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Do they like you? Are you sure?
It’s been years, but the memory still stings. That program director, sitting across the desk, telling me they were letting me go because, “People just don’t like you.”
Well, you can imagine how that felt. Not only was I unemployed and staring straight at social and financial ruin. As the guy said when I pressed for some further explanation, I was also “just not likeable.” Yikes!
In hindsight, I’m not totally sure he was right about me. I am sure that being likeable is important, and not just in radio. Relationships matter, whatever kind of work we do. It’s not enough to be bright, to have an advanced degree or years of experience. What are sometimes dismissed as “soft skills” turn out to be essential elements of success.
Here are five of them, highlighted by Business Insider. Because, as they point out, being likeable is part of the equation when it comes to professional success.
The eyes have it.
People make up their minds about us in seconds; one of the first things they decide is whether to trust us. Looking them in the eye as we say what’s on our mind is a key component of building trust.
No, you’re not going to stare at someone, boring into them with your intense gaze. But you should be able to confidently maintain a connection by making steady eye contact, even if the conversation gets a bit uncomfortable.
If that’s hard for you—and it is for a lot of us—you’ll find practice will make it feel more natural.
They notice your mouth too.
A warm smile goes a long way toward establishing a connection. It suggests friendliness, acceptance, and an interest in the other person. It also feels better than a crabby face. I know, because I’ve made my share of crabby faces. (As my brother will happily tell you!)
Thanks to mirror neurons, our smiles are usually returned. When they smile back at you, those warm feelings can fill the room. That’s good for relationships, of course. It’s also good for business.
Shake on it.
Your handshake has a lot to do with the first impression you make. It should be firm. Limp handshakes make us go “ewwww” inside, even if we don’t say it out loud. But don’t go for that paralyzing grip that says you’re the strongest guy in the room either. Nobody wants to pull back from a handshake in agony.
Here’s the drill for both men and women. Palm-to-palm, thumbs at the top, comfortably firm. Pump twice—three times at the most—and release.
Two ears, one mouth.
It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. People like people who listen.
And that doesn’t mean just waiting for the noise to stop so you can jump in and tell your story or make your point. It means actively focusing on what your conversational partner is saying. Asking a question or maybe repeating their words to signal your interest and encourage them to go deeper.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I have at networking events with people who go on and on and on about their business and demonstrate exactly zero interest in mine. No matter how terrific they say they are, are those the people I’d choose as my virtual assistant, attorney, or accountant? Definitely not.
Like most people, I prefer to do business with someone who’s interested in me too.
If listening well isn’t your strong suit, you might want to check out these suggestions.
Use their favorite word.
And which word will be music to their ears? It’s their own name.
You’ll be more likeable if you use their name often. It’s a cue that you’re paying attention to them, that you’re interested in what they have to say. And it acknowledges their uniqueness, even if their name is a common one.
Of course, you meet a lot of people. How do you even remember their name so you can use it?
When we meet someone new, it’s a good idea to say their name right away, and to say it more than once–the repetition helps it stick.
Some people find it useful to look right at the person while saying their name, creating a visual cue to jog their memory later.
You might make a make a mental link that connects their name to the place you met, or to their work, or to somebody else you know. That salient feature, whatever it is, will be filed away in your brain to help you retrieve the name later.
And if you’ve forgotten a name anyway? I’ve found giving it a shot, maybe with a question in my voice or a quizzical look, can still help, even if I get it wrong.
People seem to appreciate the effort, and the interest in them, even if I am a little fuzzy on the details.
There’s a lot more to being likeable, of course. But practicing these five things will give you a good start on being the kind of person who gets the job or the sale or the vote.
You didn’t start working yesterday, did you? You’ve probably developed some likeability tips of your own. You can share them with the rest of us in the comments.