Do you want people to like you?
Most of us want to be liked, despite Hugh MacLeod's guidance: "The best way to get approval is not to need it."
If you're the kind of person who likes to be liked, I've got a non-conventional story with a twist on how to boost your likability.
A few weeks ago, I was facilitating a workshop on leadership presence for a group of 20 emerging leaders. We were discussing leaders we admire. One participant, a young, earnest-looking 30-something accountant sporting slicked back hair and a three-piece suit, Brad (not his real name), praised his manager, the VP of finance.
"Joe is amazing. Whenever people come to him with questions, he instantly puts them at ease. He's so capable of talking on his feet. He always has sage guidance, even for people he's meeting for the first time. He's so friendly and welcoming. He makes everyone like him."
I felt compelled to correct Brad, "Actually, Joe isn't making other people like them. There's no coercion involved. Those people are choosing whether or not to like Joe."
"Yes, but Joe is so present with each person. He connects with them so quickly and deeply. He's doing something that makes so many people like him."
"Brad, I take it you want to be like Joe?"
"Well, yes, Of course! I just want people to like me more. I don't feel like I connect very well with people at work. I'm kind of stuffy, and I don't know how to get past it." A few people -- who knew Brad well -- tried to hold back chuckles.
I was puzzled. I found Brad warm and friendly, if a bit stiff in his body.
To avoid giving him stale guidance, I asked, "What have you already tried to increase your likability?"
"Hmm, I invite people for coffee. But they're typically too busy. I try to listen to them very intently. I've tried talking clearly, to be understood. I keep good eye contact."
"So, how do you feel when you're doing these things, Brad?"
"Fine. Um, well, I'd prefer if these tactics worked." Brad shifted from a rigid, soldier-like stance to leaning in towards me and shyly asking, "Do you have any tips for how to get people to like me? You know, like learning names quickly, or discovering common interests to talk about?"
"Brad, let's go back to how you feel when you ask people to join you or listen intently or make eye contact or any of those kinds of approaches? I mean, is this natural? Is it forced?"
Brad confessed that these actions felt awkward and almost scripted.
"The opposite of what you see Joe modeling, right?"
"Yes. I wish I could be like him."
Do you want to be liked? Try this sensational shift:
I empathized, adding "Each of us is different. You're going to find your own way to connect. And the first person you must connect with is yourself."
Brad raised his eyebrows, so I asked him a provocative question: "How much do you like yourself?"
Brad stepped back and his wide-eyes conveyed surprise. "Excuse me, Susan? What does that have to do with having others like me?"
"We'll get to that. So, how much do you like yourself?"
With a tiny tremble in his voice, Brad blurted out, "Fine, I guess."
"Brad, how much do you think Joe likes himself?"
"Joe seems pretty comfortable with himself. I guess he likes himself a lot. He's not full of himself or arrogant or anything like that. But I'd say he has an easy comfort with himself.""
"That's where getting others to like you starts, Brad. With truly liking yourself."
Here's the unexpected guidance I shared with Brad:
Make this Sensational Shift: Write down what you enjoy about being you. For example, if you have a whole day to hang out with just you, what makes that fun or special?
Feel how it feels in your body to like yourself. Where do you feel sensational of ease? Lightness? Openness? Warmth? These are usually the body hallmarks of self-appreciation.
Make this Sensational Shift: Focus attention on the sensations you feel when you're appreciating yourself. Let them magnify, as though you could dial up more of the positive sensations and their energy.
Make this Sensational Shift:Imagine you can radiate positive energy to others, without effort, and without telling people you're doing it. Experiment. See what happens.
Try this Sensational Shift: You don't need to attract all people. Just the people who resonate with you. Those are the natural connections that arise when we share our positive energy in the world.
Brad beamed after I shared the whole strategy. His serious, furrowed brow gave way to a wide smile and relaxed stance. "No one has ever made it this easy for me. I get it. It all starts with liking myself."
A week later, Brad sent me an email, "Thanks for the guidance, Susan. I'm amazed at how liking myself is helping. People at work are reaching out to me, in all kinds of friendly ways. I'm not pushing so hard to be liked. The results are fun and dazzling."
Try this strategy for yourself. It's a great way to feel more sensational. And people like to be around people who feel great about themselves. A whole other way to have others like you.