Leading Yourself to Likeability


Yes! You Can Get Anyone To Like You.

Sally Field is probably best known for her acceptance speech for Best Actress at the 1985 Academy Awards.

“You like me, you really like me!”

To be liked is more than a popularity contest—it’s to be appreciated for who you are, even when others don’t agree with you.

The Sweet Spot of Likability

There are many good leaders who have prickly personalities, and this makes it difficult for their ideas to be heard. We tend to shut out people we consider to be jerks, even when they are our bosses.

You can be a tremendous leader with a great message, but if your personality is getting in the way of that message being heard by others, you may need to ask yourself how can I become more likable?

Let’s start with defining the sweet spot of likeability for a leader. Guy Kawasaki makes the following observation in his book, Enchantment:

For people to like you, they have to accept you. For people to accept you, you have to accept them.

Being Likable is Simple, But Hard

The technique for likeability is simple: if you want people to like you, you need to make them feel good about themselves.

Once you have shown them that you value their acquaintance or friendship, they will feel the need to reciprocate and will try to return that same good feeling toward you.

If likeability is so easy to achieve, why do we find so many people so . . . unlikable? The simple technique of making friends and being likeable is so seldom used because we prefer to focus on ourselves and not others.

We tend to put ourselves before the needs of others. The irony is that, by doing so, we automatically put ourselves at a disadvantage.

Here is How You Can Become More Likable

As a former FBI counterintelligence Agent, learning how to build rapport was essential in my work. I needed to balance credibility with likeability. To do so, I relied upon the following methods of communication to help me become more likable to the people I met.

1. Watch Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal cues are very important when communicating with other people. Here is a list of the most important.

Raised Eyebrows

The eyebrow flash is a long-distance hello greeting that is universal and also used by monkeys and apes as a greeting signal. The eyebrows rise rapidly for a split second and then drop again. We don’t eyebrow flash strangers on the street or people we don’t like. The only culture that doesn’t use it is the Japanese where is has sexual connotations.

Genuine Smiles

The difference between a true smile and a fake one lies in the recruitment of the eye muscles. In a false smile, the corners of the mouth pull straight back. In a true smile, the muscles around the eyes are engaged and create smile lines around the mouth.

Calm Eyes

Don’t be an eye-darter who is looking around the room while engaged in a conversation. Eyes that rove indicate that you’re bored, looking for an escape, or trying to locate someone more interesting than the person you’re talking to.

2. Focus on Them

People tend to feel good when they are the center of attention. Make empathetic statements that capture the person’s message.

  • Notice an emotion that was conveyed in their conversation and then repeat it by asking a question—such as “So you are happy that you . . .”
  • Rephrase a verbal message they communicated. This accomplishes two things: first, it confirms to them that you correctly heard them, and second, it allows them to talk further about it.
  • Match their body language. If they speak in quiet tones, so should you. If they are intense, ratchet-up your style as well.

3. Be Interesting—and Be Interested

In order to find other people interesting, you must be interesting. Condense your “story” into a succinct but interesting few sentences. While the focus is on the other person, sharing information about yourself will encourage them to do the same thing.

  • Don’t over-share about yourself – the deadly sin of a boorish narcissist.
  • Identify their passion – it’s your job to find out what it is. If they have no passions or interests, then they’re the jerk, not you.
  • People love stories – if you’re stuck with how to engage the person, try telling a story around the product you represent. This helps them to find ways to enter the conversation.

When you make a person feel good about themselves, they will like you. It’s a simple rule to follow. The hard part is putting the interest of others above our own.

What strategies can you share about how to make yourself likable to others? What are things that people do to make themselves unlikable? How do you know when people like you? What nonverbal behaviors do you notice in yourself when you like someone?

LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Jim Wawro on August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Sales, friendship, love, and relations between nations are all positively influenced by the important principles LaRae Quy has well-stated here.

    • LaRae Quy on August 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Jim

      Thanks for your comment – if we spent more time trying to accept others, we’d be more acceptable to them . . .

      LaRae Quy 415.609.0608 [email protected]

      Visit the website at http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/blog/

  2. Beth A Miller, CMC (@SrExecAdvisor) on August 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I would add that I personally can’t like someone unless I respect them. So leaders need to have respect from those they lead in order to be liked.