Posts tagged: Likeability

We Like People Who Are Like Us

sarahThe Laws of Likability get more interesting with each passing day. Up until recently, I didn’t really think about which law trumped the rest, but I’m getting closer.

Had you met Sara Palin in a coffee shop prior to John McCain selecting her as his vice presidential running mate, there is a very good chance you would have liked her immediately. How could you not?  She’s attractive, has a nice smile and she’s personable.

But, the instant you discovered her political views, everything would have changed. At that moment you would either see her as the savior of the republic or the devil incarnate. And you would have made your decision in the blink of an eye 🙂

This is the power of like and dislike by affiliation. If you’re a Republican, you saw Sara Palin as heroic, dedicated, and an agent of change that was good for America.  If you’re a Democrat, you saw Sara Palin as untrustworthy, dishonest, incompetent and maybe even a little disingenuous. And to think that just a minute ago she was nothing more than a lovely person you were having a delightful conversation with in the coffee shop. That my friends is the power of like/dislike by affiliation.

What does that tell you about how people are going to feel about you based on your political views?  It should tell you that they’re either going to like you more or like you less. And how they are going to feel about you is determined by the conversation you choose to have … or not have.

Here’s my advice … but only consider taking it if you want to keep your front teeth.  If you discover that your companion is of a political view that is similar to your own … share your feelings openly. In doing so, the person you’re with is going to be more attracted to you.

If the person you’re with holds a different political view, change the conversation to another topic. It’s OK. No one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to share your views. If for some reason you feel compelled to explain why you’re a Democrat, a Republican or a Libertarian, just know that you will create a feeling of dislike and could soon find yourself having that conversation alone in a corner.

People judge you by who you associate with and they do it with a vengeance. If the association is good, take advantage of it. If the association is not so good … be diplomatic and change the conversation.

Please tell me if this situation has ever happened to you and what you learned from the experience in the comment section below.

How Far Will You Go To Be Right?

My dad used to tell me that I could either learn my life lessons the easy way with humility or learn them the hard way … and the easy way was well … easier. I never fully understood the wisdom of his words until I was an adult in the Orlando airport.

As the owner of a customer service training company, I was constantly flying from one city to the next either attending a seminar, speaking at a seminar or calling on a customer. I was on an airplane virtually every day of the year. During one particular month, I noticed that on three separate occasions someone had been sitting in my seat when I boarded the airplane. Looking at them politely, I would hold out my ticket and say, “I’m sorry, but I think you’re in my seat.”

Rather than look at their ticket, they would say, “You’re mistaken. This is my seat.” With that, I would reluctantly call the stewardess who would look at our tickets and tell the squatter to move to their assigned seat. With a huff they would remove themselves and act as if I shot their dog. It was humiliating.

On one particular trip I had a bad feeling. It wasn’t the kind of feeling you get when you think the plane is going to plummet to earth in a fiery ball of molten metal, I get that feeling all the time. Instead I had this hideous fear that a 75-year-old invalid with an oxygen tank, a lap dog and a medical escort was going to be slumped unconscious in my seat with an I.V. in her arm.

“Ladies and gentleman,” announced the voice over the P.A., “We’re ready to board the plane. I would like to invite our first class passengers and frequent fliers to be seated first.”

Being a frequent flyer I made sure I was the first passenger on the plane. There was my seat, 10A, completely void of human presence. This was too easy. Something wasn’t right. Every muscle in my body tensed for what was to come, but what was it?

I sat down and studied my ticket stub carefully. Seat 10A, flight 176, Orlando to Atlanta, departs 5:15 PM. Over and over I read and memorized my ticket stub to prepare for the challenge that I knew was imminent. Seat 10A, flight 176, Orlando to Atlanta, departs 5:15 PM. I was ready and slipped the ticket stub into my shirt pocket.

The plane was full to capacity. The stewardess addressed the passengers and said, ”We’re waiting for one last passenger who will be with us momentarily. Please fasten your seat belts so we can depart immediately upon their arrival.”

I quickly scanned the plane and noticed that every seat had been taken. The stage was set for the biggest challenge of my life and I was ready for it.

A man in his late 60’s entered the airplane. He was laden with luggage and out of breath. As he turned to walk down the isle, 275 passengers exploded with applause as though their savior had just appeared ready to lead them to the promised land.

He took two steps into the coach section, stopped, looked directly at me and said in a very polite voice, “I’m sorry, but I believe you’re sitting in my seat. 10A?” Completely confident and ready for the challenge I looked him in the eye and with a tone of confidence that bordered on arrogance said, “I’m so sorry. You must be mistaken. I’m in 10A.”

“May I see your ticket?” he asked.

“It’s not necessary.” I replied. “I know for a fact that I’m assigned to this seat.”

Immediately two-dozen frustrated passengers who were anxious to get home circled us with their eyes, like teenagers anticipating a fight on the playground. What could he do? Possession is 90% of the law and he knew it. If he was going to dethrone me he was in for the fight of his life. I was in the right seat on the right plane leaving at the right time to the right city and I knew it.

Anxious to depart, the stewardess came running down the isle to sort out the problem. “May I see both of your tickets please?” She asked. The mood of the passengers quickly changed from bad to worse. They wanted to get home and they didn’t care who was left behind.

The next ten seconds were the longest ten seconds of my life. What unraveled next was the most frightening and powerful demonstration of mob persuasion I had ever seen. I learned more about the power of likability in the time it takes to tie your shoes than I learned in the 37 years of my existence.

As the stewardess scanned the tickets, my adversary winked at me and asked the person across the isle if he could lean on her seat in order to catch his breath. With that one move he solicited the sympathy of everyone on the plane and simultaneously positioned me as an uncaring whippersnapper who didn’t respect his elders. Then he looked up and addressed the entire 270 passengers on the plane who had been watching our interchange closely.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he said in a charming Brett Butler style Southern voice, “I’m so sorry for your inconvenience. There seems to be some confusion on our seating assignment. I know this wonderful woman will have us straightened out in just a moment. Thank you so much for your patience.”

There was not so much as a glimmer of anger or malice in his voice. He showed nothing but pure compassion for everyone on the plane, including me. Oh yes, he was good. He was very good!

I could feel the mood of every single passenger on that plane change instantly. They were no longer ambivalent as to who they wanted to fly home with and who they wanted tossed off the plane, and it didn’t seem to matter that I was right and had the ticket to prove it.

Just then the stewardess looked up and said in the voice of a ring announcer for everyone to hear. “Mr. Sommers, you are in-fact in seat 10A, on flight 176 that departs from Orlando to Atlanta at 5:15 PM.

“Yes.” I said while pumping my fist in the air to a bombardment of boos and hisses from those seated around me.

“However,” she continued, “Your flight does not leave until tomorrow.”

With that the entire plane erupted into wild applause and laughter as I gathered my belongings for what seemed to be a very long and humiliating exit.

One more life lesson learned the hard way. I think I’m finally starting to get it dad.

We Like People Who Elevate Us

This is one of those likability rules that just makes sense. We all want to be around the people who make us laugh or smile or feel good about ourselves, and we try avoid the people who make us feel … well, not so good about ourselves.

The Kihei, Hawaii Post Office is a good example of what I’m talking about. It has a reputation for being the gathering place for South Maui residents. On some days it seems like everyone who lives on Maui meets there just to garner a few minutes of attention from the retail clerks working the counter.

If you surveyed the people standing in line you would quickly discover that half of us don’t have anything of consequence to mail. We just like how the clerks make us feel about ourselves. But how do they do it, particularly while working in such a busy post office?

For me, the good feelings start immediately. The moment I walk in the door virtually every clerk working behind the counter looks up with a smile and acknowledges my existence with a nod or a wave.

Then, when it’s my turn to be served, they look up and greet me by name. “Hello Bob.” or “Good morning Mr. Sommers.” By using my name they make me feel both welcome and important.

When my transaction is completed every clerk within hearing distance looks up and bids me farewell … again by name. “See you later Bob.”

I don’t think many of us who come to the post office think we’re anything special, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the retail clerks treat us. As far as they’re concerned, everyone is special and they happily convey that message to their customers day in and day out.

We like the people who elevate us and make us feel good about ourselves, and in return, we like them back. The people who understand this principle go to work with a whistle on their lips while their co-workers look for excuses to call in sick.

Who’s the real winner here? Is it the clerks at the Kihei, Maui, HI post office or is it their customers? I contend it’s both.

I Like You More, I Like You Less

Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies, like counting steps or washing their hands repetitively or trying to memorize Pi to the 10,000th decimal point. At least I think they do, don’t they? And, even though I’ve never admitted this before, I too have my own idiosyncrasies.

From the time I was a little boy I would subconsciously ask myself this question when I was with someone. “Do I like this person more or less now than I did a minute ago?” It was not until I was an adult that I realized that everyone asks the same question. Maybe not as frequently, and maybe not out loud, but they go through the exact evaluation process. That leads me to last Saturday.

Last Saturday afternoon my wife and I invited a couple over for lunch and a swim. Now it’s important to keep in mind that this is my house and my swimming pool, and I’m proud of it. Just like you’re proud of your property.

As soon as they arrived my guest jumped into the swimming pool and quickly popped out of the water rubbing his eyes. “This chlorine water is horrible” he said. “It burns my eyes. We have a saltwater swimming pool at our condo and this is never a problem.”

Sixty seconds had passed and I concluded without hesitation that I liked him less. But what did he do that caused me to feel this way?

He insulted me by implying that I was either stupid for having a chlorine swimming pool or that I was incompetent for not taking care of it properly. (As a side note, my pool is perfectly maintained.) I don’t think he intended to imply that I was stupid or incompetent, but he did. He then went on to tell me why I should get a saltwater pool just like his. And guess what? I thought even less of him then I did 60 seconds earlier.

Here’s one of the many rules of likability that we as sales people tend to misunderstand. When we make a negative comment about any aspect of a persons finances, business, car, property, clothing, children, etc.,  we’re causing that person to think less of us. Period.

You might be under the impression that your job in the selling process is to point out the prospect’s problem so that you can persuade him or her to buy your product or service. It’s not, at least not in the way described above.

So here’s the question that must be answered. How can you help your prospect see their problem without overtly pointing it out to them? You can do that by asking appropriate questions. Let me explain.

Let’s assume that my friend wanted to sell me on converting my chlorine swimming pool into a saltwater system. Here’s what he could have done differently. He could have started the conversation by complimenting me on my swimming pool.

“What a beautiful swimming pool Bob. Did you design it yourself?”

Everyone loves a compliment. And his compliment implied that I’m both smart and talented. I like him more.

At this point he could have asked me about my chlorine system.

“It see you have a chlorine system on your pool. How do you like it?”

Great question. He’s obviously interested and he’s asking for my opinion. I like people who ask for my opinion. I like him even more.

At this point he could easily bring up the saltwater system without offending me.

“I love your pool Bob and you’ve done a wonderful job maintaining it. You really know how to keep the water crystal clear. Our condo complex recently converted from a chlorine system to a saltwater system and it’s really different. I understand from the guy who takes care of the pool that it’s easier to maintain and cheaper to operate. Have you ever been in a saltwater pool or seen how they work?”

Now I’m interested. I’m interested in learning how a saltwater system is different, how it’s easier to maintain and how it’s less expensive to operate. And best of all, I’m not offended. I like him even more now because he’s sharing information I find interesting and helpful.

If you have a choice of telling your prospect directly that they have a problem or helping them see the problem for themselves, it’s always best to help them see the problem for themselves. If you allow that to happen, they will like you more … if you don’t, they will like you less. And remember, there’s a direct correlation between how much your prospect likes you and how willing they are to buy from you.

Here are three things to keep in mind when you’re trying to get your prospect to see the problem.

  1. You don’t have to be the one to point out the problem. Let your prospect discover the problem on their own (with your help of course) and then be available to help them with the solution.
  2. Be diplomatic. One mans trash is another mans treasure.
  3. Some things are best left unsaid. I did not need to know that the chlorine in my swimming pool caused my guests eyes to water. It probably wasn’t true and if it was, he didn’t need to bring it to my attention to get my attention.

In ancient Persia the messengers who brought bad news were executed on the spot while the messengers who brought good news were rewarded handsomely. Things are not that different today.

We Like The People We Help

Behavioral scientists tell us that we are more likely to like the people we help, than we are to like the people who help us. It’s counter intuitive, but it’s true. Let me explain.

If we go back to the overriding principle of likable, this concept will make a lot more sense. “We like people who make us feel good about ourselves.” That’s the acid test. Let’s dip the law, “We like the people we help” into the acid and see how it fairs.

To start, please answer this question honestly. Are you more likely to feel good about yourself when you help someone fix a flat tire, or are you more likely to feel good about yourself when someone helps you fix a flat tire? The answer is obvious … when you help them.

Now let’s take this concept a step further. Do you feel better about yourself when you help someone fix a flat tire and they pay you for your service, or do you feel better about yourself when they compensate you with a thank you and their sincere appreciation? The answer, undoubtedly, is when you’re compensated with a thank you and without the money.

We all like how we feel when we help someone, and we feel even better about ourselves when we provide the assistance without compensation. More importantly, we tend to like the people we help … especially if they appreciate what we did for them.

If you want your customers and prospects to like you more, give them an opportunity to do something for you. It could be as simple as allowing them to buy you lunch or a cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s that simple.

We Don’t Like The People We Hurt

Everything about the title of this article sounds wrong doesn’t it? If anything, we should feel neutral about the people we hurt, but behavioral psychologists have proven time and time again that we actually dislike the people we hurt … but why?

Cognitive Dissonance

Psychologists theorize about a concept know as cognitive dissonance. It’s the uncomfortable feeling we get when we hold two conflicting thoughts in our mind at the same time … and it’s a powerful motivator.

Here’s how it works. Let’s assume that you believe that you have amazing will-power. A friend challenges you to loose weight by not eating after 6:00 p.m. for a month, and you agree. But, on the third day of your new diet you ate a meal after 6:00 p.m. doing exactly what you told yourself you wouldn’t do. This is where cognitive dissonance kicks in.


When you hold two opposing thoughts in your mind at the same time you will look for one of two ways to release the tension. You will:

Change your behavior or …
I’m not going to eat after 6:00 p.m. anymore. I’m stronger than this.

Justify your behavior
I should not have agreed to this in the first place. It’s probably dangerous not to eat after 6:00 p.m.

But what does this have to do with not liking the people we hurt?

Most of us believe that we are good, caring people. We also believe that we would never hurt another human being. That’s our self-perception.

The Accident

Then, one day on our way to work we accidentally bump into a stranger and spill a full cup of coffee on their new dress. It just so happens that they’re on their way to an important job interview and they did not respond to your apology or your offer to help.

Here are the facts.

  1. You accidentally spilled coffee on a woman.
  2. You ruined her dress.
  3. You possibly had a very big negative impact on her interview.
  4. She did not accept your apology or your offer to have her dress cleaned.
  5. She did not give you the opportunity to make things right.

There is no doubt that you hurt this person in many different ways. You embarrassed her, you ruined her dress and you possibly destroyed her opportunity of getting a job. You didn’t do any of these things on purpose, but you hurt her just the same. It was an accident.

Under these same circumstances the vast majority of people (when not give the opportunity to make things right) would have found a way to justify the accident in and blamed the victim. It happens all the time. Their self-talk sounds something like this.

  1. I wouldn’t have spilled the coffee on her if she was paying attention.
  2. She shouldn’t have been standing so close to me.
  3. She was probably looking for a reason not to get this job and she wanted something like this to happen to her.

This may sound ridiculous, but people really do think like this … and so do you.

Dig Deeper

Let’s take a closer look at the woman in this situation. Did she make you feel good or bad about yourself? (Remember, the key to likability is helping people feel good about themselves.) In this example, by not acknowledging your apology or giving you the opportunity to make things right, she made you feel bad about yourself … and that’s where the problem began.

Had she accepted your apology and allowed you to have her dress cleaned, you would have felt much better about yourself and therefor much better about her. You would have seen it as an accident and you would have felt better about yourself for making things right.

What? You don’t agree with me?

1065245_handshakeYou may be reading this and feel that the woman was justified in how she handled herself. So, for the sake or argument, let’s assume that you were the person going on an interview when a stranger accidentally spilled coffee on you. Let’s also assume that (without either of you knowing it) you were on your way to interview with the man who was responsible for spilling coffee on your. Do you think he would have been more or less likely to hire you if you accepted his apology and gave him the opportunity to make things right? I think you know the answer.

If you truly want to be a likable person by helping people feel good about themselves, you will do everything in your power to make sure you do just that, even when you’ve been hurt. And the way to do that is to:

  1. Not be hurt so easily.
  2. Give people the opportunity to apologize and make things right.
  3. Don’t let people walk away from you thinking they hurt you. They will like you less and try to make the situation your fault.

Now that you’re aware of this phenomenon, I’ll bet you see it play out almost every day.

If you have a similar story to share, please post it in the comment section below.

The Likeability Continuum

Likeability is not a black and white issue. I don’t think it’s possible to dislike everything about someone any more than it’s possible to like everything about someone. All relationships live on a likeability continuum and they change every day.

It’s also important to note that likeability can not exist in a vacuum. You are neither likable or unlikable by yourself. Likeability can only be defined in the mind of the person thinking about you. And what they think about you changes on a regular basis. Let me explain.

There are many factors that fashion likeability. When you add all of those factors together you get a pretty good idea of just how much you like someone. It’s important to note that this person may have a completely different relationship, (and therefore a completely different likeability factor) with someone else. You see this happen all the time.

Jane and Joe go out for dinner and meet a very flirtatious female waitress. Joe thinks she’s great and Jane has a very different opinion of her. Hmmmm! But why?

Think of someone you know. It could be anyone from a close friend to an acquaintance. Rate them on a scale of 0-10 for each likability factor and total your score.

  1. My first impression of this person was (0-10) ___
  2. This person likes me (0-10) ___
  3. This person is like me (0-10) ___
  4. This person is fun to be with (0-10) ___
  5. This person inspires me (0-10) ___
  6. This is an attractive person (0-10) ___
  7. I am with this person frequently (0-10) ___
  8. I associate this person with good feelings (0-10) ___
  9. I’ve helped this person (0-10) ___
  10. This person has something I admire (0-10) ___
  11. This person is courteous to others (0-10) ___
  12. What you see is what you get (0-10) ___

Now, add your points. If you have a score of 60 or more, you generally like this person. The higher your score, the more you like them. The lower your score, the less you like them. (This doesn’t mean that you dislike them, it just means that you don’t necessarily like them.)

Notice how your score concerning this person can change from day to day. You may have a conversation on Monday about a movie you both liked and then a different conversation on Tuesday about your opposing views on politics. Their score for question three could have gone from an eight to a zero.

Here are the three things I want you to take away from this exercise.

Likeability is comprised of many factors.
Likeability is dynamic. It’s always changing.
You have control over most … if not all of the likeability factors.

If you had a score of more than 60 points, stop what you’re doing right now and tell this person that you like them. They will like you even more for doing so. Well, what are you waiting for?

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