31 Days

Day 9

Make Yourself More Likable

Likeable man illustration

It’s an undeniable and unavoidable truth: Being the guy everyone likes and appreciates will no doubt make your life significantly easier. Now this doesn't mean that you sacrifice your beliefs or sanity to get along with absolutely everyone. But it does, however, mean you should incorporate a few habits that will make you not only able to connect with others, but to be seen as trustworthy and dependable. After all, likability is not some innate, unteachable trait that belongs only to a lucky few—the good looking, the fiercely social, and the incredibly talented. It's a skill that you can develop and hone over time.

Likeable man illustration

In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive. Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding. In other words, know who you are and being real. And if you're wondering how our likability affects our lives, a 2021 study asked whether an expert's likability affected jurors' opinions in civil and criminal trials. The results were conclusive: less likable experts were considerably less persuasive than likable experts.

But our likability, as Psychology Today points out, is not entirely up to us. “It depends on the context, our roles and functions within the group, the people around us, how much we have in common with them, their biases and our own, and a variety of other factors.” Which is to say, we can't appeal to everyone all of the time. But there are certainly things we can do to make ourselves undeniably more likable. Start incorporating these into your daily routine—around new people, colleagues and neighbors—and see the difference it makes in your life.


Listen and Ask Questions

Assume everyone you speak to has something to teach you. People like being listened to, and there are no shortcuts here. To be a good listener you have to actually listen to what the other person is saying. People like to know you're listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening, but you actually care about what they're talking about. You might be shocked by how much respect and appreciation you'll gain simply by listening.

Greet People by Name

Here's a slightly terrifying fact: Most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. Which means the first few moments of any interaction are vital. Our names are an essential part of our identity and it just feels good when people use it. Likable people make certain they use others' names—not just when they first meet them (which is a great way to remember someone's name) but every time they see them.


This has less to do with your looks and more to do with body language and how infectious human emotion is. When we see others smile, we tend to smile too. When someone smiles, the neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety and increasing happiness are released. Therefore, smiling at someone during an interaction improves your own mood, which increases your charisma, and helps the other person feel more positive emotions. When someone attributes positive experiences or conversations with you, likability and trust increase.


Keep Your Phone Out of Your Hand

You know when a TV is on at a bar or airport terminal and your eyes just continue to dart towards it? Even when you don't care about what they're showing? The same thing happens with our phones—there's an unconscious need to look at it when there's an uncomfortable silence or lull in the conversation. When you look at your phone, it signals that you're not fully listening or that you're distracted and disinterested—neither of which will endear you to the other person.

Tilt Your Head

Back to body language, we tend to note how a person carries themselves more unconsciously than consciously but we do note it and it adds to our impressions of a person's likability. Did you know that when you feel safe, you naturally tilt your head? Think about how often we tilt our heads when we coo at babies and puppies. It's actually part of our limbic brain response. A head tilt exposes your neck, and subsequently, your jugular vein. This naturally vulnerable position becomes a subconscious sign of respect and trust.

Don't Say “But,”
Say “And”

Being likable isn't just agreeing with everything someone says. But you also don't have to be confrontational either. If you do find yourself caught in a sensitive or challenging conversation, use the word “and” instead of “but” when bringing up other points of view. Instead of invalidating or cancelling out what someone is saying, honor their opinion by shifting your language to suggest that you understand where they are coming from, and would like to offer even more to possibly consider.

Watch the

Speech bubble illustration

It’s great to know important and interesting people, and sometimes it can be impressive. But using every conversation as an opportunity to name-drop is pretentious and silly. Just like humble-bragging, people see right through it.