It’s easier than you think. And yes, you can do it without being fake.
I’m not what you would call a natural people person by any stretch of the imagination. I’m extremely introverted, I’m picky about who I allow into my personal life, and — to really top it all off — I’m on the spectrum. Before the internet came along and made it possible for me to write for a living though, I was in high-end retail sales, because that’s about all I could get anyone to hire me for.
In other words, I had to learn how to connect with people, win their trust, and get them to like me. Otherwise I didn’t eat and couldn’t pay my rent. My commission sales days are long behind me at this point (and thank goodness for that, because retail was not my jam). Those people skills I learned still come in handy on a near-daily basis though, and I’m sure they’ll continue to.
Life’s just plain easier when you know how to make a good impression on others. You make friends more easily and get along better with nearly everyone you know. You get better service when you’re out in public. You can gain the edge you need to get ahead in professional situations more easily as well, so it’s well worth learning how to do it. Here’s how to get started.
Expect to be liked.
When it comes to interacting with other people, I’ve learned you get what you expect to get more often than not. That’s because whatever’s going on with you internally influences how you approach situations and express yourself, even if you’re not aware that it’s happening.
Apprehensive, nervous people who worry that others don’t (or won’t) like them are more likely to be standoffish, sullen, or even defensive when interacting with others, making them much harder to warm up to. People who see themselves as inherently likable and never doubt it for a minute, on the other hand, have the opposite experience.
You can consciously train yourself to be like that second type. Focus on what you know you have going for you, whether that’s your stunning good looks, your whip-smart sense of humor, or your winning personality. Trust that those traits make you worthy and desirable in the eyes of others. You’ll automatically be friendlier and more open without even thinking about it.
People can spot a fake a mile away, so it’s to your benefit to simply be yourself. You don’t have to be perfect for people to like you. You do have to be authentic and real, so resist the urge to embellish the truth to make it sound better. Lies and half-truths have a way of coming back to haunt people, especially here in the internet age.
It also helps to be someone who genuinely likes and cares about other people. And yes, this is something you can train yourself to do if it doesn’t come naturally. Consciously focus on what makes other people amazing, unique, or likable themselves. Look past their flaws and shortcomings. Resist the very human urge to be judgmental or harbor prejudice against those who aren’t like you. In other words, be fair, courteous, and accommodating with people.
Of course, you should never ignore or tolerate truly cruel or abominable behavior in others. You should give people who are simply imperfect the same chance you would want yourself.
Listen, but don’t forget to talk.
Those looking to learn how to be more likable are constantly told to listen better, and that’s definitely important. People respond to those who make them feel truly seen and heard, because so few actually do that.
Being talkative and expressive has its benefits as well though. Sooner or later, people can and do get tired of talking about themselves, and that’s when they’ll want to hear about you. Share things you’re passionate about and that genuinely make you light up inside when you talk about them, especially when asked. People become positively irresistible when they light up like that, and I promise you you’re no exception.
Adopt an active approach to listening when others are talking as well. Ask people questions about things they clearly enjoy talking about. Just make sure they’re questions you genuinely want the answers to. Asking “just to be nice” may seem like the right thing to do, but it quickly backfires when the other person realizes you couldn’t care less.
When you’re wrong, admit it.
The most unlikable people I’ve ever met in my life all have one very glaring trait in common. They’re know-it-alls who wouldn’t admit to being in the wrong if their lives depended on it. They think the worst thing you can be is someone who makes mistakes or — God forbid — someone who simply doesn’t know something, and maybe that’s true if your ultimate goal is to feel like you’re better than everyone else. That’s not the way to go if you want to be likable though.
Likable people enjoy feeling knowledgeable and helpful to the same extent everyone else does. They readily admit it when they don’t know something though. When they’re outright wrong, they own up to that as well. If they inadvertently hurt someone or inconvenience them by making a mistake, they go out of their way to make it right.
Covering up your mistakes doesn’t make you seem more capable. People know what you’re doing whether you think they do or not, and it sends a message that you’re not to be trusted. People who are quick to own up to and rectify mistakes, on the other hand, show integrity and humility — two extremely attractive qualities to have. Not only is it easy to trust people who are like this, but it’s hard not to like someone who’s willing to be vulnerable with you.
Spread “positive gossip”.
There are two types of people in the world — those who think gossip is harmless and those who genuinely understand how destructive it can be. No one likes finding out someone they thought they could trust decided to break their confidence or — worse — spread outright lies about them out of jealousy or maybe even just for something to talk about.
Gossip harms a person’s reputation in the eyes of people they work with, care about, or otherwise interact with on a regular basis. It starts affecting the way you feel about the people at the center of the gossip as well, even if you know it’s highly likely what’s being said isn’t true. Plus, gossip usually gets back to the person being talked about sooner or later. The way talk travels can be used to your advantage though.
Try saying positive things about people behind their backs instead, and watch what a difference it makes. Instead of complaining about your spouse, tell others what an amazing cook or parent you think they are. The next time you’re engaged in office water cooler talk, mention how one of your team members totally killed it on a recent project. Talk like that tends to get around as well — including back to the people being discussed — but it strengthens relationships when it does instead of killing them.
Be generous with your time.
Think about some of your favorite people to work with or simply be around in general. They’re likely the same the people you know you can count on to help you out in a pinch. Not sure how to work the new espresso maker in the break room? Need a second pair of eyes to look over a piece of writing before you publish it? Just can’t grasp something specific about a new software program you’re using? These are the people that are quick to help and happy to do it.
Helping others out when they need it without any strings attached is probably the easiest way to get people to like you, but it’s important to be genuine. Don’t do it just to be liked, because people figure out what you’re doing sooner or later. Don’t do it when you really don’t want to or can’t afford to either. Just take advantage of opportunities to be of use to others when it makes sense and feels right to you. Even little things add up and make serious impressions.
Of course, if you have trouble connecting with other people for whatever reason, it’s going to take some time for doing things differently to become second nature. It’s worth it though. Yes, people will warm up to you, but you’ll find you start liking yourself more after a while as well. At the end of the day, it just plain feels good to be someone genuine with nothing to hide who treats others well. Try it. I guarantee you’ll like it.