December 1, 2016 David Morin

How Your Looks Affect Your Social Life

I often see statements like

“Looks don’t matter”

“It’s the inside that counts”

This frustrates me because it’s not true.

In reality, looks do matter (and everyone knows it). The first moment, the first second when we meet someone, our looks are all that matters. After all, that’s the only way people can perceive someone they just met.

But already seconds into a meeting with a new person other things start to matter. How’s our body language? Do we act in a way that’s warm or hostile?

Still, at this moment, the good-looking person might win over the not-so-good-looking one.

But as we start talking, our personality becomes more and more important. It soon comes to the point where it’s even more important than our looks.

A quick check among our own friends can confirm this:

  • Have you ever stopped keeping in touch with a friend because you didn’t stand that person’s personality? (Probably yes)
  • Have you ever stopped keeping in touch after a while because of that person’s looks? (Probably not)

In fact, our personality gets more and more important in a relation as the years pass by. A person who’s just slightly annoying after a few weeks of hanging out can be unbearable after a few years.

If you meet a person who is a bad listener or talks too much, you might barely think about it the first day you hang out. Then, after a few weeks of hanging out, it occasionally makes you annoyed. After a few months, maybe you’re so annoyed that you rather hang out with other friends.

 

This diagram is based on three studies where students rated the likability of their classmates both at the beginning and at the end of the semester. At the beginning, looks and social status won. At the end of the semester, the ratings were drastically different: Those who were the most skilled had become the most popular.

What we can learn from this is that no matter our looks, it always pays off to improve our personality.  

Don’t get me wrong. Looks aren’t irrelevant.

You want to look your best if you want to create a good first impression. (Some well fitting clothes and a haircut will take you far).

But personality soon becomes more important than looks. That’s something we tend to forget.

A friend of mine works at one of the larger consultancy firms. He told me about an unofficial strategy that they use when they hire. It’s called the Airport Test.

They asked themselves one question before hiring someone.

“Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person?”

The point of the test is that you don’t want to work with someone that would annoy you.

This shows how important it is to be socially skilled, not just in private, but also in your career. Sure, the qualifications need to be there, but after that, social skills can be a deal breaker.

So in summary

  1. Looks are important (and can be improved dramatically quite easily)
  2. Your social skills and ability to bond with people when you make conversation is way more important than your looks

And that’s great news.

No matter your starting point, you’ll be able to make dramatic improvements in conversations in the coming weeks.

Share your comments below!

Comments (9)

  1. Hey David, pretty clear graph! Makes sense, though the timescale is a bit unconventional. Can agree that personality is the long term success factor. If only by looking at what kind of people I keep in my life. What other factors would you say are important?

  2. Sahar Kholif

    Hi this very good website for me because I’m the one was thinking the look is not important at all but it is very important .

  3. Sarah K

    Thanks David, this makes me feel a bit better about my looks. I’ve always been self conscious about my nose, it’s kind of big. But as you say, it doesn’t really matter that much once you get to know someone.

  4. Mia

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much for the information you provide. And – how did you come by these ideas?

    • Hi Mia! We’ve worked on our material for over 5 years now and we try to pick the best pieces for you. Initially we find most of our ideas by scouring scientific databases for studies in social psychology. Then we combine what we learn there with our own experience. So glad you like it!

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