7 Easy Ways to Become More Likable
Ask questions, remember names, and be seen.
Posted January 5, 2022 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
- Research shows that liking and loving are often triggered by simple, mundane factors that have little to do with the people involved.
- Knowledge of these factors can help you make and strengthen social connections.
- Remembering names and asking questions are among the ways to let people know they are important to you.
What determines whether you click with a new friend, or have chemistry with a potential romantic partner? You might think that these processes of interaction attraction are mysterious, or determined by a person’s unique personal attributes—a quick wit, for example. However, research in social psychology suggests that liking and loving are often triggered by simple, mundane factors—like how often you cross paths with someone.
This research offers some practical suggestions for becoming more likeable, which will help you meet your fundamental need for authentic social connection. Here are 7 of them.
1. Be seen. The more we are exposed to something, the more we tend to like it. This phenomenon, called the mere exposure effect, helps explain why we tend to prefer familiar music to new tunes, elect political candidates with the most media exposure, and grow fonder of acquaintances the more often we interact with them.
So make an effort to be seen—repeatedly. Turn your camera on during Zoom meetings. Comment on your friends' social media posts. Go to the gym at the same time every day to increase the odds of bumping into the same people.
In short, make yourself visible. Just don’t be creepy about it. And don't overdo it. Too much exposure can backfire – evidenced by the fact that you can get sick of hearing your favorite song when it’s overplayed.
2. Remember names. Remembering someone’s name is important because it signals that they are important to you. On the other hand, failing to remember someone’s name—or other important details about them—undermines the closeness of the relationship.
One of the keys to connecting with others, then, is to remember names. The trouble is that remembering a name can be difficult. One effective, research-based strategy for remembering names is called retrieval practice—repeatedly pulling information out of your head. Shortly after being introduced to someone, retrieve their name from memory. Ask yourself: “What was their name?” Or, use their name during the conversation. The more often you retrieve a name from memory, the more likely you are to remember it.
3. Ask questions. Be genuinely curious about other people and ask them questions. Research shows that people who ask more questions during conversations are perceived as more responsive and are better liked by conversation partners. When you ask questions, particularly follow-up questions (“What was that experience like?”), you show that you’re actively listening and interested in what the person has to say.
To make a good impression, be more interested in other people than you are in making a good impression.
4. Smile. Despite the maxim to “never judge a book by its cover,” we routinely judge people on the basis of their appearance. We tend to assume that attractive people are more competent and socially skilled than others. We also find attractive people more likable.
There’s good news for those who think this beauty advantage is an unfair one: A bright smile can immediately make someone more attractive. In a recent study, Jessika Golle and her colleagues asked people to rate the attractiveness of computer-generated faces. The faces varied in attractiveness, and whether they were smiling or displaying a neutral expression. The results showed that faces were viewed as more attractive when they were smiling, which is consistent with earlier studies on the topic. What surprised the researchers was that less attractive but smiling faces were rated as highly as attractive faces without a smile. The researchers concluded that “smiling can compensate for relative unattractiveness.”
If you want to be perceived as more attractive—and more likable—just flash a smile.
5. Discover similarities. Research shows that we like people who share our interests, values, and personality traits. Thus, the old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is more accurate than the popular belief that “opposites attract.”
Make an effort to meet people who share your interests. Like hiking? Join a hiking club (or start your own). Want to learn how to crochet? Take a class where you’ll meet others with the same interest.
After meeting someone who shares one of your interests, discover other things you have in common. These similarities provide fertile ground from which real friendship can grow.
6. Make them feel good. According to the reward theory of attraction, we like people who reward us, or whom we associate with good feelings. If you want people to like you, make them feel good in your company. Be friendly, warm, and positive. Offer genuine compliments. If you’re going to the movies with a new acquaintance, choose a happy film over a sad one.
Be (mostly) positive on social media, too. Research shows that people who tend to make more negative posts on social media are liked less than those who make more positive posts. This doesn’t mean that you can’t express your feelings authentically when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, but you may want to save highly negative disclosures for intimate conversations with trusted friends.
7. Express your liking for them. Liking is often mutual. Indeed, one of the most powerful determinants of whether we will like someone is whether they like us.
In a subtle way, let other people know that you like them. You can do so with words (“I had so much fun hanging out tonight”) or through nonverbal behavior—by smiling when they enter the room.
Bonus Tip: Be Real
You can apply the science of attraction to increase the odds that someone will like you. Just do it in a genuine way, with the intention of forming authentic social connections. People will (justifiably) like you less if they sense you’re trying to win them over for mere personal gain.
LinkedIn image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock. Facebook image: Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock
Forest, A. L., & Wood, J. V. (2012). When social networking is not working: Individuals with low self-esteem recognize but do not reap the benefits of self-disclosure on Facebook. Psychological Science, 23(3), 295–302. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611429709
Golle, J., Mast, F. W., & Lobmaier, J. S. (2014). Something to smile about: The interrelationship between attractiveness and emotional expression. Cognition and Emotion, 28(2), 298-310. DOI: 10.1080/02699931.2013.817383
Ray, D. G., Gomillion, S., Pintea, A. I., & Hamlin, I. (2019). On being forgotten: Memory and forgetting serve as signals of interpersonal importance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(2), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000145