Ryan Anderson Ph.D.

The Mating Game

How to Be More Likable

Simple ways to win friends and lovers

Posted Apr 05, 2016

Aschenputtel/Pixabay
Source: Aschenputtel/Pixabay

Most people would like to know how to be better, socially. Social skills bring you all kinds of advantages in life: winning friends, influencing people (thanks Dale Carnegie), succeeding at business, building romantic relationships and the list goes on. Fail to achieve social competence and you run the risk of failing in all kinds of areas.

Psychology really can offer insight into human behavior and basically instruct us on how to become really effective at interacting with other people.

Being socially competent takes practice but there are a number of tips we can glean from studies conducted by psychologists.

We’ll start with something obvious. When you meet people for the first time be warm, open and receptive. Basically, try not to give off the vibe that you’re socially awkward (even if you feel you are).

  • Look the person in the eyes

I’m sure this advice has been given to you before by everyone and their dog. As trite as it may seem, it does have a firm basis in fact. As it turns out, this is actually more important for men to do than women. Studies have shown that people who maintain eye contact (there is a fine line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘lingering stalker’) are perceived as being more:

  • Warm
  • Personable
  • Likable
  • Skilled
  • Trustworthy
  • Confident
  • Emotionally stable

A good trick is to try and see what color the other person’s eyes are. Be very careful not to stare too long, and DO NOT lean in and try and inspect their retina with your hand.

  • Shake hands firmly

The overwhelming majority of people probably do this instinctively. Studies suggest that a firm handshake conveys enthusiasm, trust, and a sense of friendship. There is evidence to suggest that the most effective type of handshake is the ‘double-hander’ (the left hand is placed under the right to cup the clasped hands.

  • Smile and use their name

Smile, obviously (don’t laugh), but not in a menacing ‘I-eat-skin’ kind of way. When you meet someone, use their name (if you are told it) in the first sentence you say to them (“Great to meet you Sarah”), and then when you part (“It was great to meet you Sarah”). If you are terrible with names, try using visual mnemonics. This is basically just a way of converting their name into a picture and then associating them with that picture somehow.

Let’s say you meet a guy named Andrew and want to remember his name. Mentally picturing him in a giant kangaroo suit (‘And-a Roo’) hopping up and down will help you to remember his name. This image might seem silly, but with memory it’s often the case of the more ridiculous the better. Obviously, don’t tell people what you are picturing them doing.

So when you meet people, smile, look them in the eye, shake their hand firmly, use their name, and try and do all of this without seeming too awkward or socially aloof.

Sometimes in relationships (romantic or not), after you’ve known a person for a while, you may want to ask them for a favor. There are 4 very important concepts you should keep in mind:

  • 1. Reciprocity

Research suggests that it’s harder for people to say no to you if you have done something for them recently. Tip: Give Steve chocolates before you ask to borrow his car (and upon returning it obviously). The very act of him accepting your gift tricks him into thinking he is in debt to you.

  • 2. Foot-in-the-door technique

This is similar to reciprocity. By getting people to do small favors for you, you trick their brain into liking you. They reason “Well, I guess I must like him if I did him that favor, or else why would I have done it”. If they have already given you $2, they’re more likely to give you $5 when you ask for it. Tip: Before asking to borrow his car, ask Steve if you can borrow his lawn mower. Be aware that if he won’t lend you his lawn mower he probably won’t lend you his car.

  • 3. Copycat

A related concept here is social mimicry. One of the strongest inclinations that humans have is to be similar to other people. Mimicry occurs automatically, and often without the awareness of either party. Mimicking another person (consciously or unconsciously) helps to establish rapport with them, and encourages feelings of liking and empathy. Tip: The next time you sit down with Steve subtly mimic his body language and behavior. This will trick Steve into liking you (unconsciously).

  • 4. Door-in-the-face technique

This works quite well when you are negotiating. Asking someone for something in excess of what you really want makes them feel as though they have forced you to concede ground when they finally give you what you actually want. Tip: Ask Steve if you can have his car before asking him if you can borrow it.

It’s up to you to determine which of these techniques will work best in the situation you are faced with. Studies have shown that they all work, but how well really does depend on the situation and the application.