21 simple social skills that will make you instantly more likable
- It only takes one conversation to make others like you.
- Making eye contact, actively listening, and keeping your hands off your phone are all subtle tricks to get people to like you.
- Visit Business Insider South Africa for more stories.
Being likable is entirely under your control.
All it takes is the ability to pick up a few key social skills that build emotional intelligence.
To help you out, we sifted through the Quora thread "What are useful social skills that can be picked up quickly?," talked to an etiquette expert, and looked to some social psychology researchers.
Here are 21 simple ways to start crafting a "million-dollar personality" and become the most likable person in the room:
Kathleen Elkins and Natalie Walters contributed to an earlier version of this article.
Keep eye contact
As Heidi Grant Halvorson explains in her book "No One Understands You And What To Do About It," the very first thing people will try to decide about you when they meet you is if they can trust you - and it's fairly hard to like someone if you don't trust them.
Their decision is made almost entirely unconsciously, and it usually comes down to how well you can balance conveying two things: warmth and competence.
"Above all else, really focus on what is being said to you - people need to feel that they have been heard, even when you can't give them what they are asking for or can't be of particular help," Halvorson writes. One simple way to show you're paying attention is to make eye contact and hold it.
"It is an idiotically simple thing, but it remains one of the most impactful life hacks around," writes Quora user Brad Porter.
Halvorson says that making eye contact is also an effective way to convey competence, and studies have shown that those who do so are consistently judged as more intelligent.
Start this habit immediately, says Porter. It requires no practice or special skill - just the commitment to meet someone's gaze and look them in the eye while conversing.
Don't underestimate the power of smiling, another simple and effective way to convey warmth.
Additionally, laugh and tell jokes, recommends Quora user Craig Fraser. People unconsciously mirror the body language of the person they're talking to. If you want to be likable, use positive body language and people will naturally return the favour.
"This not only draws people to you, but it is contagious," she says. "After spending time with you, people will walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling, which most likely, they'll pass on to someone else."
Put your smartphone in your pocket
And keep it there until your conversation or meeting is over. Quora user Basil Chiasson puts it simply: "Pay attention. Look at them. Stop what you're doing. No interruptions."
This is another simple yet effective habit that can be executed immediately and does not require any effort or skill.
Give a firm handshake
"Not too hard, certainly not limp and soft, and with no dominance play," writes Quora user Tony Vincent.
Research shows that people decide whether or not they like you within seconds of meeting you. A firm handshake can contribute largely to that first impression.
Call people by their name
The next time someone greets you by name or uses your name mid-conversation, remember how great that feels.
If you have trouble putting names to faces, try different strategies, such as using imagery or rhymes associated with the name.
Former Business Insider Careers editor Jacquelyn Smith learned the art of remembering names from her dad, who taught her a few key tips:
• Repeat people's names numerous times as you speak to them
• Tell someone else these people's names, in case you do forget and need a reminder
• Write names down in your phone with a short description of who they are/how you met them.
"In life, and at work, remembering people's names can help you build stronger relationships and avoid awkward situations," Smith says. "People also appreciate when you remember their name - as it's a sign of respect and thoughtfulness."
Practice your listening skills
Listen more than you speak, says Quora user Mark Bridgeman: "You have two ears, only one mouth. That's the ratio you should use them with."
Don't just hear words — actively listen
Simply hearing words doesn't cut it. Likable people show that they're listening to the person they're talking to.
Active listening requires four steps, writes Quora user Chiasson: hearing, interpreting, evaluating, and responding.
Step one requires dropping what you're doing and paying attention. Next, "paraphrase what you've heard and ask clarifying questions," she suggests. Evaluating means steering clear of quick judgement and jumping to conclusions: "Make sure you have all the pertinent information before forming or expressing an opinion." Finally, "give feedback to let the speaker know that you heard them", she writes.
Know how to accept a compliment
Accepting a compliment can be tricky because you don't want to seem egotistical.
But you also don't want to mumble "Thanks, you too," because that makes you seem self-conscious and socially inept.
So instead of saying phrases like, "You look 10 times better than me" or "It was all thanks to you," Reisinger suggests accepting the compliment with confidence by using phrases like "Thanks! Hearing that feels really good" or "Thank you! What an amazing experience."
It's OK to stroke egos
Flattery "grabs people directly by their ego and is therefore extremely effective", writes Quora user Julian Reisinger.
Flattery comes with a caveat though. Too much can be a huge turn off, especially if it doesn't seem genuine and it feels too treacly.
For those uncomfortable about doling out praise, Halvorson says that a particularly effective method of affirmation, which makes another person feel effective and valuable, is to ask questions that allows them to focus on what is meaningful about themselves and their lives.
Reisinger suggests using conversation openers that make the other person feel like an expert, such as "You know a lot about social marketing, don't you?" or "Do you know why I always get this error message?"
This way, you learn something new and the other person gets to feel needed. "It's as easy as that, it's a win-win, and it works 100% of the time," Reisinger says.
If someone is interrupted, ask them to continue
Everyone has been that person who is telling a story, gets interrupted, and then has to awkwardly stand by, wondering if anyone was even listening to you.
Quora user Milena Rangelov says that you can be that person's liberator by saying something like, "Hey, can you please finish your story about the bicycle ride? The last thing you mentioned is that dogs started following you. Can I hear the rest, please?"
You will instantly put the speaker at ease and make them feel appreciated, she writes.
Say you're sorry
Of course, taking accountability for your mistakes is instrumental in changing someone's bad impression of you. But an "I'm sorry" when you're not to blame for something can also be surprisingly helpful.
Saying "I'm sorry" when someone tells you about something bad that happened to them is an effective way to show that you're putting yourself in their shoes and are trying to relate, otherwise known as showing empathy, according to Halvorson.
In fact, researchers at Harvard Business School and Wharton found that people were far more likely to lend someone their cell phone when subjects first said, "I'm so sorry about the rain!"
Expressing you understand someone's experience and hope the best for them produces tangible increases in trust.
Skip the small talk
Quora user Pete Zbrojkiewicz recommends you forgo "polite conversation" and get a little vulnerable with the other person, if you're looking to become friends.
"We may not have experienced the same activities, but we have experienced the same emotions," he argues. "So when I say you need to find common interests, I mean you need to find something that sparks similar emotions in both of you."
Practice good posture
Stand and sit up straight, Randall recommends.
Bad posture sends a message that you're apathetic or unapproachable, she tells Business Insider, and if you convey negative body language, no one will get close enough to find out if you're likable.
Halvorson also writes that sitting up straight is an effective method of conveying competence.
According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, standing or sitting in an expansive way (legs apart, arms spread wide, leaning forward) not only conveys your confidence to others, but it also triggers immediate changes in your body chemistry that make you more powerful, which Halvorson explains goes hand-in-hand with competence.
Enunciate at all times
Speaking loudly and clearly makes it easier for people to know what you're saying, Quora user William Beteet III says.
Though yelling can be frightening, speaking loudly enough to be heard can make you sound smarter and more confident.
Be true to your word
Sometimes, the behaviours that convey warmth and those that convey competence can be at odds with each other.
"If you appear too warm, people may question your competence - so you come across like a doormat," Halvorson writes. "And if you appear too competent, people may assume you're cold - so you end up looking like a jerk." Neither doormat nor jerk are particularly likable qualities.
The key to finding the sweet spot between "lovey-dovey" and "arrogant bastard," Halvorson says, is to simply be a person of your word.
"Be sure to take ownership of your own mistakes, avoid deceit at all costs, and be someone your coworkers can always count on to do the right thing. After all, this is ultimately what trust is actually about," she says.
Being around negative people is draining.
That's why Rangelov calls them "energetic vampires" - "because they suck your energy".
Being a "Negative Nancy" is an instant turn off. If you notice yourself complaining while everyone else starts to look distracted, do yourself a favour and pick a new topic.
Make everyone feel included
It stinks to feel left out when you're talking in a group. You can avoid this by making sure you look at everyone involved, according to Reisinger.
"Make everyone feel like they are a part of the conversation and their attention will be yours," he says.
If it appears that someone in the group is trying to say something but keeps getting cut off, take it upon yourself to help them jump in. You can try, "Jim, did you want to say something?" But never put anyone on the spot of making them feel uncomfortable.
Don't jump to conclusions
Sometimes, our brains can cause us to jump to conclusions about people. This can cause us to become more closed off. In order to avoid getting the wrong impression of anyone, Quora user John Roldan argues that it's important to get familiar with nonverbal communication.
"The problem with making a 'snap judgment' is we make them with a 'low level structure' in our brain. This implies that little reasoning is employed when we initially attribute character traits to someone."
Make light of the situation
Many times, when you're nervous, one minor slip up can feel deeply embarrassing.
If you're in a group of people and have an embarrassing moment, poking fun at yourself can help lighten the mood and make others laugh, says Quora user Karim Elsheikh.
Elsheikh said he used to be socially awkward as a child, yet taught himself simple tricks to better behave when meeting new people. "Don't get weird about this by constantly insulting yourself," he writes. "The point is not to take yourself too seriously when you mess up!"
End a conversation the right way
Your final words can leave a lasting impression on a person, so use them right.
Randall suggests sending people off with a genuine remark like, "I enjoyed getting to know you," "I hope you enjoy the rest of your day," Or, "I'll remember our conversation."
It's so easy to do, and can make all the difference.
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