Too many people share the mistaken belief that being likeable comes from natural, unteachable traits that belong only to a lucky few, the good looking, the social extroverts, and the incredibly talented. It’s easy to find this misconception believable and maybe even you want to believe this misplaced belief.
When I speak to smaller audiences, I often ask them to describe the most likeable people they have ever worked with or even come across. People inevitably ignore innate characteristics (intelligence, extraversion, attractiveness, and so on) and instead focus on qualities that are completely under people’s control, such as approachability, humility, and positivity.
These qualities, and others like them, describe people who are skilled in emotional intelligence (EQ). TalentSmart research data from more than a million people shows that people who possess these skills aren’t just highly likeable, they outperform those who don’t by a large margin. 90% (Ninety percent) of top performers have high EQs, people with high EQs make $30,000 more annually than people with low EQs, and a single-point increase in your EQ adds $1,300 to your salary. I could go on and on.
Being likeable is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence. Unlike innate, fixed characteristics, such as your intelligence (IQ), EQ is a flexible skill that you can improve with effort.
To help you improve your EQ, I did some digging to uncover the key behaviors that emotionally intelligent people engage in that make them so likeable.
1. They are genuine. Being genuine and honest is essential to being likable. Always have a SMALL conservative compliment for your client. Ensure that it is sincere. It can be as simple as “Hey, thank you for being on time. I really appreciate it.” Once again, you must begin modest. No one likes a fake. DO NOT target others weak points (areas that others states he/she is concerned about). Doing this will appear as being false, smug, or arrogant, no matter how sincere you are. In reality, these areas will not change overnight and, as gently as you can, the client must come to realize this. The clients’ self-esteem has to be exercised just like the body. People gravitate toward those who are genuine because they know they can trust them. It is difficult to like someone when you don’t know who they really are and how they really feel.
Likeable people know who they are. They are confident enough to be comfortable in their own skin. By concentrating on what drives you and makes you happy as an individual, you become a much more interesting person than if you attempt to win people over by making choices that you think will make them like you. Find beauty in everyone, however small it may seem because for some it is the world.
2. They ask thoughtful questions. The biggest mistake people make when it comes to listening is they’re so focused on what they’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect them that they fail to hear what’s being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost. A simple way to avoid this is to ask a lot of questions, convincing others that improvement will come slow, BUT IT WILL COME is paramount! Make sure they understand that each person is different and that people will always have different results on the same efforts. Let them know that you did not emerge out of the womb in the condition you are in now, and that, with your help and guidance, they will achieve their goals as well. Understand that your clients are utilizing your knowledge and direction as a vehicle of which to arrive at their fitness destination. People like to know you’re listening, and something as simple as a clarification question shows that not only are you listening, you also care about what they’re saying. You’ll be surprised how much respect and appreciation you gain just by asking questions.
3. They don’t pass judgment. If you want to be likeable you must be open-minded, you must remember that everyone has a past and some are creating there past right now. Being open-minded makes you approachable and interesting to others. No one wants to have a conversation with someone who has already formed an opinion and is not willing to listen. Everyone needs and wants a safe place where they are appreciated, accepted, and loved for who they are right now and right where they are in their life now, fully exposed. Always remember you may be the reason someone chooses life today by showing they matter, people will always live up to the standards you set so choose your words wisely, do not criticize.
Having an open mind is crucial in the workplace where approachability means access to new ideas and help. To eliminate preconceived notions and judgment, you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. This doesn’t require you believe what they believe or condone their behavior, it simply means you quit passing judgment long enough to truly understand what makes them tick. Only then can you let them be who they are to help them grow into the greatness they are destined to become.
4. They don’t seek attention. People are averse to those who are desperate for attention. You don’t need to develop a big, extroverted personality to be likeable. Simply being friendly and considerate is all you need to win people over. When you speak in a friendly, confident, and concise manner, you will notice that people are much more attentive and persuadable than if you try to show them you’re important. People catch on to your attitude quickly and are more attracted to the right attitude than what or how many people you know.
When you’re being given attention, such as when you’re being recognized for an accomplishment, shift the focus to all the people who worked hard to help you get there. This may sound cliché, but if it’s genuine, the fact that you pay attention to others and appreciate their help will show that you’re appreciative and humble, two adjectives that are closely tied to likeability.
5. They are consistent. Few things make you more unlikeable than when you’re all over the place. When people approach you, they like to know whom they’re dealing with and what sort of response they can expect. To be consistent you must be reliable, and you must ensure that even when your mood goes up and down it doesn’t affect how you treat other people.
6. They use positive body language. Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation.
It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.
7. They leave a strong first impression. Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Strong posture, a firm handshake, smiling, and opening your shoulders to the person you are talking to will help ensure that your first impression is a good one.
8. They greet people by name. Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. Likeable people make certain they use others’ names every time they see them. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet him. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation.
If you’re great with faces but have trouble with names, have some fun with it and make remembering people’s names a brain exercise. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask her name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep her name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see her.
9. They smile. People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good as a result.
10. They know who to touch (and they touch them). When you touch someone during a conversation, you release oxytocin in their brain, a neurotransmitter that makes their brain associate you with trust and a slew of other positive feelings. A simple touch on the shoulder, a hug, or a friendly handshake is all it takes to release oxytocin. Of course, you have to touch the right person in the right way to release oxytocin, as unwanted or inappropriate touching has the opposite effect. Just remember, relationships are built not just from words, but also from general feelings about each other. Touching someone appropriately is a great way to show you care.
11. They balance passion and fun. People gravitate toward those who are passionate. That said, it’s easy for passionate people to come across as too serious or uninterested because they tend to get absorbed in their work. Likeable people balance their passion with the ability to have fun. At work they are serious, yet friendly. They still get things done because they are socially effective in short amounts of time and they capitalize on valuable social moments. They minimize small talk and gossip and instead focus on having meaningful interactions with their coworkers. They remember what you said to them yesterday or last week, which shows that you’re just as important to them as their work.
12. They Reprogram the prefrontal cortex. In the psychological arena of life we are our own worst critics; the mirror does have two faces and unfortunately in most cases the image we see looking back at us is grossly distorted. As fitness professionals we need to encourage not only the mental fitness but also the physical fitness because as professionals we are morally required to not only address the life goals but to also educate and modify the psychological and physical goals and mindset of our clients. I have noticed in many cases a person will begin a wealth fitness regimen without realizing this is not a “quick fix” but a lifestyle change in the mental and physical areas as well. After following his/her wealth prescription for a few days or in some instances a few weeks unaware that their unsatisfactory state of being did not occur overnight neither will the level of expected results. This disillusionment is often followed by reverting back to old lifestyle habits.
In some cases the client is successful to a fault; they achieve or exceed their goals yet do not acknowledge their fruitfulness. Instead their views of themselves remain that of their previous state thus hence beginning a self-destructive downward spiral dismissing emotional sustenance such as “good” facts and necessary compliments depleting the body of valuable nutrients in efforts to become more defined as worthy. Some people resort to old patterns and negative people or other unsavory means resulting in a different kind of downward helix regardless of consequence. I believe it is our responsibility as professionals to take a proactive approach to these issues at the forefront of their education by formulating a personalized program of positive reinforcement for each person we meet based upon their individual, psychological, and physical needs to build them up one statement, one compliment, one action at a time. The mind is the biggest de-motivator in how the core functions of our brain transmits self-destructive behavior and as professionals we are the leaders, we have the ability to reprogram the core of the brain and activate the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which serves as the integration center of all of your brain-mind functions that not only regulates the signals that your neurons transmit to other brain parts and to your body, it allows you to think about and reflect upon what you are physically doing. In particular, the PFC allows you to control your emotional responses through connections to your deep limbic brain. It gives you the ability to focus on whatever you choose and to gain insight about your thinking processes. The PFC is the only part of your brain that can control your emotions and behaviors and help you focus on whatever goals you elect to pursue. It helps you grow as a human being, change what you wish to change, and live life the way you decide! Self-esteem is the cogwheel for the body’s desire to achieve and, depending on the motivation it receives, it can either push the body to excel or it can drag the body to levels of sickness and even death.
13. They are happy by choosing to live in optimistic gratitude. If you want to be happy the rest of your life, make sure you keep your brain happy. Why? Because being happy matters more to your brain than you might think. In fact, feeling pleasure can be so stimulating for your brain that it is primed to respond to pleasure in a way that reinforces pleasure. Your brain offers rewards to steer you on a pathway to happiness, and you can offer your brain rewards that will encourage it to become even more finely tuned-and to grow well into your old age. Other reasons to want a happy brain: Negative mood variance disturbs your interaction with your environment, affecting your ability to perceive, remember, and reinforce existing or create new neural connections, while being happy improves your ability to be more cognitively alert and productive. Other than being much more fun to be around, being happy:
stimulates the growth of nerve connections.
improves cognition by increasing mental productivity.
improves your ability to analyze and think.
affects your view of surroundings.
Leads to more happy thoughts.
Happy people are more creative, solve problems faster, and tend to be more mentally alert.
The Power of Positive Thoughts
Your thoughts form your character, how you operate in the world, how far you travel mentally, physically, and spiritually. You are what you think you are, and all of your actions proceed from thought. Your inner thoughts will always be reflected in your outer circumstances, because self-generated changes in your life are always preceded by changes in the way you think about something.
As far as your brain, every thought releases brain chemicals. Being focused on negative thoughts effectively saps the brain of its positive forcefulness, slows it down, and can go as far as dimming your brain’s ability to function, even creating depression. On the flip side, thinking positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts decreases cortisol and produces serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at peak capacity.
Why Optimism Leads to Greater Happiness
Neuroscientists have discovered that people who have a more cheerful disposition and are more prone to optimism generally have higher activity occurring in their left PFC. But that’s a brain explanation. Interestingly, behavioral scientists have observed fascinating differences between optimists and pessimists. Optimism, for example, involves highly desirable cognitive, emotional, and motivational components. Optimistic people tend to have better moods, to be more persevering and successful, and to experience better physical health. One factor may be simply that optimists attribute good events to themselves in terms of permanence, citing their traits and abilities as the cause, and bad events as transient (using words like “sometimes” or “lately”), or the fault of other people. In addition, optimists:
Lead happy, rich, fulfilled lives
Spend the least amount of time alone, and the most time socializing
Have good relationships
Have better health habits
Have stronger immune systems
Live longer than pessimists
How to recognize pessimists and understand the negative effects
On the flip side, pessimistic people explain good events by citing transient causes, such as moods and effort, and bad events as permanent conditions (using words like “always” or “never”). Pessimists:
Automatically assume setbacks are permanent, pervasive, and due to personal failings.
Are eight times more likely to be depressed than optimists
Perform worse at school and work
Have rockier interpersonal relationships
Die sooner than optimists.
According to Sonia Lyubomirsky, a University of California researcher, unhappy people spend hours comparing themselves to other people, both above and below themselves on the happiness scale; happy people didn’t compare themselves with anyone.
The good news is that you can use your mind to train your brain to tamp down the negative thoughts that lead to pessimism, while ramping up the types of positive thoughts that lead to optimism. You can be the master of the neuronal changes that will lead to greater happiness, and the rewiring starts in those teensy miracles known as your brain cells, or neurons. Even if depression runs in your family, you have the capability of improving the way your brain functions, of setting up neuronal roadblocks and diminishing the neuronal patterns linked to negative thinking. You may not be able to eradicate a genetic disposition towards depression, but you can greatly reduce its impact and its reoccurrence.
Negative Thinking, Negative Balance
Negative thinking slows down brain coordination, making it difficult to process thoughts and find solutions. Feeling frightened, which often happens when focused on negative outcomes, has been shown to decrease activity in your cerebellum, which slow the brain’s ability to process new information-limiting your ability to practice creative problem solving. Additionally, the fear factor impacts your left temporal lobe, which affects mood, memory, and impulse control.
Your frontal lobe, particularly your PFC, decides what is important according to the amount of attention you pay to something and how you feel about it. Thus, the more you focus on negativity, the more synapses and neurons your brain will create that support your negative thought process.
Your hippocampus provides the context of stored memories, which means the emotional tone and description your mind creates can potentially rewire your brain by creating stronger neuronal pathways and synapses. What you think and feel about a certain situation or thing can become so deeply ingrained that you will have to work hard to dismantle the negative connections and rewire your brain in order to be less afraid, to think positively, to believe that dreams can come true, to trust that your efforts will be successful.
Train Your Brain to Think More Positively
One of the oldest precepts of neuroscience has been that our mental processes (thinking) originate from brain activity: that our brain is in charge when it comes to creating and shaping our mind. However, more recent research has shown that it can also work the other way around: that focused, repetitive mental activity can affect changes in your brain’s structure, wiring, and capabilities.
The actions we take can literally expand or contract different regions of the brain, firing up circuits or tamping them down. The more you ask your brain to do, the more cortical space it sets up to handle the new tasks. It responds by forging stronger connections in circuits that underlie the desired behavior or thought and weakening the connections in others. Thus, what you do and what you think, see, or feel is mirrored in the size of your respective brain regions and the connections your brain forms to accommodate your needs.
What does all this mean? It means that what we think, do, and say matters; that it affects who we become on the outside, the inside, and in our brain. Mostly, it means that you can retrain your brain to be more positive.
Start by thinking happy thoughts, looking on the bright side, and refocusing your brain when negative thoughts occur. Your mind has the ability to determine how your brain thinks about what happens in your life. Use it to your own advantage to reframe events and think positively.
Bringing It All Together
Likable people are invaluable and unique. They network with ease, promote harmony in the workplace, bring out the best in everyone around them, and generally seem to have the most fun. Add these skills to your repertoire and watch your likeability soar!
Remember leadership is the ability to influence individuals to accomplish a task by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. We are the example, let’s set great ones! As for me, I choose to follow a great leader than to lead by ignorance.