- Superbad/Columbia Pictures
Being more likable is within your grasp.
All it takes is nixing some of your less-than-desirable social quirks.
With the help of some Quora users and social psychology research, we were able to identify 14 social behaviors that could make you less likable.
You’d be well-advised to avoid these:
Avoiding eye contact
- Maciej Kraus/Flickr
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.
As Heidi Grant Halvorson explains in her book “No One Understands You And What To Do About It,” this decision is made almost entirely unconsciously, and it usually comes down to how well you can balance conveying two things: warmth and competence.
“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.
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.
Avoiding eye contact, on the other hand, can convey deceit and untrustworthiness.
Resting stone face
- Boryana Manzurova/Shutterstock
Nodding and smiling are other key ways to convey warmth and competence, Halvorson says.
If you want people to think you’re cold, or even angry at them, then doing the opposite and not reacting to what they’re saying is certainly a good way to go about that.
Showing empathy is an effective way to get people to like and trust you, Halvorson says.
It requires you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to relate to them by finding common interests, dislikes, and experiences.
If all you can do is contradict whatever someone says, you’re not connecting with them, and you’re very likely making them mad.
Ignoring an invitation to commiserate
Misery really does love company.
One effective but often overlooked method of showing empathy and connecting with someone is simply by saying “I’m sorry,” Halvorson says.
You’re not saying this as a way to accept blame for the circumstances but, instead, to express your regret that something bad has happened to the person you’re talking to.
Researchers at Harvard Business School and Wharton found that people were far more likely to lend someone their cell phone when they 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. But if all you do is stand there when someone confesses their woes, you’re not coming off as very likable.
Constantly checking your smartphone
- Thomson Reuters
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. You have no excuse for bungling this.
A weak handshake
Research shows that people decide whether or not they like you within seconds of meeting you. A weak handshake can contribute largely and negatively to that first impression.
People often confuse competence with confidence, Halvorson says. While you can never have too much competence, there is a healthy – and unhealthy- dose of confidence to be aware of.
The dangers of overconfidence include being underprepared, setting unrealistic goals, biting off more than you can chew, and generally making bad choices, Halvorson explains. And all this leads to being the least-popular guy in the room.
Instead, convey a realistic sense of confidence that shows modesty. You’ll be less likely to threaten people’s self esteem, and your mistakes won’t elicit nearly as many cheers when you make them.
- Noodles and Beef/flickr
Sitting up straight has been found to lead to greater perceptions of competence, Halvorson says, whereas slouching can cause others to consider you less confident, low energy, and disinterested in what they have to say.
Bragging about past accomplishments
- Reuters / Charles Platiau
Not only could bragging, in general, put you squarely into the “being cocky” category, but bragging about your past does very little to impress people.
As Halvorson explains in her book, we have an unconscious bias to be more impressed with the “next big thing” than the “big thing” that’s already happened.
The reason is that our brains pay more attention to uncertain information because they want to figure it out. This leads to longer and more in-depth processing of this information, and as long as the information available is favorable, the extra processing leaves us with a more positive view of someone’s competence.
So if you are going to toast yourself, toast to what you can do, not what you have done.
Crossing your arms or legs
Keeping your arms or legs crossed makes you look defensive, and it can signal to others that you’re lying.
Not accepting a compliment
- Graham Denholm/Getty Images
Accepting a compliment can be tricky because you don’t want to seem egotistical.
But you also don’t want to mumble a, “Thanks, you too,” because that makes you seem self-conscious and socially inept.
So instead of giving phrases like, “You look 10 times better than me” or “It was all thanks to you,” Quora user Julian Reisinger suggests accepting the compliment with confidence by using phrases like “Thanks! Hearing that feels really good” or “Thank you! What an amazing experience.”
- Flickr/Alper Çu?un
This one might just be the most infuriating social behavior yet.
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.”
But 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 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,” he suggests. Evaluating means steering clear of quick judgment 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,” he writes.
Being around negative people is draining.
Being a “Negative Nancy” is an instant turnoff. If you notice yourself complaining while everyone else starts to look distracted, do yourself a favor and pick a new topic.
Not being true to your word
Sometimes, the behaviors 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 is a particularly likable quality.
The key to finding the sweet spot between “lovey-dovey” and “arrogant b*****d,” 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.
- Getty Images / Christopher Polk
As Andrew Thomas writes for Inc., likable people avoid the fastest conversation killer, interrupting.
He contends that interrupting makes people defensive, disrupts the flow of the conversation, creates an unsafe environment, and makes people interrupt you in return.
“Patient listening establishes an unspoken bond of trust between you and the other person – and you’ll both benefit from a good conversation,” Thomas writes.