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How To Be More Likable

One of the most common social questions people ask is "How do I be more likable?" Below I'll list some well-known traits of likable people. First:

Some clarifications about trying to be more likable

A big factor in how people feel about each other is how much they have in common and how compatible their personalities are

We like those who are similar to us. Even if you're warm and pleasant, someone may still not like you if you have completely opposing values about the world. The traits I cover below will affect your likability in addition to, or in spite of, how well matched you are to someone otherwise.

The traits below will help you become more likable on average, but you can't reliably use any one of them to guarantee a specific individual will like you

You can never win with everyone. Stereotypical example: If you're low on the totem pole in your high school you're not magically going be likable to a snobby popular kid just because you try to seem as if you enjoy their company. They may just think you're sucking up.

As a whole the things I'll list may seem more like a bunch of requirements to be a run-of-the-mill pleasant person, not someone outstandingly likable

Likable people don't operate using a set of secret techniques. They just do more of the things I list below, and at a higher level.

Overall there are many, many combinations of traits that can make someone appealing

For every point I bring up there are plenty of people who don't have that trait who are still likable, because they make up for it in other ways. Think of actors or comedians you know who still have a strange charm to them, even though their shtick is to act grumpy or moody.

The likability factors I'll cover are really general

As I said, there are too many ways to be likable to give you an ultra-specific set of behaviors to follow. Any advice that's overly specific would also create false expectations and make you too focused on minor tweaks. There's no hidden way to make eye contact or shake hands that will draw everyone into your orbit. You need to have the broader principles in order, and express them in a way to melds with your overall style and personality.

Unless you have an especially off-putting personality you're probably already likable enough to some people

Don't feel you'll have to do a bunch of work to become a totally different person before anyone will want to be around you. If your social goals are more modest, and you only want a group of like-minded friends, you just need to be as likable as most people, nothing more.

Be cautious about your motivations if you want everyone to like you or to be more likable than most people

Everyone knows there are practical benefits to being well thought of. It's an understandable area to want to improve in. However, these needs can be rooted in low self-esteem. If you're insecure you can believe that you won't be happy until you're the total opposite of the broken, awkward person you see yourself as now. Most people are perfectly content to be moderately liked, and would actually find it inconvenient if everyone wanted a piece of them.

Ways to be more likable

Two ways to potentially be more likable before anyone has even talked to you

People will start to form an impression of you before you've even spoken. The first way you can seem more likable is if you make yourself more attractive, by dressing and grooming well, being in shape, and having self-assured body language. It's just a fact that people tend to see attractive individuals as having more appealing personalities. Of course, attractiveness is somewhat subjective. An outfit that may be considered stylish and attractive in a big city's artsy neighborhood may not get the same response elsewhere.

Your reputation and accomplishments can also color people's perception of you. Have you ever seen someone from a distance and they seemed pretty run-of-the-mill, then a friend told you about something they did that was impressive to you? It often skews you towards seeing them in a more positive light when you do talk to them. The opposite can happen if you know ahead of time someone's a jerk. You can't actively control this point like the others, but know that down the road if you become more accomplished it may affect the way people view you.

Be confident and outgoing enough that you can minimally put your personality out there

Obviously you don't want to seem unlikable. Another outcome that can practically be just as bad is when people meet you and don't form much of an impression at all. That can happen if you're really shy or quiet, or if you're so scared of saying that wrong thing that you discuss everything in a very safe, bland way. You don't have to become really outgoing or forceful with your opinions or humor, but you need to show enough of your personality that people have at least something to react to.

Come across as if you like people

We'll generally find someone more likable if they seem as if they like us, and people in general. Conversely, we usually quickly dislike anyone who seems arrogant or aloof. I deliberately used the wording of 'seem as if'. There are people who inwardly feel misanthropic, but they're seen as likable because they're outwardly friendly and personable. If you truly like most people you meet that's great, but having that trait is easier-said-than-done. Some of us are choosier than others. What you can do is make it a point to act pleasant in your interactions. Take an interest in what people have to say, smile, and so on.

This article covers how to take on friendly, sociable behavior:

How To Be More Friendly and Social

Help people feel good about themselves

I find when it comes to this point it's less about actively trying to make people feel good, and more about not saying anything that cuts them down. If you purposely try to build someone up, by cooing over every little thing they do, it can seem very transparent, patronizing, and manipulative. It's more than enough to compliment someone, tell them you're impressed by something they've done when the opportunity comes up naturally. Being a decent, friendly person who's interested in others will also indirectly make people feel good about who they are.

If you want to actively work on this point you should put most of your energy into not being petty and undermining. Perhaps you know someone who isn't a blatant asshole, but who's always peppering their interactions with cutting little comments. They make snide remarks, downplay or dismiss their friend's accomplishments, make "joking" insults that are a little too stinging, and so on. Maybe they have social status or command respect for other reasons, but most people wouldn't call them likable.

When we act in subtly douchey ways like these ourselves we often don't even notice we're doing it. For example, a friend will tell you they just got into snowboarding, and before you know it you feel threatened by the fact they have more adventurous hobbies than you and are brushing it off with a, "Yeah, I guess you're too old now to get really good at it, but it's nice that you've found something to keep busy." Likable people do way less of this stuff.

Be reasonably confident

On the whole, people like confidence in others. However, this isn't to say you have to come across as an ultra-assured salesman-type. That can be too much. Just be comfortable with yourself. Some people are even likable by being awkward, but owning it, rather than acting ashamed and embarrassed. This article goes into a lot of detail about how to foster core self-confidence:

How To Increase Your Overall Self-Esteem

Be reasonably cheerful and positive

Likable people are usually in a happy mood. They see the positives in things. They don't complain that often, and even when they talk about their problems they have the ability to not let their energy get too negative. They can vent about the annoying day they had at work, but have it come across as a semi-comedic rant. To other people a happy emotional state just feels good to be around, and is somewhat contagious.

Again, you don't need to go too far or hold yourself to an impossible standard. You don't have to be excessively chipper, or never express a negative feeling or opinion. Just try to maintain a good ratio of positivity to negativity in your conversations. These two articles cover some mild self-help ways to possibly become more positive overall:

Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Mood
Two Simple Exercises To Help You Think More Positively

What if you've got a lot on your plate, and it's not easy to be even a little cheerful at the moment? As I said, you can still seem likable even if you don't check every box on this list. Next, people will understand if you're going through a rough time and have reason to be down. Also, even if your mood isn't the greatest, there are still little decisions you can make about how you express yourself. You don't have to totally hide all your unhappy feelings, but you can use standard good judgment (e.g., not unloading your problems on people you've just met and saving that for your support system, not taking a grouchy mood out on your friends).

Bring something to the table in your interactions

Aside from making others feel liked and good about themselves, likable people have traits that make them enjoyable to be around. They may be genuinely funny, have lots of interesting things to say, be fun to go out with, be good listeners, know the best places to go in town, and so on. Again, these are subjective. A sense of humor that's hilarious to one crowd may seem tasteless or corny to another. Opinions one person finds interesting another may think are pretentious. You can become more likable by developing your social strengths. Maybe you're fairly entertaining, but could refine your sense of humor further. Or maybe you realize you're not going to be the funny one, and you could focus on having intriguing things to talk about instead.

Have a good ratio of positive to negative socializing-related personality traits

In an article full of general points, this one is even vaguer than the rest. They might be disorganized at work and careless with money, but at least when it comes to interacting with others likable people have mostly good personalities. Their social skills are fairly polished all around, and they don't make as many mistakes in their conversations. The socializing-related personality flaws they do have are often milder. They also tend to be self-aware of their irksome traits and can put a somewhat charming spin on them. For example, if they're a bit opinionated and temperamental, they're able to catch themselves at the start of a rant and poke fun at themselves about what a blowhard hothead they are. They're not a jackass who randomly explodes at people with no sense of how tedious they are to be around.

Naturally, it's not practical to list every possible good and bad character trait you could possibly have or tell you how to overhaul your entire personality. All you can do is try to be tuned into your strengths and weaknesses, and work to sand down the parts of you that may be annoying to other people.