conversations like, “Back to your previous point — what you were saying about X was really interesting!”
Or, when we link back up again, “The last time we talked, you told me X. How’s it going?” as it shows me they really are interested.
4. Get micro on people’s names
“A person’s name is the sweetest sound in the world!”
I’ve never really understood this typical Pinterest Dale Carnegie quote that bloggers love so much, as I’ve never felt a real difference between someone saying, “It was nice to meet you, Mike!” or “Bye, nice to meet you!”
Plus, I don’t know about you, but to me, when someone says they’re bad with names, it implies they call people the wrong names, which yeah, isn’t a very likable quality.
This, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight hard to remember people’s names. But since Carnegie’s shared this advice, the world has changed. For starters, the internet has made looking people up kinda easy. You can even hand your phone to someone for them to put in their info if you connected with them or ask them if they’re on LinkedIn and have them spell their first and last name.
From what I’ve gathered when speaking to people the last few weeks, remembering someone’s name isn’t a massive deal. But what is — and instantly boosts your likability — is remembering the names of the kids or loved ones of people you already know.
In fact, the first time I met now one of my closest friends, he immediately led by asking about my kids by name, and since I’d only mentioned them in passing on a call, it showed me he cared. As someone who moves around a lot, Eric’s reminder has been gold. My kids are both in a new school this year here in Spain, and every time I address one of his classmates by name in the morning, like clockwork, their parents smile and stop for a quick chat.
Pulling it all together
Yesterday I was talking to a woman I used to hang out with. As we were wrapping up the call, I asked her about her ability to connect with people, and she summed up the benefits of likability best: “Life’s a lot more fun when people like you. Plus, you end up getting a lot more done.”
So in short, if you want to boost your likability factor, remember the names of loved ones, aim for comfort and not confidence, shut up and listen, and of course, remind yourself of Bourdain’s famous words and “Don’t be a dick!”