What are we like?

November 23, 2016

The science of likability and similarity can be the driving force behind getting results.

You know what they say – common sense is often very uncommonly applied.  Well few principles fit into this category than ‘likability’, and the science of building positive rapport with those around us.

It doesn’t seem like rocket science.  Who are you most likely to say yes to? Your best friend who asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, or a work colleague, who you dislike, who asks you to do something that you like doing. Most people will say yes to their friend over their work colleague, even though the task they are doing for them is less enjoyable. Why? We are more likely to comply with the request of the people we like.  While we all know likability is at the heart of influence, we tend to ignore or forget to make concerted efforts to make ourselves more likable.

It’s a way of cultivating relationships and building rapport. Getting people to like you will mean that they are more likely to say yes to you. This principle can work on anyone, in any industry, whether you are in engineering, manufacturing, education or IT, in your personal and professional life. In fact, research, has demonstrated that the people who are likeable are more successful, get elected, promoted and rewarded, close more sales, make more money, and get better service. What’s not like about that?

Likeability matters so much that every American President since 1961 has been the candidate considered by the electorate to be the most likeable. Yes, Donald Trump was more likeable than Hilary Clinton. One study revealed that doctors spend more time with the patients they like, and less with those they don’t. But how do you get people to like you? If you’d like to make yourself more likeable, and I mean more genuinely likeable, the research shows there are three rules of thumb: similarity, praise and cooperation.



People find it easier to like people if they share something in common. It could be a similar name, ethnicity, or interests. They key to this principle, is to find out what it is that you have in common with the other person. So, before that next meeting do your research.  Find out through your network of connections, or social media what the person you are meeting is in to.  It could be sports, travel, or you may have gone to the same university. Find a shared interest, or common ground to help underline the similarity principal.  But remember to exercise authenticity and integrity – people know when others are not being genuine, especially if you try to pretend you have a shared interest that is not for real.



Praise produces liking, we like those who like us and say so.  So, if you have truly noticed something interesting about the person who are trying to woo, or like something in their office, say it! Don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel.  Know the logical limits though; admiring their cufflinks is one thing, but admiring their baby soft completion may not have the desired effect. What about false flattery, and indirect praise? Do these methods work too? False flattery is powerful in the short term, but, be careful if the person you are praising realises you are faking it. It is not going to work. Use it for short term gains, not long-term ones, and don’t overdo it. Indirect praise on the other hand can work both in the short and long term. In fact, it’s incredibly powerful. Hearing from someone else, that you you’ve been praised is always nice.

In one study, interviewees paid a small compliment to interviewers who had been tasked to select the best candidate for a standard business administration role.  Not only did the job not exist, but the business didn’t either.  Everyone was in on the secret study, except for the interviewer.  And sure enough, where they were paid a small but sincerely delivered compliment, eight times out of ten the compliment toting candidates did better than the other candidate who did not deliver a compliment. So, with that in mind, I want you to think about how you could either directly or indirectly deliver praise in the next week.



We like people more who we cooperate with, and who are willing to cooperate with us. One study showed that people who are uncooperative, will 60% of the time be unable to see geniune cooperative interests in the other party. They will only see the differences of opinion. This of course leads to conflict. Think about how you can be more cooperative to make yourself more likeable. Make sure that you leave your ego at the door, and work with the other person to corporately co-create a solution, to meet their needs. Nobody likes a know it all, and to be more likeable, it’s much better to be cooperative.

Let’s recap. Likeability is about three things:

  1. Similarity. People find it easier to like people if they share something in common.
  1. Praise produces liking, we like those who like us and say so.
  1. Cooperation. We like people more who we cooperate with.


Back at the Office

How can you make yourself more likeable? Here are two things you can do, one with someone you find it difficult to work with, and one with a client. Let’s start with someone that you find difficult to work with. What things do you have in common? Films, sport, children, a love of wine … What is one attribute or quality that they possess that is praiseworthy? They are always at work early, they like helping people, they are a creative and innovative thinker…Think about ways in which you can be more cooperative to them? Help them clean their office, agree with something they say in your next meeting …

These tips are so easy to action, and have such immediate rewards. There is no reason why you can’t go out and practice these tips on the next person that you meet. Good luck!

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