What makes some people more likable than others? You may think it's a matter of intangibles such as personality or charisma, but in fact, scientific research has found some answers to this question. That's good news, because you can use this information to raise the odds that people will like you, especially when you meet them for the first time. If you're an entrepreneur, business owner, or business leader, getting someone to like you can make all the difference when it comes to bringing in an investor or landing a big customer. It's a skill you may want to cultivate.
In a highly useful post at Psychology Today, Natalie Kerr, PhD, a social psychologist and professor at James Madison University, explores some of the research and offers tips anyone can use to become more likable. You can find the full list here. These are my favorites.
1. Be seen often.
The first time you visit a new friend, their dog will likely bark at you. By the fifth visit, the same dog may lick your hand. Apparently, there's a similar dynamic at work in humans called the mere exposure effect, which the American Psychological Association defines as "the finding that individuals show an increased preference (or liking) for a stimulus as a consequence of repeated exposure to that stimulus."
How can you use the mere exposure effect to get people to like you? By letting them see you often. "Turn your camera on during Zoom meetings," Kerr advises. "Comment on your friends' social media posts. Go to the gym at the same time every day to increase the odds of bumping into the same people."
This approach requires some sensitivity, she notes--you don't want anyone to feel like you're stalking them. But becoming familiar is a good first step toward being liked.
2. Ask questions.
Many experts say asking questions is a most effective way to engage someone in conversation, and it's easy to see why. Asking questions puts the focus on the other person, and lets them know you value their opinions and experiences. "Research shows that people who ask more questions during conversations are perceived as more responsive and are better liked by conversation partners," Kerr writes.
Asking someone follow-up questions about something they told you is particularly effective, she adds, because it shows that you are listening and interested in what they have to say. Try this approach next time you want to quickly establish a bond with somebody you've just met.
Research shows that smiling has all kinds of beneficial effects. Ron Gutman, founder and former CEO of HealthTap, says that smiling is the emotional equivalent of eating chocolate or getting free money. And there's another advantage to smiling: Research from Penn State University found that people who smile are perceived as more competent and more attractive. And people are more apt to like someone they consider attractive.
In one study, Kerr writes, researchers showed participants smiling and unsmiling versions of computer-generated faces with varying levels of attractiveness. They expected smiles would make faces more attractive, but they were surprised at how powerful the effect was. Less-attractive faces with smiles were rated as high as attractive faces without smiles. Not only will smiling instantly make you more attractive, it will make people like you more.
There's a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or idea. Often they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? You can learn more here.) Many have told me how important it is to be able to quickly forge connections with the people they meet. Using these three approaches is a great start.