12 Ways to Find Out If You’re the Kind of Person Others Like
New research on encouragement shows 12 ways to test how much people like you.
Posted Apr 27, 2019
Everyone likes people who make them feel good. When you’re around someone who allows you to feel capable, well-respected, and fun, you automatically feel that you’d like to spend more time with that person. On the other hand, when you’re with people who constantly criticize you and point out your weaknesses, you’ll try to stay away from them, as long as your relationship is one you don’t care about maintaining. Perhaps you have an acquaintance whom you see from time to time at celebrations for mutual friends. Each time you begin what you think should be a pleasant conversation, she shoots you down almost immediately. You’ve just seen a movie you liked, and you start to talk about it. She comes back with words to the effect that she, being more highly cultured than you, would never waste her time or money on such froth. Well, you tried, and you vow that the next time you’ll just stay away completely.
What is it about people who are so demeaning that every interaction results in you feeling bad about yourself? According to a new study on the character quality of “encouragement” by Indiana University Bloomington’s Y. Joel Young and colleagues (2019), “Encouragement is one of the most common types of social support people express to each other” (p. 362). However, encouragement isn’t just any type of social support. People who are strong on the quality of encouragement can express positive messages to others, usually through language, to enhance another person’s motivation that will help the other person address a challenging situation or realize their potential. Unlike forms of support in which you literally help someone out of a jam, encouragement is expressed through language. Furthermore, in order to provide encouragement, you actually have to put whatever positive thoughts you have into words. In other words, it’s not enough to think good things about others, you have to let them know what you’re thinking.
You can express encouragement in a variety of contexts, from romantic relationships to coaching to teaching. In the workplace, you can also encourage either your coworkers or the people who work for you with positive messages of support. Returning back to your ever-critical acquaintance, by putting you down with her cultural preferences, she’s told you that you lack in judgment and possibly education. Although you can easily get away from her in future situations, it’s not so easy if it’s a boss, relative, or romantic partner who constantly discourages you.
It may be relatively easy for you to judge who’s encouraging of you and who isn’t, and depending on your assessment, you also will know who you like better. Flipping now to the way you’re perceived by others, can you honestly determine whether you’ve managed to win people over with your own positive messages? The Indiana University researchers were interested in developing a measure of encouragement as a way to enhance the ability of psychologists in the counseling field to meet the core value of “attention to people’s strengths.” In psychotherapy, furthermore, encouragement allows mental health professionals to “instill hope in their clients.” In everyday life, encouragement allows you to help people live the “good life” (p. 363). By being encouraging to others, the authors maintain, you stand to benefit as well. Getting people to like you is certainly one of those benefits, because it sets in motion its own cycle of positivity.
Having strong encouragement skills can therefore help you and help others to help themselves. However, there’s a risk that encouragement becomes mixed in with general social skills. There are many ways to get people to like you, but if you’re a true encourager, your character includes the qualities of optimism and empathy. You’re also likely to be a kind individual, which, in terms of personality, would correlate with the two traits of agreeableness and extraversion. From the standpoint of attachment style, furthermore, you would also have a strong and secure base to your personality. Finally, your relational bonds will be stronger, Wong et al. propose, because people will like you and want to be with you. All of this contributes to that higher sense of well-being that being high on encouragement will help build.
Turning now to those 12 qualities of people high in the ability to encourage others, the Indiana University researchers winnowed down a longer list of items on the basis of test scores from a series of community adults and college students representing diversity of age, ethnicity, and education. The final 12 items that emerged in the test-development phase constitute the “Encouragement Character Strength Scale (ECCS).” To see how you would score on this scale, you should respond “as you generally are,” and not how you feel at the moment. Rate yourself on a 6-point scale from strongly disagree (=1) to strongly agree (=6):
1. Someone has told me that my words of encouragement to her or him provided hope during a difficult time in her or his life.
2. I have been told that I have just the right words of affirmation for someone who is feeling down.
3. I know how to use words of affirmation to address someone’s deepest fears.
4. Someone has told me that my words of encouragement motivated her or him to consider a new opportunity.
5. I have been told that I have just the right words to help others believe they can achieve at the highest level.
6. My positive words have given someone the courage to pursue new opportunities that they didn’t previously consider.
7. I enjoy saying or writing something positive to encourage others to persevere in the face of hardship.
8. I find it meaningful to share words of inspiration with those who lack confidence.
9. I like to share words of encouragement with others who are feeling dejected.
10. I get excited about inspiring others to fulfill their potential.
11. I feel fulfilled when something I said or wrote to others encouraged them to pursue their dreams
12. When I see others doing a good job, I like to encourage them to keep up the good work.
Calculate your score, which should range from 12 to 72. You can also separate the subcategories of perceived ability (items 1-6) and enjoyment (items 7-12). The average ECCS score per item as reported for a sample of university students was 4.73, with the majority scoring between 3.95 and 5.51. If your score is in that range, then you’ve got an average degree of the ability to provide encouragement and hence be liked. Additionally, as a validity check of the ECCS showed, people who are high on this quality are also likely to be high on agreeableness, extraversion, empathy, kindness, optimism, social connectedness, and especially subjective well-being. Further analyses extended the positive features of the ECCS to qualities possessed by psychotherapists. Importantly, the authors also validated the ECCS self-report results with ratings provided by others in one subsample of study participants. In explaining their findings, Wong et al. note that encouragement’s favorable effects on well-being seem, as they expected, to operate by “decreasing excessive self-focus and cultivating self-transcendence” (p. 372).
The fact that the authors define encouragement as a character strength seems to imply that if you’re a non-encourager, your hopes for redemption are very low. However, once you’ve identified where you stand on this scale, it’s possible that you might in fact be able to work on improving your encouragement score, and therefore likability. Examine the words you use when others tell you about challenges they’re facing. Provide honest assessments of times you’ve taken advantage of someone who was worse off than you just for the sake of getting a slight sadistic pleasure. Was it really worth it? Did it really help your self-esteem?
To sum up, fulfillment in life, as this study shows, seems to depend very strongly on not trying to surpass other people’s achievements, but in helping them overcome their challenges. By being a more encouraging person, you’ll not only be better liked, but you’ll like yourself better in the process.
Wong, Y. J., Shea, M., Wang, S.-Y., & Cheng, J. (2019). The Encouragement Character Strength Scale: Scale development and psychometric properties. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66(3), 362–374. doi:10.1037/cou0000334