Friday, April 2, 2010

The Likeability Trap

In general, we all like to be liked.  As a result, we will engage in behaviours, often unconsciously, designed to get our audience to be positively disposed toward us.  Research has shown us that feeling and believing that others like and respect us can be a great source of personal pride.  It can go a long way to helping shape our internal beliefs about ourselves.

Knowing that we're a 'good' person, and believing that others know and see this as well, can be a source of comfort to us when we find ourselves in a conflict with someone else.  It can help us feel good about ourselves, despite someone else's attempt to make us feel bad.

Likeability then, the extent to which we believe we are liked by others, can have a very definite and positive impact upon us.  It can increase our confidence and belief in ourselves and enhance our self esteem.  Research has shown that likeability also has other, perhaps lesser known, benefits.
  • a customer's fondness (or liking) of their salesperson will weigh up to twice as much in their purchasing decisions as their regard for the products.  This is the foundation for the emphasis on Relationship-based selling processes.
  • creating that likeability bond establishes a presumption of goodwill and friendship through future contacts.  Others will be more favourably disposed to you and will interpret your future behaviours in a more positive and favourable light.
  • people that are 'liked' tend to be hired and promoted faster. 
It's all good then, right?  To be successful, our strategy should be to do all that we can to be 'liked' by as many people as possible...right?  Perhaps not.  As with all things in life, it seems that there can even be 'too much of a good thing' when it comes to likeability.  Balance, even here, is the key.

There is a downside to being too likeable, too friendly, too nice.  It seems those individuals that skew too heavily to the right on the the likeability continuum, will undermine their credibility.  They are no longer seen as strong, confident and capable, but instead seem weak, indecisive and a follower.  So much of their behaviour is oriented toward fulfilling the needs and wants of others that 'they' get lost in the process.

This overwhelming need to be liked by others will undermine your sense of self, rather than build it up.  It's not often labelled the 'Disease to Please' for nothing!  People who find that they orient their entire day (if not life) toward the fulfillment of everyone else's needs will likely find their own being sacrificed.  This can lead to feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction and disillusionment.

Unfortunately, they will then typically fall back to the one behaviour that has made them feel good about themselves in the past and do more of it.  Pleasing others!  They work harder to please others and obtain their praise.  The Likeability Trap has now decisively clicked shut around them, catching them up in an endlessly looping cycle of behaviour.

To break out of this spiral of behaviour it is necessary to take a good look at just who you are trying to please and why.  Create a list of people in your life that influence how you think, feel and act.  (For those of you that have a copy of my book - It's Time Now - use The Board of Director's exercise)

Now assess their relative worth and value to you.  Is their influence predominantly positive or negative?  Are they helping move you forward in your life or holding you back?  Our time and energy are limited.  We therefore want to ensure that we narrow down the list of people we are working to please to include only those individuals that you receive a positive benefit from.  There must be an advantage to you for your investment in them!

Positive relationships are not one-sided.  They're reciprocal.  Establish the balance in your life by ensuring that you invest in the relationships that net you a positive return.  The others?  Well... take a lesson from Donald Trump on this one...  Fire 'em!

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