As an FBI agent, I needed to be likable as well as credible. As a likable person, I was able to exert a great deal of influence on others because I was able to connect with them in a meaningful way.
Likable people do better in business as well. Clients listen to them, trust them, and are willing to give them the benefit of doubt.
As a business owner or entrepreneur, your ability to be likable can be a big factor in your success. If you come across as likable, you will be better treated by investors, colleagues, and clients.
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Being seen as likable often comes down to the smallest of behaviors. Unknowingly, you may be doing things that cause people to dislike you.
If you are mentally tough, you will be able to manage these behaviors in ways that will set you up for success.
Here are 7 stupid things you may be doing to make yourself less likable:
1. Pretend to smile
When you pretend to smile, only the corners of your mouth will curl upward. This is called a smarmy “social smile” and is used by celebrities and politicans. A lot.
Research by Paula Niedenthal suggests that a true smile enlists not only the muscles around your mouth, but also those around the eye socket. Visually, a genuine smile will activate lines around the eye known as “crows feet.” In addition, our brain is wired to mimic the smile of others. If the smile is real, our brain will activate the same areas on our own face; subconciously we recognize almost immediately whether the greeting was genuine or not.
How To Make It Work For You: Maintain eye contact with the other person and notice how they mirror your facial gestures: they smile when you smile, they frown when you frown, they nod their head when you nod. Keep in mind how people will mirrow your behavior and make sure you are sending the right message.
2. Push to the front
You want to impress the other person, right? You let them know that you’re smart, sophisticated, and ambitious. Everything about you shouts, “I’m first! I’m the winner!”
But here is the bad news—everyone sees right through it.
Likable people do not try to compete with the people they are meeting or brag about their accomplishments. Instead, they spend time complimenting others and truly being impressed by high achievers and those from whom they can learn. They are confident enough to be vulnerable and willing to admit they can still learn much from others.
How To Make It Work For You: If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Move on, immediately, and surround yourself with people who really are smarter and brighter than you. You’ll be challenged in good ways that will expand your understanding of yourself and the world around you.
3. Poorly developed communication skills
Experts agree that communication, both interpersonal and organizational, is a necessity for the success of your business.
A recent Forbes article published research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology. This study indicated only 15% of financial success actually comes from knowledge or technical skills. The remaining 85% of success comes from the ability to effectively communicate and negotiate—both when speaking and listening.
In addition, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust than someone they don’t. While this isn’t surprising, the real clincher was this—it applied even if the likable person was offering a lower-quality product or service at a higher price.
How To Make It Work For You: Pay close attention to what your listeners are saying so you can learn what is important to them and their situation. Most importantly, remember that everyone is different. One size does not fit all.
4. Forget to be polite
I chose my FBI mentors based on how successfully they handled 1) their investigations, and 2) their supervisors. One of the best agents I ever worked with taught me that sugar gets better results than vinegar, whether you’re interviewing a terrorism suspect or explaining a late report to a supervisor.
Tony always used these two words: “Please” and “Thank you.” It didn’t make any difference if you were a clerk behind the checkout register, the FBI Director, or a scumbag we were arresting for extortion. Tony always treated people with respect. He was unfailingly polite, no matter the situation.
Likable leaders like Tony make people feel special, as though they are the only person in the room. They are able to communicate on a very personal, emotional level.
How To Make It Work For You: People may forget what you say to them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Make the extra effort to make everyone feel valuable—even better, really believe that everyone truly is valuable.
5. Too serious
It’s is an inevitable truth: the more serious the FBI investigation, the more humor was needed to break through the stress.
Research has shown that humor is a great tension breaker in the workplace. When we laugh in response to something that is said, something happens in our brain. Not only is there a cognitive shift in how you view your stressors, there are emotional and physical responses that enable you to relax when you laugh.
People who are passionate and dedicated to their work often come across as too serious and uninterested in anything that isn’t related to their situation. They may or may not be seriously stressed, but they do end up missing out on valuable social moments. It’s possible to be serious, and friendly as well.
How To Make It Work For You: Usually, the most likable people in a room are those who can elicit a smile or laughter from others. You do not have to be a jokester; all you need to be is someone who can laugh easily and smile often.
6. Listen more
To be likable, you must be an active listener. This means responding with questions that confirm you are actually listening to what the other person is saying. Our time is one of our most valuable resources; when you actively listen, you are giving something very important.
How To Make It Work For You: People tend to feel good when they are the center of attention. Make empathetic statements that capture the person’s message:
- Notice an emotion that was conveyed in their conversation and then repeat it by asking a question—such as “So you are happy that you . . .”
- Rephrase a verbal message they communicated. This accomplishes two things: first, it confirms to them that you correctly heard them, and second, it allows them to talk further about it.
- Match their body language. If they speak in quiet tones, so should you. If they are intense, ratchet-up your style as well.
When you make a person feel good about themselves, they will like you. It’s a simple rule to follow.
7. Share too much
Developing a tribe mentality in our work environment is important because tribes help us get behind a shared objective. We can sense a bubble of excitement and community when we’re surrounded by people with similar values. We are eager to hear our leaders tell stories that renew that sense of purpose.
While getting to know our tribes requires sharing, sharing too much about ourselves too early, or at inappropriate times, can sabotage our efforts. Instead of spewing out the nitty gritty details of your life at the first opportunity, learn about the other people in your tribe first.
Oversharing can take many forms. Sometimes it sounds a lot like bullying if we run over others in our eagerness to push our recommendations out front; other times it gives others the impression that we’re self-obsessed, in more need of a therapist or a sounding board.
How To Make It Work For You: Always be the first to give others a chance to talk. Give them the chance to be the most important person in the world. This requires a heart of humility and genuine belief in people.
This article originally appeared on LaRae Quy.
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