Likability. It's something we're all worried about, because to survive we must have the approval of at least some other people.
The good news is you have a lot more power than you think to make people like you. And it doesn't cost any money at all to do most of these things.
The bad news is that to become more likable, you'll probably have to change. Since the fact that you worry about this means that you're doing some stuff incorrectly. But that's alright...life is about learning and growing.
Here are the top 20 pieces of advice I would give to someone who wants to be more likable - in no particular order because they're all important:
- Stop judging other people harshly. Karma is like that - bad energy to others means hatred of you; goodwill results in likability. It's OK to disapprove of a certain behavior. But if you do that, have in the back of your head some kind thought as well. Two examples: "Most people are doing the best they can to survive," or "That person must be in tremendous pain to act that way." Doesn't mean you sanction evil. Does mean you separate the person from the behavior. Karma aside, when you do this, you become more likable because you learn not to unfairly judge yourself.
- Find a balance between being spontaneous and socially appropriate. Too formal is bad, but "wild and crazy" only works in the movies.
- Be helpful but not a doormat. It's good for your likability to assist others in getting things done. But if you can't draw the line, they won't respect you. In general, practice asserting yourself - often. People who worry about their likability tend to let others walk all over them in an attempt to curry favor. But inside, the unfairness of this bargain causes them to seethe. In the end, they go too far the other way and end up seeming aggressive.
- Focus on doing what needs to get done and avoid thinking about yourself. It's about action, not thinking. The more you think, the more you will worry, and the more you worry and become self-conscious, doing socially awkward things will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Watch The King's Speech where the guy can't speak because he's hearing his domineering father yell at him in his head. He literally has to drown out that yelling with headphones. Action, action, action.
- Give charity, volunteer, and in general try to leave the world just a tiny bit better than it was before you got here. It can be as simple as wiping the floor after you spill some coffee at 7-Eleven, so that nobody else gets tripped up.
- Make a conscious decision, once and for all, to accept yourself. You don't have to think you're the greatest talent ever, you don't have to love yourself, you don't have to distort the truth in any way. But you are what you are, so you might as well accept that and stop fighting it. If you believe in G-d, think of the fact that G-d created you. The Christian preacher and motivational expert Joel Osteen tells a funny joke that a child asked his mother where people come from. The mother said, "From G-d, of course." The child responds, "I don't understand because Dad said people come from monkeys." Mother replies, "Oh, that's his side of the family." I love that joke. Bottom line: G-d made you, and G-d is perfect, and you are a child of G-d. Just fine.
- Practice thought-stopping. Affirmations can sound phony and stupid, but at the very least you should not tell yourself "I'm a jerk," "I'm a dummy," etc. As soon as you start beating yourself up in your head - STOP.Own your flaws with humor. Have a good sense of humor in general. But especially when it comes to your own idiocy. We are all stupid in a certain way. We are all defective. That's what makes life fun. For example, when I count things I am always off by one. If an even is supposed to be on May 1st, for example, I will blurt out that it's on May 2nd. It never fails. It's frightening. Yet when it happens, I go, "ha-ha-ha-, you see? I'm always off by one." And I laugh at my own little foible. It's like that.
- Learn to laugh. You don't usually laugh? Life sucks that bad? Force yourself to smile. It's free - Google "jokes" on the Internet. Pick up a funny book. Watch "The Soup" or "Saturday Night Live" or "The Colbert Report." In Yiddish we say "Lach a bissel" - "laugh a little." The greatest humor comes from tragedy. If your lack of likability is tragic to you, join the crowd and watch George on Seinfeld. He was the most unlikable guy ever, but his character was hilarious.
- Do what you have to do image-wise as a matter of general routine. Brush your hair, brush your teeth, take care of your health, and take care of your appearance, but don't get all obsessed. While it may be true that people who look good have a better chance of getting the job, it is also true that people who are obsessed with their looks are a complete turnoff to other people. Read: the opposite of likable.
- Don't be a jackass. This should go without saying. You might have the very odd idea that people like and respect jerks who throw their weight around. No, no, no. People like people who are very respectful of others.
- Follow your conscience. Your conscience. What you believe to be right. Do that. If something is wrong, don't do it. If you want others to like you, you have to like yourself. And you will like yourself if you make it a habit to live according to the beliefs you think are right. If you believe in G-d, fearing and serving a higher power helps you to not care what others think of you. Which automatically makes you more likable.
- Widen your circle of friends. This is very important. You have to let the sunlight in. Don't get stuck in a rut with the people who knew you from way back when. If you want to stay friends, that's fine, but it's good to network with a lot of people. First of all, this keeps you from feeling terrible if something happens and you get in a huge fight with a friend and suddenly a whole group won't talk to you. Second of all, in general, it's like a cushion of self-esteem that you just know a lot of people. Superficial is OK. And the good thing is, the more people you talk to, the more comfortable you get talking to people with whom you have little in common. Your social skills improve. You become more likable.
- Deal with the specific social skills that usually screw you up. For example, I have trouble eating in front of other people. I'm a spiller, for one thing, and the coffee or the salad always ends up on my clothes. Secondly, when I am hungry, I eat fast because I actually worry that somehow the food will be taken away before I'm done eating, and I will go hungry (O, there are a thousand ways to analyze this). It is nuts. And thirdly, it is unfailing that I will get spinach in my teeth. Now, the way I deal with this is to eat with people who can stand the sight of me. But if you have to interact with and/or eat around a lot of people, you have to practice eating in a normal way. OK?
- Get intensely engaged in some creative or intellectual pursuit. You do not, repeat NOT, have to have any talent. The point of doing this is to lose yourself in something enjoyable. If you're good at it, all the better. Because if you like and respect yourself because of something you are objectively accomplishing, outside of simply winning the approval of other people, you will seem less desperate for approval and your likability factor will increase.
- Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. So you have something to talk about with other people. You should always be aware of at least the top stories of the day. So you don't seem like the girl from the movie Hanna, who grew up in the forest. Also, reading and staying current with what's going on gets you out of your own head. Which as stated previously, is a bad thing.
- Prepare yourself to be criticized. We all get it. It's part of life. Some of it is well-intentioned. Some of it is mean and abusive because somebody else is having a bad day. Learn to sort the useful from the non-useful. And go on with your life. Do not allow a mean comment to ruin your day.
- Ask questions of other people. Start with closed-ended questions like "Where did you grow up?" and then progress from there to open-ended ones like "What was that like for you?" Make sure you listen to the answers. But don't stare at them in the face. Alternate looking at them, with looking at someone else. Otherwise you seem like a stalker.
- Write a blog. Tweet. Put yourself out there. The more you write it out, the less it will eat you up in your head.
- Question your beliefs (and others' too). For example, let's say you freeze up during a speech. You tell yourself, "Now I really did it. Now I really look like a fool. Nobody is going to talk to me now." Or you make a mistake at work and your "frenemy" says to you, "Great job...now you've really made us all look bad." Are either of those statements really true? I don't think so. You have to do a lot of other things to truly lose people's respect. To lose credibility. Lying is one great example. If you're generally an honest, ethical, unassuming and nice person who has trouble with public speaking or who makes a mistake now and then, that is not going to reduce your likability one bit. Don't just accept the automatic beliefs in your head or the things that others tell you.
- Start accepting the friendship of those who genuinely like you. You know the famous quote by Groucho Marx, "I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member." That's a very insightful thing he said. Some people refuse to be friends with people who like them, assuming that whoever would like them must be a fool. Instead, they chase the popular crowd (oh, adult life is exactly like high school), the ones who will never give them the time of day. If you automatically refuse to be around people who like you, but instead chase people who think you're a dork, how are you going to solve the problem of your own likability exactly?
A lot to think about and there's a lot more to say. Certainly this is just a start, and I would appreciate reading others' ideas. Because we're all in the same boat here.
Thus I mean it when I say -