Today we’ll look at why people who try to be likable just aren’t that likable. We’ll look at what they do wrong and what truly likable people do instead.
When my social awareness grew in my late teens, I looked for different ways to increase my social status and be more likable. I was sure that for people to like me, I had to show that I was just as good as everyone else, if not better.
For example, when I started an import business and had some early success I assumed that it would set me apart from the average Joe. I was sure that it would make me more likable. It took me years to realize the psychology behind it, but talking about my business created the opposite effect of what I had tried to achieve.
Ironically, this very urge to be likable that I had (and the majority of us have) is often what makes us less likable.
Likability is counter intuitive. To master it, we need to understand an important distinction: Socially successful people don’t try to make people like them. Instead, they make people like being around them.
The difference? The idea of trying to make people like US is all about being self-focused: We try to be the ones who feel good about the situation and forget about making others feel good.
Here are some examples: (Click image to enlarge)
Here are the takeaways from the chart above:
- People want to be around those who acknowledge them and listen to them. Not those who just wait for people to be done talking so they can talk.
- People want to be around those who share stories to create an enjoyable moment. Not those who share stories just because they have an urge to be seen a certain way.
- People want to be around those who accept them so they don’t have to put up a facade. Not those whose main focus is to build a better facade.
Studies show that what makes us truly likable isn’t about being superior to others. It’s about being relatable.1
Here’s a secondary effect: When we shift our attention from us to others we become less self-conscious. That makes us more confident and at ease in social settings.2
Lesson learned: Often, it’s the very things we do to be like that make people like us less. I call this the likability paradox. Instead, focusing on making people like being around us is what makes us truly likable.
Don’t try to make people like you. Make people like being around you.
Who’s the most likable person you know? If you analyze that person, what do they do differently? I’m curious to know in the comments!