Do you make people feel comfortable and welcome when they are around you? Do people feel appreciated, understood and accepted by you?
Likeable people know how to endear themselves to others from the get-go. They understand the importance presenting themselves as being genuine and willing to connect. Do this, and people will see you as someone they want to have a conversation with and hang out with.
It may seem like charismatic people are born charming, but the truth is that likability can be learned and honed, just like any other skill. Start with these 10 secrets to become one of those friendly and super-likable people that everyone feels comfortable around and wants to get to know better.
1. Have a friendly, open demeanor.
The fastest way to kill your likability is to come off as fake, aloof or indifferent. Chances are you don’t mean to be seen as negative or disinterested; you may just feel uncomfortable in some social settings or are naturally more reserved.
But keep in mind that others are trying to get a read on you. When you present yourself as closed-off or snobby — even if it’s unintentional — nobody is going to be excited about getting to know you. Let your guard down and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Be aware of how you are presenting yourself to others and do your best to develop an open, friendly demeanor. Let your personality shine through and practice opening up, in both verbal and nonverbal ways. Smile. Make eye contact.
Nod to show you are listening. Lean in when someone is speaking to you. People are naturally drawn to others who are genuine and who are comfortable in their own skins. So be authentically you — and remember, it’s often not about what you say verbally, but what your body language is saying.
2. Listen first, then speak.
So often we are in a rush to get a word in edgewise when we are talking to others. When someone else is speaking, we only half listen while we are contemplating how to respond. By being too quick to insert ourselves into a conversation, we often miss a chance to establish a connection with the other person.
If you cut into a conversation, you can make the other person feel like you are shutting them down before they have a chance to fully explain.
Act as if the person you are speaking with is the most important person in the world. Practice actively listening to them — really concentrate on what they are saying. Don’t jump in to offer advice or try to solve a problem. But do ask follow-up questions. This will help them feel heard and let them know that you sincerely took the time to understand what they were saying.
3. Don’t hog the spotlight.
We all love to take the spotlight from time to time. If you’re extroverted, you may live to be the life of the party. But people who are consumed with getting attention may be missing all kinds of opportunities to offer value and be of service to those around them. If you come off as conceited or self-important, people may not want to spend a lot of time around you.
Likable people don’t want to hog the spotlight, they want to share center stage. They seek to shift the focus to those around them. They know how to praise others without being excessive.
They understand the importance of bringing others into the conversation and pulling a quieter person out of their shell. The bottom line: stop pining for people’s attention and look for ways to include others in the conversation.
4. Ditch your devices and focus on who’s in front of you.
Put down your smartphone, step away from your digital devices and focus on the humans in front of you. Instead of scrolling social media, just socialize. Mingle with people in real time. If you are attempting to monitor your email or return text messages, you will fail miserably at building a relationship with the live person you’re ignoring.
When talking with another person, fully commit to that conversation and focus your attention on them. Technology has it’s time and place, but too often we make it the focal point of our lives. Go old school and spend some time making small talk with those around you to begin building real relationships.
5. Synchronize yourself to those around you.
We may not realize it, but when it comes to social interactions, we all like a copycat. We naturally synchronize ourselves to those around us. When someone smiles, we are inclined to smile back. This begins in infancy: babies naturally imitate the facial expressions of those around them.
This social synchronization is an important way of building rapport with others. It means we subtly imitate the gestures of the person we are talking with. We may unconsciously mimic their breathing and body posture as well. Matching your voice and tone to the other person is a powerful tool for building a feeling of affinity and connection.
The other person will automatically feel like you are on the same wavelength with them and empathize with them. So when you have a conversation with someone, be aware of how you are mimicking them and try to discreetly match their body language and behavior.
6. Ask conversation starters.
Knowing how to start a conversation on the right foot is key to immediately instilling a sense of belonging and connection. Questions get the other person talking and engaged in a conversation, but the trick is knowing what questions to ask.
An open-ended question invites the other person to offer their opinion or give their thoughts on a subject. The idea is to use questions that get a conversation going. Some examples include: “What was the last funny video you saw?” or “Who is your favorite musician/actor/comedian?” Think of questions that begin with who, what, where, when, why and how.
On the other hand, a closed-ended question is one that can usually be answered with a yes or no response. For instance, asking “Are you feeling better today?” is closed-ended, and the person doesn’t have to answer with anything more than yes or no. Asking something like “How are you feeling today?” invites the other person to share something about themselves.
7. Be open-minded.
Likable people are seen as approachable and personable because they are open-minded and willing to talk to and listen to many different types of people. They avoid having preconceived notions or passing judgment on others, but are willing to hear others out and get different points of view.
Of course you will meet people you disagree with, but the idea is to allow others to have their say, so you can better understand them and make them feel heard.
Allow others to offer their thoughts and ideas, and then respond by sharing your own beliefs and feelings — always in a considerate and respectful way. Do this, and you will promote deeper discourse and discussion.
8. Be reliable and balanced.
Being moody, short-tempered or gloomy are the opposite of likable. People who are known for their unpredictable and fluctuating moods aren’t making anyone’s “most lovable” list. In fact, people will actively avoid you. If you want others to be comfortable approaching you, people need to feel confident that you are even-tempered and reliable.
You can have a bad day or be in a sour mood sometimes but when you are, remember this little gem: you don’t have to express every thought or feeling that comes into your head. Sometimes it really is better to nod, smile and say nothing.
Be honest when you are stressed or frazzled — give yourself a little extra space. Don’t let a bad mood control you. Instead, treat each new person you come across as a fresh start and don’t let previous entanglements influence how you handle someone.
Related: 3 Habits of Super Persuasive People
9. Look for shared interests.
When it comes to establishing a rapport with someone, look for ways to establish common ground through shared hobbies or interests. This is when having a variety of interests and a diverse background will come in handy. It may help to do a little homework ahead of time if you know you will be meeting new people.
Do you both enjoy certain activities, watch the same television shows or enjoy reading similar types of books? Perhaps you know people in common, are involved in similar community organizations or have done business with the same company.
There are many ways that you may overlap with someone. And if you don’t have something in common, chances are they have a skill or hobby that you are interested in and would like to learn about. View each person you meet as an opportunity to learn something new.
10. Say what you mean verbally and nonverbally.
We’ve all had the experience of asking someone how they are doing and they say they are fine, but their body language indicates something else entirely. They may avoid eye contact and have a scowl on their face while tapping their foot and using an angry tone of voice. The fact is, we don’t believe a person who uses mixed signals like this. We find it confusing. It inhibits our ability to build trust.
One of the most powerful ways to begin a conversation is to face the person directly. Look the other person in the eye and avoid bad body language — no crossed arms or slumped posture.
Make sure your facial expression is open and agreeable and you are using a pleasant and composed tone of voice. If you do this, you are telling the other person you are enthusiastic about communicating with them.
One of the most important elements in likability is to make sure that all the nonverbal messages you send the other person are congruent with the actual words that come out of your mouth. Say what you mean verbally and nonverbally, and others will feel closer to you and more confident in trusting you.