What Makes a Person Likeable?

?That?s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they?re pretty. It?s like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste.? ? John Green (Paper Towns)

A young man told me he wanted to be more likeable.

Initially he said he struggled with social anxiety but ? after a few questions ? he realised his problem wasn?t that extreme. He was shy in some situations, he wanted to feel more relaxed in the world, he wanted people to like him.

But the idea of ?wanting to be liked? embarrassed him. ?It seems pathetic ? as well as pretty shallow,? he said.

Not at all. Wanting to be liked is human ? but it?s a hard thing to admit in a world where we are repeatedly told not to care what others think of us, that we should just be utterly ourselves because the haters will come anyway.

The truth is, they will. No matter what we do, or how nicely we play, some people won?t like us? and some of these people will go out of their way to make us feel bad about ourselves.

But that shouldn?t stop us from trying to be likeable ? not in a desperate, approval-seeking, kiss-ass, kind of way ? but by becoming better, more genuine, more caring, people.

Likeability is a hard thing to quantify but if you smash the research together with the qualities likeable people most often demonstrate, you come up with this list.

1. Not their clothes or their looks.

Likeable people come in all sorts of (often unpredictable) packages that have nothing to do with the coolness of their clothes or the hotness of their looks. It?s about their warmth and their energy. They?re upbeat: not teeth-gnashingly positive but they?re mostly on the optimistic side of the line. Their vibe draws you in.

2. They are able to laugh ? even at themselves.

They have a genuine sense of humour AND they?re able to gently poke fun at themselves while still giving the impression they think they?re okay.

3. They bother to learn YOUR name.

When they meet you they?ll repeat your name to lock it in. They?ll use it. They?ll use strategies to remember it. They won?t hide behind the weak excuse that they?re ?hopeless with names?.

4. They invite you in.

Not into their house ?but their world. And they do it not with words, but their posture. They?re not defensive: sitting or standing, their body language remains open. You feel inclined to walk towards them, not away.

5. They ask every person they meet a good question.

They listen, they?re interested, they take the conversation past ?what do you do?? to a decent question that requires the other person to think about their answer.

6. They choose to talk about you over themselves.

You?ll notice that when you direct a question at them, they will answer it thoughtfully but they won?t hog the conversation, they?ll turn it gently back to you. You?ll walk away feeling interesting ? and that they enjoyed talking to you.

7. They are able to see the world from another perspective.

They don?t cling rigidly to their own viewpoint. They understand that the world can look quite different depending on a person?s history, experiences, culture and vantage point. They acknowledge that.

8. They touch people, emotionally, sometimes physically (but never creepily).

I think you know what I mean.

9. They accept some people won?t like them and they DON?T feel the need to retaliate.

They don?t grovel for approval. They let criticism wash over them, while still checking to see if there?s any truth in it. If there?s something to be learned, they?ll spot it and take the lesson. If there?s not, they?re able to let it go.

10. They like you.

The simple truth is that if someone likes you it?s hard not to like them back. When you?ve been with a likeable person you?ll leave with the unshakeable and all-too-rare feeling that they liked you. When it happens, bank it. It?s gold.

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