Not very many people are excited to get a knock on their front door from an FBI Agent. They’re even less enthusiastic when the Agent tells them they need to speak with them about a pending investigation. Wariness can quickly turn into hostility if they think the target of the investigation is a close friend or family member.
Maybe you won’t need to persuade a criminal into spilling their guts and invite you to their sister’s wedding, but we’ve all been in uncomfortable situations where we need to improve our communication skills. When there’s a need for an immediate response that captures the right tone so the door doesn’t slam in our face, searching for words and blocking the exit is not enough.
It’s an inconvenient truth but being likable can make life easier, no matter your job or lifestyle. Think about a time when you needed to impress a new client, keep an old one from walking away, or be noticed by the dreamboat that just walked by—you’ll have more luck if you can persuade other people that you’re likable.
Do not confuse the traits of a likable person with those of a kiss-ass. Likable people have values, standards of behavior, and complete confidence in themselves. Think of a kiss-ass as a parasite who walks in the shadow of people who are more confident and more competent. They can only hope for some of the scraps that fall from those who are smarter.
Likable people know how to behave in a way that allows them to connect with others. As a result, they are perceived as trustworthy and dependable. Here are 7 FBI tips to become more likable:
1. It’s Not About Being Popular
Blame it on those low budget teen movies we saw back in the day, where the popular kids were the cool ones who drove around in expensive cars and had loads of fun. Fast forward to real life—those are the kids whose best years are behind them, folks, because popularity can look a lot like the kiss-ass approach in adulthood.
You are not special, you are not superior. And no one appreciates a name-dropper.
If you want to be the go-to person in a room, get over yourself, and put ego on the back burner. Rather than be popular, be the one who makes others feel that they matter and are important. If people like the way you make them feel, they will like you. It’s that simple.
How To Make It Work For You: Try asking people for their advice. When you ask others for their expertise, wisdom, or guidance, you’re tapping into their strengths, which makes anyone feel good.
2. Use The Right Language
If you find yourself in a conversation about a sensitive topic, be careful of how you respond. Resist the temptation to say, “OK, but…” The word “but” invalidates what the other person is saying. Instead, honor their opinion by shifting your response to suggest that you understand where they are coming from and would like to offer additional input.
How To Make It Work For You: When a touchy topic is brought up, respond with “I see what you’re saying, and…” This way you haven’t closed off the conversation or tried to cancel out the opinion of the other person. The “Cancel Culture” approach lumps you into a group of people who get offended and throw tantrums when an opposing opinion is offered.
3. Remember Names
Our name is an essential part of our identity, and people feel great when they hear it spoken by others. If their name is unusual, ask the origin. Become more likable by repeating their name in conversation—it will help you to remember it as well.
How To Make It Work For You: Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation. But don’t overdo it—once or twice is enough. Otherwise, you risk sounding too familiar or trying too hard.
4. Leave a Strong First Impression
Research by Princeton psychologists reveals that all it takes is a tenth of a second for most people to decide whether or not you are likable. Longer exposure doesn’t significantly alter impressions made within 10 seconds of meeting you.
People will then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their initial reaction.
Showing appreciation and gratitude whenever and wherever you can is another way to leave a strong first impression. It’s a habit that can be learned. People really do pay attention to how well you treat strangers, so make it a habit to treat everyone well.
How To Make It Work For You: First impressions are the result of positive body language. Walk with purpose and confidence, maintain a strong posture, offer a firm handshake, smile, face the person to whom you are talking, and make eye contact. If their eyes start to wander, it’s a clue that they may be losing interest in you.
Be polite to everyone. Start with shop clerks and work your way up to the airline ticket agents. Once there, you can take on state government employees!
5. Camouflage Your Lack of Charisma
Some people are born to be liked by everyone. They have natural charisma; they make friends and develop connections with ease and confidence. We can hate them but at the same time, we’ve all seen them climb the ladder of success.
Don’t give up if you don’t have natural charisma! Likability is about what behavior to avoid just as much as it is what behavior to cultivate.
How To Make It Work For You:
- Question: So what to do if you have no charisma?
- Answer: Develop traits like humility, gratitude, and empathy.
Cultivate these behaviors because they will go a long way in making you a more likable person.
6. Questions Can Be The Key
Notice when you see someone’s interest is piqued in a conversation. This is a hook you can use to draw them out further and allow you to connect with them on a deeper level.
If the opportunity doesn’t present itself in a conversation, don’t settle for mundane questions about the weather or politics. Instead, ask deep questions such as: what challenges have they’ve faced, what are they excited about right now, what are their goals for the future.
This requires active listening and it’s a difficult task for most people. When we’re listening to someone else talk, our mind is frequently 1) busy forming a question to ask, 2) trying to process the information that’s being spoken, or 3) splitting attention between the speaker and something else that’s going on.
To be likable, give the other person 100% of your attention. It will make them feel important and your undivided attention tells them that you genuinely value them.
How To Make It Work For You: Ask follow-up questions to what the person has just said. When you do, you indicate that you have listened to them and shown that you care about their opinions.
7. Exude Confidence
If you come across as insecure, you also risk coming across as needy and/or incompetent. Start from a positive place and others will notice. If you’re not there yet, fake your confidence until you feel more secure and at ease.
Focus on what motivates you and makes you happy as an individual. Once you do, you will not only become a more interesting person, you will also exude the confidence of a likable person who knows who they are.
How To Make It Work For You: Go into every conversation thinking “I like this person and want to get to know them better.” To become more likable, try this exercise sometime this week:
- Notice how much time you spend just listening when you’re in a conversation with someone.
- Notice how often your mind races ahead to a question you want to ask them.
- Notice how often the next task of the day pops into your mind as you listen.
- Notice how often you get lost in your own thoughts.
Now, do this:
- Slow down your mind and focus on what the other person is saying.
- Pay attention to facial features as they speak.
- Pay attention to what animates them when they speak.
- Pay attention to how their voice changes when they speak about a specific topic.
- Pay attention to how their words and body language change.
Then do this:
- Share with them the most positive things you noticed about them.
© 2020 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.
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When I learned “yes, and…” instead of “but” it was a game-changer. Also, when I read your thoughts on asking questions I was reminded of a meeting I had with a leadership coach early in my career. He told me people think he’s a stunning conversationalist at every dinner party he goes to because he’s curious and asks them lots of questions. They never notice how little he spoke about himself. Lastly, AMEN to your thoughts on how to camouflage a lack of charisma. Made me smile and spot on.
I am the one who is curious and asks questions to open a dialogue with others. I have learned that people enjoy sharing information about themselves. And I truly enjoy learning about what makes others tick. Your strategies are all thoughtful and I could sense you have used all of them during your time with the FBI. Thanks for sharing them with us!
Yes, excellent ideas. It really is about kindness. I think. Kindness comes from humility, and humble people lift up others while making them think they did it on their own. 🙂
Yes, it really is all about kindness!
I always enjoy reading your posts! We all need our “ears to hear”, especially in this day and age of a self-centered (& not in a good way) society. Brings me back & reminds me of the truths I learned years ago from Dale Carnegie’s writings as well as from implementing Steven Covey’s Habits. I especially liked your active listening points/exercises – I need to refresh my skills for sure! One thing I have learned over 40 years has been to always be open to renewing and refreshing those skills I thought I had “fully implemented” – because communication habits not often practiced tend to fall away… So, thanks for these reminders 🙂
Thanks so much Phillip…I’m a big admirer of Steven Covey as well!