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October 28, 2015 // 6:00 AM

How to Be More Likeable: 7 Tips Anyone Can Try

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Have you ever watched a movie where you find yourself really rooting for the main character? How about when young Forrest Gump breaks free of his leg braces and escapes the bullies on bikes?

It's hard not to let out a little, "Run, Forrest, run," while you're watching it, right?

Likeable people tend to have that effect on us. From the way they respond to situations to the way in which they carry themselves, they make it easy for us to respect and appreciate them. They make us want to be on their team. 

In the workplace, likeability is incredibly important. Whether you're managing a group of people or looking to work your way up through the ranks, your ability to form positive relationships will make it that much easier. 

Want to be more likeable? Try these seven things today.

7 Little Ways to Be More Likeable

1) Remember people's names (and use them).

"I'm horrible with names."

It's a phrase we've all heard -- or used ourselves -- a million times. Trouble is, this often signals to people that you simply don't care. 

Considering the value of introductions in the world of business -- it's a starting point for turning strangers into acquaintances, and acquaintances into customers -- this is a habit worth shaking. 

So while there are a number of factors that could be preventing you from registering and remembering someone's name upon meeting them, here are some of our favorite tricks for combatting them:

  • Repeat it. Ever play the "name game" in school? The one where you say your name and then recall the names of those who went before you? Studies show that students can recall 75% of their classmates' names after participating in the game for just 30 minutes. Point being, try repeating the name immediately after the person tells you to make it stick. 
  • Make a connection. When it comes to new information, research has shown that our ability to store information in our long-term memory is influenced by the connections we're able -- or unable -- to make to that information. So whether the person you just met has the same name as your college roommate or sounds like the name of your favorite TV show character, making an effort to draw a parallel will help you in the long run.
  • Offer an introduction. Networking your way around a room? It's easy to become overwhelmed when you're meeting a bunch of people at once. Before you let someone's name slip away from you, make it a point to introduce them to one of your friends or other new acquaintances, advises Credit Donkey's Cassy Parker. 

2) Mind your mobile manners.

Have you ever seen the video of the Chicago Bull's mascot pouring a drink over a fan's head who was too distracted by his phone to kiss his girlfriend on the kiss cam? What a jerk, right?

Point being, likeability has a lot to do with the interactions people have -- or don't have -- with you. If you're one of those people who treats their phone like a third arm, it's likely that you're closing yourself off from engaging in a lot of those meaningful interactions. 

So while it may be tempting to Instagram your lunch when you're out with friend of colleague, pulling out your phone isn't always appropriate. In fact, 88% of people feel that whipping out your phone at the table is generally not a "cool" thing to do, according to a study from Pew Research

In an effort to strengthen the relationships in your life, try being more present.

3) Be consistent.

Think about your favorite restaurant for a minute. I'm willing to bet that you frequent it so often because you trust that you're going to have a great meal. In other words, your loyalty is a direct reflection of the restaurant's ability to deliver a consistent experience, right?

As humans, we have a need for internal consistency. We want our attitudes, ideas, and beliefs to align and make sense. Therefore, when it comes time to make a judgment call about someone's character, we aim to identify that sense of dependability. 

You see, consistency provides a sense of comfort. When we see someone deliver great work or a positive attitude day after day, it becomes easier for us to trust them. This is something that both management and potential customers look for when determining who they want to do business with. 

4) Ask questions of others.

Ever been trapped in a one-sided conversation at a networking event? You know the other persons' life story -- how many kids they have, where they vacationed on their honeymoon, what type of car they drive -- and yet, they haven't asked you a single question about yourself. 

How rude. 

Becoming more likeable relies heavily on your ability to make connections with people. However, in order to do so, the conversation needs to lend itself to a little give and take.

Need help coming up with a few go-to ice breakers? Check out this awesome list of conversation starters to try out at your next networking event. 

5) Smile more.

"If you see a friend without a smile, give them one of yours."

This was my mom's high school yearbook quote, and a valuable piece of advice for anyone looking to build positive relationships with others. This is because our emotional expressions, while often overlooked, are used by those around us to build perceptions.

In fact, according to a study from Penn State University, people who smile appear more likeable, courteous, and competent. 

If that's not reason enough to smile, two Swedish studies from 2002 and 2011 confirmed that other people’s smiles suppress the control we usually have over our facial muscles, causing us to smile. Talk about insta-likeability ...

6) Do good deeds. 

When's the last time you did something nice for someone? Was it unsolicited? 

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky asked students to carry out five weekly "random acts of kindness." These acts could include anything from helping out a friend with a project to buying a meal for someone less fortunate. At the conclusion of the study, Lyubomirsky found that students reported higher levels of happiness than the control group. 

The lesson? Good deeds influence our well being. They make us happy. And happiness is contagious. 

"There are a lot of positive social consequences to being kind: other people appreciate you, they're grateful, and they might reciprocate," explains Lyubomirsky. 

Need some inspiration? Here are a few "random acts of kindness" you can carry out in your office:

  • Buy the person that sits next to you a coffee
  • Send positive feedback to a team member 
  • Leave cookies in the kitchen 
  • Tape an inspirational quote to the mirror in the bathroom
  • Write an appreciative note for the receptionist
  • Give someone a compliment in the elevator 

7) Express empathy. 

Our ability to detect, understand, and feel another's emotions plays a huge part in the way we form connections and build relationships. It also influences the way people perceive us -- both personally and professionally. 

A workplace study conducted by the Center for Creatively Leadership took a look at the role of empathy in the professional lives of 6,731 leaders from 38 countries. The results revealed that not only was empathy positively related to job performance, but also that managers who expressed empathy towards their reports were viewed as better performers as well. 

If nothing else, this study proves that empathy is something we value, as it's rooted in understanding. And the more we understand one another, the easier it is to relate and communicate.

If empathy is something you struggle with, try to keep these tips in mind:

  • Listen. Before you chime in, allow the other person to make their point entirely. Sometimes we only hear half the story, which causes us to act or respond in a way that doesn't make sense.
  • Keep an open mind. Rather than concerning yourself with always being right, do your best to remove any bias. This will help you see the situation for what it is, not what it isn't.
  • Ask questions. If you don't fully understand where someone is coming from, ask them to clarify. Sometimes empathy can be achieved through asking questions that reveal more context. 

What are some other things that likeable people do? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Topics: Office Life Professional Development

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