Lessons of the Playground
By Scott Halford
RISMEDIA, Dec. 31, 2008-There are few things in life that will help you as much as likeability – that amorphous, moving target of humanness that makes people want to be around you and do things for you. And here’s the best part: You can have more of it if you’re aware of the attributes that make up likeability.
Being likeable is the most influential thing you will ever be, and we’re all just big kids at heart when it comes to likeability. Take a look at any school-aged child and you’ll see the power of likeability at work. Kids on a playground exhibit all of the aspects of it. They tend to like other kids who resemble them, act like them, dress like them, think and talk like them; they are attracted to others who think they’re cool, funny and cute. Children begin the struggle early to gain the upper hand by tallying the number of people who like them – a struggle for the “power of the playground.” This doesn’t change as we grow into adults; the playground just looks different. Likeability is the grease of both professional and personal relationships, and it all begins in preschool.
Imagine managing a large, multi-day meeting where you need several pieces of minutiae to fall into place for success. If you’re barking out orders, inflexible, uncooperative, and just plain nasty – watch your meeting be sabotaged. If, on the other hand, people feel like they’re working with you, instead of for you – if they feel respected and recognized – they’ll climb to the top for you just because they want to see you succeed.
Business deals begin with likeability. It has much to do with who gets promoted and who doesn’t. It is subconsciously used in the hiring process, and it sways decision-makers on multi-billion dollar transactions.
On the personal side, likeability brings us the friends that we have throughout our lifetime. It turns into love and partnering. Suffice it to say, likeability colors and affects key parts of our life. More friends and more money all because you’re more likeable!
So, you may be asking yourself, “What constitutes likeability and can I get more of it?” Well, yes, you can become more likeable – just simply pay attention to the key attributes that make up likeability. While there are several explanations of what makes up likeability, the following factors are the most agreed upon by social scientists.
Physical attractiveness is the first. We are attracted to others by their physical features including height, weight, skin color, hairstyle, facial features, and clothing. You give a presentation, attend a meeting or go to an interview at your own peril if you don’t dress somewhat like the group who will be there. This goes for being overdressed as well. The rule of thumb on your first visit is to know what people will be wearing (casual, business casual, shorts and so on) and dress one notch above it.
Everyone has a different measuring stick when it comes to physical attractiveness, yet beauty and health magazines work tirelessly to set the standards. Interestingly, many buy into them, spending billions of dollars every year to perfect the face, tone the body, coif the hair and then drape it all in the perfect clothing. But, as they say, beauty is truly only skin deep. Most of us can recall meeting a physically attractive person only to be repelled the moment that he opened his mouth. If a person’s intelligence level or morals aren’t like ours, his or her attractiveness can be “trumped” by more compelling attributes of likeability. To increase your likeability factor when it comes to physical attractiveness and attire, it’s best to be somewhat like the ones you’re with. And since clothing is more interchangeable than your physical features, it’s the one you have the most daily control over. Experiment with this one.
Similarity is a reason that physical attractiveness can work against someone. Similarity is the “me too” factor. If someone’s physical features are threateningly perfect, and you don’t feel on par with that physicality, you might not even strike up a conversation with him or her. Likeable people are interested in going beyond the external veneer of others by gracefully asking probing questions to find areas of commonality. We’re drawn to those who are like us and those who have had similar experiences, and sometimes you have to ask questions about the other person to find this information out. In the Universal movie, “Shrek,” the not-so-attractive leading man gets the beautiful princess, and it lasts because, in reality, the two have much in common. Certainly we enjoy people who are different from us, but most relationships are continued because of things that are shared or are similar. Too much dissimilarity creates a chasm that is difficult to bridge. To increase your likeability factor, work consciously to make those around you feel comfortable by searching for things you have in common. Sometimes this takes extra effort, but likeable people are willing to put in that effort. Ask questions about the other person, and when you land on a commonality, explore it more deeply. Similarity is probably the most dominant factor of likeability.
Complimenting is another likeability factor. When someone recognizes our efforts to do a good job at work, dress well, keep a nice house, create a magnificent garden – anything we in which we may take pride – we like them. Flattery works, especially when it is sincere. To increase your likeability factor, take the time to outwardly notice what people want you to notice and you will have the magic of complimenting under your belt.
Cooperation is the final area of likeability. We like people with whom we get along. That sounds so basic, but remember the sage words that “you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” This is not to say that you have to agree with everyone all of the time. However, you will experience greater success with people when you look for common ground while respecting the inevitable differences in opinion. To increase your likeability factor, find the things that are similar, focus on these things and then look at the differences as choices on the menu.
Physical attractiveness, similarity, complimenting and cooperation are the basic four factors of likeability. They may all seem apparent on the surface, yet they are not so simple in practice. The good news is that we can all be more likeable; it just requires more deliberate action. Give it a try. Pay attention to just one or two things that will make a difference. Pay a compliment. Ask some genuine questions that will help to discover similarities. You might be surprised at what comes back your way, and during critical times, you’ll discover people are much more likely to come to your rescue.
As the president of Complete Intelligence, Scott Halford is a leadership consultant and keynote speaker with nearly 20 years specializing in emotional intelligence, critical thinking and the principles of influence. He is the author of the newly released book, “Be A Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success,” which provides tactics to help individuals become the professionals their company can’t live without. As a leading industry expert, Scott’s client list includes Qwest, First Data and Ingersoll-Rand.
For more information, visit www.CompleteIntelligence.com or call 1-800-586-8760.