Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Be More Likable

Whether others like you are not is often a strong influence in their decision to buy from you, to promote you, to date you, to believe you, to recommend you, or to want to hang out with you. Therefore, when viewed from a career perspective, getting others to like you can definitely be advantageous to your career and potential advancement.

By nature we humans are social creatures.  We are hard wired to seek others out.  Partly this is due to our reptilian brain which is largely focused on our survival.  In early days, our survival was highly dependent upon being part of a group. There were far too many threats and challenges to our survival to ever make it on our own.  Therefore, it was necessary to be liked by others and fit in.

Just because we're hardwired to want to seek others out though, doesn't mean we are naturally good at it!  Making friends and connecting with others is not as easy as it seems, especially for those with a more naturally introverted nature.  If we add technology into the mix with find that more people are reporting feeling disconnected from others than ever before.

Given that we may have limited opportunities to form those connections with others, it is to our benefit to ensure that we are doing all that we can to increase our friendship success rate  Below I offer you some quick Body Language tips to help you appear more likable.  These nonverbal cues are friendship signals that will help you lay a positive framework for your budding friendships.

When it comes to your friendship signals, the following are the Top Three cues that serve to make you appear more likable to others. If you are looking for a place to start, these three are your big hitters.

  1. Eyebrow Flash.  This one always takes people by surprise, primarily because it is an unconscious gesture that few people realize they make, or even consciously see in others.  The eyebrow flash is a quick (1/6th of a second) up and down movement of the eyebrows, which is our primary friend signal. This cue announces to others that we are not a threat.  Our brains will automatically look for this signal when first meeting someone.  
  2. Head Tilt.  Tilting the head to side is viewed as a non-threatening gesture since it exposes your carotid arteries to the other person. It demonstrates that you are listening to them. If you also tilt your head slightly in the direction of the other person you are likely to be viewed as being friendly and honest.  Note however, that tilting the head to the side helps you be seen as more likable but not dominant.  Therefore, using it during greetings and first meetings may be appropriate, but when giving presentations it does not.
  3. Real Smile.  Smiling is a universal gesture and therefore is a powerful tool in our toolkit.  It is a powerful friend signal that helps others see us as more engaging, attractive and likable.  The act of smiling itself can put us and others in a better mood and can be contagious, making others want to reciprocate with a smile.  A note on this too though... fake smiles are typically readily detected by others so try to smile from the heart.  Generally, if you smile with the intent of putting others at ease it will help your smile to be more natural and genuine.
Although the above three tips are the top three friendship signals, there are a number of other cues that also help to communicate to others your interest and engagement. You can up your likability by also using any of the following...

  • Eye contact.  This cue works in tandem with the other friend signals.  When first meeting someone hold eye contact for one full second, ending the gaze with a smile.  Don't hold the first gaze for longer, lest it come across as aggressive and intimidating.  Future gazes can be longer, signifying many other things, but your first gaze is there to signal your interest in exploring something 'more'.
  • Touch.  This can be a strong friendship signal but it is one where you also need to exercise caution, particularly in a work setting.  Studies have shown that even a fleeting touch can have a significant influence on friendships.  Here we are referring to a light and brief touch on the forearm during a brief social encounter.  
  • Inward lean.  People tend to lean their upper body slight toward people that they like and away from those they don't.  Therefore leaning your upper body slightly toward your audience will unconsciously communicate to them that you like them. Given that we tend to like those that like us, this can work in your favor.
  • Head nodding.  We will often nod our head when someone says something we agree with, or when we are looking to be supportive of them. Therefore, a couple of brief nods of the head when first meeting someone will indicate your approval of them and of your interest in what they are saying, both of which make you more likable in turn.
Connecting with others may not be a skill that comes naturally or readily to us, but it is a skill that we can become better at with a little practice.  Take one or two of the behaviours above and try them on for size, playing with them a little at your next networking event and see what the impact is.  As they become more comfortable for you, add in another until you have more friends than you can handle!


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