5 Habits That Make You Likable and Help You Connect with Others

Sira M.

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I’ve always been a shy introvert. I know how challenging it can be for people like me to connect with others. That’s why I’ve always admired those who have this inherent ability to make others feel at ease in their presence and to connect with virtually anyone. In other words, those you can hardly forget. I’ve always observed them. One of these people is Daniela, a former work colleague from Rome.

One Friday afternoon, our team was in a conference room, and even though we were around fifteen people, the atmosphere was very quiet. It had been a long week for everyone, and while the happy hour was supposed to be a celebration of a project we had recently finished, it looked like most of us couldn’t wait to go home and enjoy the weekend.

Then Daniela walked in, and the vibe quickly changed. All she did was say, “It’s Friday, at last! What are you guys doing this weekend?” With that, we started a group conversation that focused on our weekend plans. I’ve always seen her as the most well-liked person in our department, and that day, just having her there made many of us feel energized.

We all know people like Daniela. For a long time, I thought it was impossible to be or become like her. I thought you are either born that way or not. With time, I’ve concluded that the opposite is true. There are things we can do regularly that can help us not only improve our social skills but also stand out and build more meaningful relationships.

1. Focus on Self-Disclosure

According to an article published on BBC, slowly revealing details about yourself can spark someone’s interest and make them more willing to open up themselves. In fact, I find that people appreciate you more for your vulnerable side than if you had a perfect persona.

Also, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, the more someone opens up to you, the closer they feel to you. And the best way to help someone open up after exposing your vulnerabilities is by asking quality questions and sparking meaningful conversations. This way, it will be easier for them to be themselves with you, which will make them feel good around you.

As explained in the above-mentioned article published on BBC, the golden rule of friendship is this. If you make people feel good about themselves, they’re probably going to like you.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

Reveal something about yourself — but don’t overdo it. Then, show genuine interest in the other person by asking some good open questions; for example, “Last time we met, you told me you were having a hard time at work. Is it going better?” Then, let them open up.

Why you should apply this habit

According to the above-mentioned study published by the American Psychological Association, it has been proven that self-disclosure plays a central role in the development and maintenance of relationships.

Also, through the same study, it has been found that people who engage in intimate disclosures tend to be liked more than people who disclose at lower levels and that people tend to like others as a result of having disclosed to them.

2. Let Go of Your Instinct to Judge

Lately, I have wondered why there are some people I feel so connected to. When I’m with them, I feel at ease. Whenever I interact with them, I feel I can be myself without the need to wear a mask because I know they wouldn’t judge me.

The reason I feel this way is I have never heard them talking badly about others. Consequently, I feel the freedom to show the most authentic version of myself with no fear of what they might think. And it makes me feel good.

See, there are too many people out there that would judge you simply for how you are dressed or other trivial stuff. Or that constantly criticize others in front of you — and they do it carefully behind their backs. As a result, you don’t feel comfortable opening up with them.

So when you meet someone who never makes negative remarks, it’s a breath of fresh air. According to an article published in Psychology Today, we all make very fast judgments about people. It’s completely normal. However, making an effort to get rid of the instinct to judge allows us to connect with others on a deeper level.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

Understand that you don’t always know what’s behind other people’s actions and decisions. So, always make an effort to empathize with others whenever you’re about to make a fast judgment about them.

Believe that there could be a positive intent behind people’s actions, even if you can’t see it.

Why you should apply this habit

I don’t know about you, but when someone appreciates who I am, without judging my past or current choices, they earn my trust. Because I feel accepted as a whole, I feel they believe in me despite my imperfections and past mistakes.

I find that when you resist the urge to make fast judgments, you open yourself to the possibility of developing meaningful relationships. Because, with time, people feel they can be themselves around you, as they feel accepted for who they are.

3. Remember the Importance of Being Fully Present

Imagine you’re talking to someone who seems to be paying attention to every word coming out of your mouth. They nod and seem interested in what you have to say. They don’t talk over you, and sometimes they ask questions — which makes you think they’re truly absorbed in the conversation. You might think, “Wow, this person is genuinely interested in what I’m saying. We’re on the same page!”

Then, you see them glancing at their phone. Or you catch them looking around as if they wanted to see if there’s someone they know. Now you feel they’re not a hundred percent there with you. What seemed a great conversation at the beginning suddenly turns into a monologue because deep down, you feel they’re not really interested in what you have to say.

The point is this: you can be the best listener in the world, but a slip like quickly checking your phone or breaking eye contact too frequently can make you come across as indifferent or unfocused on the conversation.

An article published in Forbes confirms the feeling many of us know already: being present is essential for developing rapport with someone. And it can transform not only our interpersonal relationships but also ourselves, as it trains our brain to stay focused.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

Put your phone away — if possible, where you can’t see it, like in your bag or in another room — and focus on the people who are there with you. As Kare Anderson explains in an article in Harvard Business Review, to make a conversation more meaningful and pleasant, gaze steadily and warmly at the person talking to you, nod from time to time, and reiterate what you heard.

Why you should apply this habit

As Robert J Maurer explains in an article published in Psychology Today, attention is vital in relationships, as it’s one of the human fundamental needs.

When it comes to a simple conversation, no one likes to talk to someone who barely listens or frequently interrupts. However, many have the habit of letting their phone distract them, talking over you, or redirecting the talk to themselves.

Being fully present and giving your undivided attention to someone makes you stand out in their mind because it inevitably makes you different from what they often see. Because, as mentioned before, you are meeting one of their basic needs, their need for attention.

4. Remember That Eye Contact Is One of Your Best Tools, Even if It Makes You Uncomfortable

I can’t stress this enough: eye contact is too important to ignore. Being a shy introvert, I’ve always struggled with this one. However, when I talk to someone, and they break eye contact, I somehow feel they’re not fully there with me. As a result, I understand the importance of looking at others in the eye, and I consistently make an effort to do it.

If I think about my former work colleague Daniela, whenever I interacted with her, she made strong eye contact with me, which exuded confidence. In fact, anytime I think about the traits confident people have in common, she is one of the first people that pop up in my mind.

According to an interesting article published in The British Psychology Society Research Digest, people who make plenty of eye contact are usually perceived as more competent and trustworthy.

Also, as mentioned in a study published by Dartmouth College, we are more likely to remember faces with which we’ve experienced mutual gaze. In other words, appropriate eye contact can make us memorable in someone else’s mind.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

To overcome what they call eye contact anxiety, try to look at a spot between the other person’s eyes or their nose. According to a study published in Perception, a peer-reviewed journal, you can give the impression of making eye contact simply by ensuring you are looking in the general direction of the other person’s face.

Why you should apply this habit

If you are making eye contact but look away every five seconds, you might give the impression you’re not focusing on the other person’s words. Maybe you do it out of nervousness. However, the message you’re sending is, “I’m not fully listening to you.”

When you look at someone in the eye instead, you show them they have your full attention. Also, according to an article published in Psychology Today, it has been proven that eye contact is highly compelling. In particular, according to a study published by the University of Tokyo, we tend to be more responsive to faces whose eyes are focused on us than faces whose eyes are looking elsewhere.

5. Use the “Sweetest Sound”

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”
— Dale Carnegie

Five years ago, I spent a trimester in Los Angeles to attend an advanced English course. There was a Starbucks next to my school, and I went there every day — I love coffee!

The baristas were always very busy, as there were always many customers. So, I couldn’t interact much with them.

However, I noticed something that impressed me. The first day I walked in, they asked my name to write it on my cup. From the second day onwards, they asked, “Your name is Sira, isn’t it?”

I loved that. It was nice to see how some busy people— to whom I was a complete stranger — took the time to learn and memorize my name between an espresso and a cappuccino. And I realized they were doing the same thing with all their customers. I think something like that always brightens up someone’s day.

The point is this: if you want to connect with people, one of the best habits you can build — if you haven’t already — is memorizing names.

How to apply this habit, in a nutshell

I once read on Forbes that the easiest way to remember a name is by repeating it. And it’s true. I tried it many times, and it worked. When you meet someone for the first time, and they introduce themselves, repeat their name.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Thomas!” “Nice to meet you too, Thomas; I’m Mary.”

It sounds natural to the other person; it’s pleasant to hear and helps you remember their name. Another good trick is to repeat it during the conversation. “Do you live far from here, Thomas?”

Why you should apply this habit

According to former Business Insider Careers editor Jacquelyn Smith, people appreciate it when you remember their name because it’s a sign of respect and thoughtfulness. And honestly, I couldn’t agree more. When someone remembers my name, it makes me feel they care somehow.

I find that when you remember someone’s name, it makes them feel good about themselves. Because, in the end, you are meeting their basic human needs for attention and significance.

Final Thoughts

Likability is something that virtually anyone can cultivate. If you want to build meaningful relationships, it’s essential to make others feel good around you. The first step to do this is to build healthy habits such as avoid being judgemental, learning to be vulnerable, letting others open up, giving your undivided attention, putting your phone away, and remembering names.

Here’s the thing about genuinely connecting with people and being a more likable person; it almost all comes down to how you make others feel and behave around them. And, contrary to what you might think, most times, it’s something under your control.

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