How Important Is The Likeability Factor?

Bill Clinton has it. Richard Nixon didn't. Walter Cronkite always had it. I don't think Katie Couric has it any more. Fonzie definitely had it. Dr. Preston Burke never did.

What is it that makes us like some people while we avoid others like the plague? What is it that makes us uncooperative with some co-workers who may be good at what they do, and more cooperative with others who aren't as capable?

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According to Susan Morem, it's your like-ability, which contributes mightily to your overall success. Morem is a nationally known career and workplace expert (and author of several terrific books) who says that skill and knowledge will only account for 15% of the reason you will be successful. Morem maintains, and I agree completely that

"even if you've worked hard over the years, done everything right and have impressive credentials, it may not be enough. If people don't genuinely like you, you are more likely to miss out on future opportunities, push people away and may find yourself struggling throughout your career. Your success may be determined by how like-able you are."

Tim Sanders author of The Likeability Factor also weighs in, maintaining that

"like-ability isn't an accident of birth but a skill that can belearned."

Sanders even offers exercises and a quickie test to tell you if you're like-able. I suspect somewhere down in the dark corners of your heart, you already know whether or not you have it . But the question remains, can we define it and what can we do about it?

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell's groundbreaking second book about trusting instinct, he described a study that assisted insurance companies to determine which doctors we're most likely to be sued for malpractice, based in part on the doctors' like-ability factor. With amazing consistency, the study found that those patients who felt their doctors really connected and cared about them, we're much less likely to sue, even when serious mistakes had been made. We generally don't sue people we really like, do we?

By studying facial muscular combinations that we unconsciously make, which are sometimes imperceptible to the naked eye but can be captured on film, the study of facial expressions has become an interesting art/science. It, along with body language, became mainstream when the jury consultant Jo-Ellen Demetrius was hired by the Simpson Dream Team to help determine which jurors we're most likely to be sympathetic to Simpson. Guess it worked. However, my contention is that Johnny Cochran's like-ability factor - his charming, irascible behaviors particularly as he steadfastly tripped up the unlikeable Marcia Clark, we're also at work here, and the jury's vote was as much for Cochran and against Clark , as it was for Simpson.

For our like-ability discussion: happy, comfortable, centered people send certain subliminal (facial and body language) messages that invite us in to like them. But if we behave in insecure, self serving or self absorbed ways, our messages are more likely to be met with negativity. We're invited out. Such behaviors make us uncomfortable when we're on the receiving end. If someone comes into our space who makes us uncomfortable we're most likely going to back away and reject the person and we do a great deal of this unconsciously, in the blink of an eye (we're back to Gladwell's book).

Sanders says four personality traits contribute to a person's like-abilitynamely, friendliness , relevance (do you connect on interests or needs?), empathy and "realness" ( genuineness or authenticity ).

So in order to be like-able, it's helpful if we can learn to park ourselves and focus on others . In our work environments, if we're able to climb inside the other persons skin and see their perspective, we're more likely to frame our conversations in ways that bring about cooperation and agreement, thus allowing us to push our needs/projects forward with support from our co-workers. If we're only focusing on ourselves, we'll never see that other perspective and therefore, may have more barriers to over come (read more work) to achieve our objectives.

So even if you're completely shy or insecure, and particularly if you're camouflaging that with the prickly arrogance of self importance, (because I truly believe that the grumpy, bullying types are highly sensitive, scared kids underneath all that) it's hard, but you can change the dynamics of the situation. Get out of your head and genuinely focus on what's important/relevant to the other person. I'm not being a Pollyanna here you'll be surprised at how your change in behavior will automatically change how people respond to you. Remember Steven Covey: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

In other words it's not about you . I know that sounds trickyif you're focused on you, people won't like you, so if you don't focus on you, then they will like you. Got it?

Look, we both know you really can't fake trying to be interested in other people so that's not what I'm suggesting. You have to be authentic, otherwise that subconscious BS meter reader will bust you every time. But guess what? By honestly working on this aspect of your personality, you will become more like-able.

And that's a great feeling. So is the acceptance and success that will follow.

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Posted in Mental Health Post Date 09/29/2020






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