The holiday season was filled with countless social activities for most of us, and this may have brought on a lot of anxiety. Whether it’s family drama, being around someone you feel doesn’t like you, or just overall social anxieties, you may have dreaded getting ready for that dinner party. I get it—this causes me stress too! Rather than going into these situations with a negative outlook, it’s important to change the perspective. Frankly, the typical approach to these situations isn’t working if anticipation and negative outlooks are always on the horizon.
Preparing for and learning how to deal with these types of interactions will be a benefit in the long run. Understanding what makes us likable by using proven and scientifically studied techniques in terms of how people connect with one another, is important. If you’re talking to someone and getting crickets, that’s straining. On the flipside, if you’re talking to someone and they’re leaning in, that’s a totally different feeling that changes everything. As soon as you’re getting a positive response from any interaction, you begin feeding off of that.
It’s proven that people develop first impressions before you even open your mouth. Further, research demonstrates that your appearance impacts how trustworthy, promiscuous and powerful people think you are. With this in mind, it may behoove you to “dress the part” at functions. This may seem obvious for some but outward appearance is typically not the way you want to stand out in a crowd if likability is the goal. For example, if you’re in the corporate world and going to see a client, more than likely you’re going to dress up and not wear jeans and flip flops. This isn’t pretending to be someone you’re not; it’s dressing for the situation. However, if you show up to a family function in a low cut, mini dress and no one is talking to you, consider if your appearance may play a part in that because it’s making others uncomfortable. Of course, what you wear is a personal decision, but it’s good to be aware that appearance matters and could have a positive or negative impact depending which route you go.
While how you dress is in your control, other appearance factors are not, such as facial structure. Someone may judge you by your face but by leaning in, making eye contact and being affirmative in conversations, you can make the other person feel good about themselves and this allows them to like you. When someone is feeling good and they’re in your presence, they attach that to you—and that’s a really powerful win for you in the “likability” category.
Stroking the Ego
We all inherently have an ego and in terms of the science of likability, you can use this to your advantage. If you’re feeling scared or vulnerable about going into a social situation, use the idea that everyone is human and has an ego, and play to that. It might feel manipulative because it seems easy, but you may not realize people are already doing it to you. For instance, when in doubt and stuck wondering what to discuss, think of ways you can praise the person in front of you. Humans are approval seekers. When you compliment someone on looks, work or family, there is no way they can be uncomfortable in your presence. In fact, this tactic has been termed “ego nourishment” and this promotes cooperation from other people in business, social and family settings, as well as aids in gaining love and respect. The ego is a very powerful beast that we all have. Our personal ego is what can cause us to feel scared to even go into social settings, but a quick change in perspective, and now the ego is your best friend.
If someone is talking to you, asking follow up questions is really important. This makes someone feel wanted, heard and understood—all very basic needs that everyone has. Follow up questions show you care and are listening. These follow up questions should be open ended rather than producing “yes” or “no” responses thus keeping the conversation fluid. Conversation flow is powerful and shows the other person you are interested in THEM. Relationships are often built on asking the right questions instead of focusing on saying the right thing.
If all else fails, smile and laugh. Laughter is contagious and it also releases oxytocin. Laughter quickly changes your mood and positively affects others around you. Smiles nonverbally communicate to another that you agree with them, are understanding and friendly. You can even learn to “smile” with your eyes using eye contact.
Practice Makes Perfect
I find conversations to be a fun experiment to see what people react positively to, and within this, I’m able to teach myself little tricks for the next social interaction. This takes practice like anything else, especially if this isn’t something that comes naturally to you. However, the harder and uncomfortable lessons often bring the most satisfaction. There are two approaches to everything—fear and love. If you’re fearful of going into a situation but you turn it into something more positive, you’re opening up a totally different wavelength and energetic feel. Connecting in this way is very positive and benefits you and the person that now likes you!