May 29, 2013 Viktor Sander

The 11 Secrets of Highly Popular People (And What Movie Heroes Can Teach Us About Popularity)

In this guide, we will explore popularity. We will also take a look at the manners of movie heroes, and see what we can learn from them when it comes to becoming popular in the real world. Why do we look at them? The comics and movie creators happen to know exactly what makes a person being perceived as popular. There’s a lot of behavioral science behind the creation of Superman, Spiderman, and Batman. Just bear with me!

We define a popular person as someone who is admired, appreciated, loved and is someone that others want to hang out with. We recommend that you first define what popularity means to you, and create measurable goals. If you don’t, you risk forgetting your previous state as soon as you have made progress and end up looking for something you are not really sure what it is.

Measurable goals can be hanging out with a specific amount of people each week or having a certain amount of people contacting you. And no, having more people calling you each week won’t necessarily make you happier, but it will be a good benchmark for you by which you can measure your progress. Ready? Great! Let’s uncover some secrets.

I Want to Be Popular – What Should I Do?

These are 11 secrets that you should master if you want to become a popular person.

1. Be Helpful (in the Right Way)

Becoming a person that helps others is something that will boost your popularity. However, there’s a risk involved in being helpful. We have all some time in our lives come across that try hard person who tries to make friends by offering favors. So why is doing favors sometimes good and other times almost repulsive?

Well, people notice when someone is being helpful just to make others like him or her. The person needs something back in form of friendship or liking, and this is where the term needy comes from.

Make sure to distinguish between different forms of helpfulness. When you offer your help, are your type of helpfulness conveying that your time is more or less important than the other person’s time? Let’s take a look at two scenarios.

  1. You are great at computers and help someone out with a technical problem they can’t solve.
  2. You help someone out with writing a report in a field you both master so the other person doesn’t have to.

In the first scenario, you convey a high value through offering help with something you can do it with less effort than the other person. Or, you help out with something you are better at than the other person.

In the second scenario, you instead convey that your time is less valued than the other person’s time by offering to do something the other person could have done with the same effort as you.

We like movie heroes because they always help others out in a high-value way. They offer their help because they are good at what they do and can do things with less effort than others.

As a rule of thumb, try to help out others as much as possible when your effort to do something is lower than theirs. Otherwise, offering your help will come off as needy.

2. Connect People

Do you have friends that don’t know each other? This is a great opportunity for you tie them together. Now, you have the chance to be the one who connects people. When you are about to meet a friend or a group of friends at a café or a bar, make it a habit of inviting someone that hasn’t met everyone in the group yet. Arrange frequent parties and get-togethers for all of your friends. If you walk the street with a friend and meet another friend, remember to introduce them to each other. Otherwise, your friend will stay quiet and you will come off as socially unskilled.

Your friends will appreciate meeting new people and making new friends. You will also be perceived as a more social person with many friends. A psychological principle called social proof tells us that we look at others when we try to evaluate things and people around us. When all of our friends have an iPhone, we will be more inclined towards buying one too because it seems to be the right thing to do. Likewise, when people see others making friends with you, they will be more inclined towards making friends with you as well, because that seems to be the right thing to do.

3. Be Nice  (In the Right Way)

At first glance, “being nice” sounds too obvious to even mention in a guide. But this is a tricky subject, as “nice” people often seem to lack friends, while the “cool” people or “bad guys” become the popular ones. How to make sense of this?

The answer is that we often describe people who are afraid of conflicts as being nice. An example would be a person who notices his friend drinking too much, but don’t want to bring up the subject. So, he lets the drinking continue, thereby risking the health of his friend. This is not an act of kindness, but out of fear of conflict.

What you should do is becoming genuinely nice. You should base your decisions in life based on what would do the most good for the most people. A truthfully nice person would go through the talk with his friend who drinks too much.

4. Be Easy Going

We, humans, are driven by a natural egoism that is not necessarily negative – it’s only human. The true reason for why we want to meet up with friends is that we want to induce positive feelings. We want to have a good, enjoyable time together, and feel loved, needed and liked. We do everything in life in order to enjoy a good feeling about it  – even charity is something we do because we feel good about it.

From this, it becomes clear that you will become more popular if people have a nice time with you. You’ve probably never had a friend you only met out of pity without enjoying yourself. And if you did, you did it because you would blame yourself afterward if you didn’t. Then your reason for the meeting would be to avoid an unpleasant feeling.

How do you make sure that your friends have a nice time hanging out with you? One important ingredient is being easy going.  It’s important to have a positive attitude and avoid repeating your problems. Letting others know your problem is a good thing – it’s actually a cornerstone in making close friends. But while repeatedly talking about problems people already know about might have a therapeutic effect on you, it will make you appear less easy going and thwart your friendships.

5. The Importance of Being a Good Listener (And Why You Should Read This Even if You Think You Are a Good Listener)

While the importance of being a good listener is widely known,  most people don’t listen very well. We think that we are far better listeners than we really are. There’s an explanation to this: When your mind is somewhere else, you, don’t hear what you don’t hear and you won’t know what you missed out. Hence, it feels like you are a better listener than you really are.

One of the key factors in not listening is being too busy relating to what your friend is saying, spinning off inside your head and thinking about something related while your friend is talking. Even worse, some interrupt their friends while they are talking just because they have to tell them something they relate to. This will make their friends feel ignored. If you try to create a positive experience for your friends when they are hanging out with you, make sure that they will feel heard.

6. Become Good at Something

We are hardwired to admire people who are really good at something. If you think about it, it would be difficult explaining to an alien why there are thousands of people going to concerts, crying and screaming, waiting for hours just to catch a glimpse of someone because he or she is a good singer. Or why we value someone to millions of dollars because that person is good at a sport.

Undoubtedly, there is a connection between skill and popularity. It seems like the skill can be almost anything. What do you enjoy doing? Have you ever done something that people have told you that you are good at? It’s time to improve that skill. Perhaps, you can even earn your living on performing what you are good at. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell suggested that there is not such thing as “being born with a skill”. To become really good at something, you need to practice for thousands of hours. Once you have identified something you like doing and think you can be good at, spend hours getting better at it. Needless to say, all our movie heroes have something they are really good at.

7. Provide Value to Others Instead of Demanding it.

Popular people are seldom needy. That means they don’t need anything from others to be happy. They don’t hang out with friends because they would feel lonely otherwise. They hang out with friends because they want to create a great moment together with them. They give their friends positive energy instead of taking energy from them. They make sure that their friends enjoy their time together and the well-being of others, instead of focusing only on their own needs.

The Truth is that people who complain about life and are more pessimistic have fewer friends. Even worse, the friends they do have are probably pessimistic. This is because we want to hang out with people who are similar to us. For those who want a rule of thumb; say something negative every fifth time that you say something positive. The next time you are about to complain you should ask yourself if you have said at least five things that were positive. Otherwise, you risk being perceived as a negative person, making you less popular.

8. The True Danger of Talking Behind Someone’s Back

There’s a reason for why you’ve never seen a superhero talking behind anyone’s back. Instead, you see them forcefully deal with a person they dislike. The bad guy, on the other hand, goes behind the superhero’s back by trying to persuade others to come to his side.  It’s no coincidence.  Movie producers or comic book writers know people who talk behind someone’s back will look weaker and less likable. It’s a great way of telling the audience: “This is a bad person” (And it’s OK for the superhero to kill him by the end of the movie).

Many people justify their behavior by saying “I’m not talking behind anyone’s back, ‘I’m just telling the truth”. You can always choose between accepting the situation or solving the problem that you have with a person. Another problem with talking down to others is that people will fear that you talk behind their back with others the same way that you talk behind other’s backs with them. That will cause them to reveal less about themselves when you are around. As relationships grow deeper the more we reveal to each other, the more that you want people to feel confident talking with you about anything.

A third problem is that most people have a best friend that they tell everything (including things they are not allowed to tell anyone). Since the best friend often has another person that they consider to be their best friend, what goes around comes around.

9. Depreciation in General

You should not just avoid talking down on others, you should also avoid talking down on things in general. If you depreciate a TV-series, a part of town, a nationality or an artist, you risk breaking rapport with the ones that you talk with. If you have a habit of complaining about things or people, you will regularly come across people who don’t share your point of view or even have an opposite opinion. As a rule of thumb, avoid expressing negative opinions around people that you just met.

There’s one exception. According to the rules of interpersonal psychology, you will build rapport with a negative person if you also act negatively. Our advice is to not get carried away in negativity though, as you will be perceived as a negative person and attract other negative people. When you are around your closest friends, you should express yourself whenever you feel the need to. However, if your negative expressions have become a part of your jargon, you risk tire even your best friends.

A common fear is that if you don’t express negative opinions, you will be considered to be an opinion-less zombie. However, the reality is the opposite: You will not influence others or change anyone’s mind by being negative about things. People who are successful at influencing others to behave in a different way: They tell stories about experiences without adding their own opinion, to make people make up their own mind.

You can never tell anyone to have the same opinion as you do; you can only give them the foundation to make up their own mind.

10. Become Popular at Work or in School

The office and classroom are a bit special places. We spend an awful lot of time there, and we don’t choose the people around us. No wonder many struggles with becoming popular here. The key takeaway is to create an atmosphere where you feel that you like the people around you, and after that making them like you. You can read in detail how to achieve this in this special article, “Become popular at work or in school“.

11. Dealing With Conflicts

Popular people have a certain way of dealing with conflicts. They understand a deep fundamental truth most people are unaware of. We often get angry or frustrated because someone else’s action makes us feel ignored or reduced. In this article about conflicts,  we take a closer look at why this might be only an illusion.

The approaches in this article will not just make you more popular, they will also help you to make more and closer friends.

Comments (7)

  1. Anonymous

    listen to your heart and believe you can do it

  2. Anonymous

    This was helpful thanks.

  3. Timothy

    @Sarah when people yell at you just keep calm, they would come to apologise later

  4. Maybloom

    Can confess to being one of those who talk down on things, it’s like a bonding process for me. Can’t there be benefits with talking down on someone to bond with someone else?

    • julie

      listen to what you think is correct

  5. Alex_

    Quote a lot of my friends who need to become better listener! Will push them on this!

  6. sarah

    my biggest problem is probably with conflicts, i just get terrified when someone yells at me. does anyone have any tips when you are afraid of conflicts like me? because i never yell at anyone really. thanks!

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