Many people mistaken likeability for either charisma or extroversion. I hear them say that it’s something that is in-born and only the special few are lucky to have it. I’m here to tell you this is a misconception! Likeability is NOT innate – everyone can develop it. Simply put, likeability is a learnt trait that requires training your skills, developing a certain mindset and learning emotional intelligence (EQ).

In this article, I put together key skills that will have you develop or take your likeability to the next level

1. Listening skills

The biggest mistake that people make when they talk to others is that they’re focused on what they’re going to say next or worse, keep interrupting and talking on top of someone. This shows lack of interest in the other person and insecurity.

You can avoid this by practicing mirroring and labelling techniques during conversation. I first came across these ideas in Chris Voss’ work. He is a former FBI agent that is sharing the tactics used by the FBI in hostage negotiations (you can read more on Black Swan Group). If it works for the FBI, it will work for you too!

Mirroring is a simple technique where you repeat back the last 1-3 words of what someone told you. Example:

  • Someone: ‘I was late for work again!’
  • You: ‘Late again?’

Of course, don’t repeat the last words of every sentence, but use it casually. What this does, is it allows you to be fully present for the conversation, so you will have to listen without thinking of what you’re going to say next. It also makes the other person feel listened to and it will provide you with information about the other party that you might not have known. Not so that you could use it against them, but create closeness. The more listened to and vulnerable we feel we can get with someone, the more we like them!

Labelling is another technique that encourages you to listen while simultaneously making the other party feel recognised. You could call it a verbal observation/recognition. Example:

  • Someone ‘I enjoy spending quality time with my friends’
  • You ‘It sounds like you’re someone who values friendships!’

Note that the example above was the positive label. Always do your best and find a way to compliment or notice someone for their positive traits.

You could also use a negative label, especially if there’s a conflict or tension in conversation. Example:

  • Someone ‘What are you doing parking in my spot. Don’t you know that’s where I always park?’
  • You ‘It sounds like you’re frustrated. I didn’t know this is your parking spot, could you show me your permit?’

Similarly to mirroring, don’t overuse labels. Remember, these techniques are only here to help you be present in the conversation and for the other person to feel listened to. It’s still a conversation! I encourage you to set an intention to use mirroring and labeling techniques on one person a day. You will see that soon enough it will become automatic and people will find you much more likeable.

2. Being genuine

First of all, nobody likes a fake. Doing or saying things that we think will make people like us is a big mistake. The most common example that comes to mind is that sometimes when we start dating, we exaggerate or hide certain traits and pretend to be interested in something that we are not.

Although the point of this blog post is to develop likeability, likeability IS NOT about adjusting your behaviour in different ways to be liked by people. It’s about being genuine and knowing who you are, speaking your truth and encouraging other people to do the same.

Being genuine is not only what you say, but what you do

Never hold back on complimenting someone or sharing your resources/knowledge. When people give us something without expecting anything in return, we feel appreciated and more importantly, we like them!

An important thing to realise is that to become genuinely genuine (you see what I did there?), you need to be honest with yourself first! When you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you like and dislike you’ll be able to express yourself in a more authentic way. You will be able to draw boundaries or admit when you’re wrong. We all find these traits attractive and appealing because this shows confidence, tenacity and individuality.

A simple practice you can try right now, is to think back to a situation that left you feeling negative in some way. Then ask yourself, what exactly made you feel that way? See what comes up. Maybe it was that someone was being rude and you were very reactive or you wish you could have said a different thing, maybe stood up for yourself? Now be honest with yourself and focus on the part where YOU could have done something different. Even if someone was rude, you could have chosen to say that you are not going to tolerate that type of behaviour and walk away.

After doing the exercise above for a few weeks, go ahead and before every conversation ask yourself how can you show up in a genuine way that feels true to you? See what happens!

Genuineness also comes from deriving your sense of self from your values and internal compass. A genuine person will listen to others but will arrive at the decision that feels right for them. Put simply, being genuine is about being true to yourself and consistently showing up in that way. Because someone who is true to themselves will be true to us. At the minimum, we respect that type of person. More often than not though, we like them as well!

3. Acknowledging the person in front of you

This is A BIG ONE!!! If you master this, your likeability will skyrocket, I promise. Every single relationship in your life will improve. Because what humans truly crave for is being seen, being acknowledged… to matter. Think of a time when you were in a public transport, carrying a heavy bag of groceries. The bus is packed. The bag is getting unbearably heavy. Then, someone stands up, smiles at you and gives away their seat. What’s going through your head? That someone noticed your struggle, yay!

Although the example above is basic, what you need to do is adopt the mindset of a passenger who gave away their seat, to every single interaction you have. This means that every single person who comes into contact with you will feel seen and that they matter. If it sounds like too much effort don’t worry, it’s not. You can simply develop a mindset that in time will automatically produce that effect without you thinking about it.

Start off with your family and friends first. Nex time you see them, really look them in the eye, smile, give them a hug and tell them a genuine compliment. Since you know you’ll see them beforehand, try and really think about something you appreciate/admire about them instead of saying something like ‘you’re beautiful and kind’ (which I’m sure they are). Bringing forward something specific as opposed to generic will make them feel more special. Leave them with a better impression of themselves!

In time, start practicing this with your co-workers. And then complete strangers. Of course, don’t go around hugging strangers because they might call the police. But if you see someone wearing a great dress in a bookstore, don’t keep it to yourself, go tell them. When you’re being served by a waiter or local coffee shop, TRULY see the person in front of you and ask them how their day is going. You have nothing else to do in that moment, choose noticing someone over scrolling your phone yet again. When you start treating hospitality staff with this level of respect and appreciation, magic will happen.

So next time you see someone, follow these steps:

  • Look them in the eye and GENUINELY smile (imagine as if they are the first and last person you will see that day, you won’t be able to help but be excited to see them)
  • Ask them how they are and follow up on their response. Example, they reply ‘I’m good how are you’. You can say ‘I’m great. I love your hair today, what did you do?’
  • In time, you will slowly build a connection and talk on a more personal level.

The beauty of this is that it takes only a few minutes a day to practice, but people will love you. They’ll have a smile on their face when you walk in. An extra coffee that they made? It’ll go for you. Delivery fees might be waived.

To start, just pick one person a day, be it someone you know or not and simply acknowledge them with your smile and a compliment. Then pick two people a day, then three, etc. You’ll see that in time, this will become your natural state of being. A genuine acknowledgement of other people, put them in a happier frame of mind. And then they won’t be able to help but like you!

4. Emotional Intelligence

Simply put, emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to recognise, manage and express your emotions. It has become widely popular in the recent years, when people realised that people with higher IQ don’t necessarily end up being in leadership positions or liked by others.

In my view, emotional intelligence and likeability are intertwined

If someone is sweet and likeable, but has emotional outbursts, they WON’T stay likeable. Ability to manage and express your emotions in a way that is suitable to a situation will benefit your personal and professional life.

The easiest way to develop EQ is to start listening to your body. How do you feel after the meal you just had? How does this person make you feel? If you make this choice, how will you feel? The trick here is to stop listening to what your mind tells you and what your body says.

A simple exercise to start practising is to set an alarm for twice a day and take 3-5 mins. When it rings, just stop for a moment, take in a few deep breaths and scan your body. Start with your toes and keep going up with your attention until you reach the top of the head. If you feel any tension anywhere in the body, just do what feels right (stretch, move around, inhale into that area etc).. try and ask where is this tension coming from? If you don’t have a reply that’s not a problem! We’re just getting your body and mind to get used to you doing it for now. After you did a scan, ask yourself how you are feeling at that moment? If nothing comes, that’s totally fine. You’re just building a habit of checking in with yourself.

So, the first steps are that you scan your body for tension. In time, listening to your body’s signals becomes automatic and you will develop confidence This means that every time you have to approach someone you like or give a big presentation at work, you will be able to identify and manage your emotions. Seeing your emotions for what they are, you will stop listening to your mind telling you the person will reject you or your presentation will fail.

There are many more exercises that help with EQ development, but I’m leaving it for another article.

Bringing it all together

Likeability is a skillset that can be learnt! Becoming likeable will take your personal and professional life to the next level. It will promote your own self-esteem and self-respect first. Your friends, family and romantic partner will feel more loved and appreciated by you. In your career, you will network with ease and bring the best in everyone (skill of a leader!). Practise these likeability exercises and let me know how it goes.