There are always people you work with who seem to be very likeable. Are you one of those?
One personality trait that I find over and over again in people who are well liked by everyone around them is a ready ease with which they admit their weaknesses. Whether intentional or not, this is a cunning strategy for being liked, as it heads off the added negative connotations that follow when someone else discovers that same weakness on their own. When a person admits their weakness, it is now simply a part of the common landscape that needs to be traveled together. When a person’s weakness is ‘discovered’ before it is admitted, an observation about the weakness cannot be readily made because there is uncertainty whether the bearer of the weakness is even aware of it, or is perhaps trying to hide it. Awkward.
In the work setting, I believe its possible to cultivate traits and habits that can help me to be more likeable. More likeable means more investment funding, more sales, more operating budget, and more fun at work. More is good in this context. Here are the top traits that I am actively cultivating all the time:
1. Admit my weaknesses.
Admitting weakness makes that person more likeable. Of course, I also believe that people will generally figure it out on their own anyway. On the flip side, I’m not talking about being a victim of my weaknesses or just sharing my personal problems inappropriately.
2. Ask questions.
I’ve noticed people who ask questions are often well liked. This only works when the person asking the question is genuinely and authentically interested in the answer. One way I train myself to listen – and even create genuine and authentic interest when it doesn’t seem to be there at first – is to tell myself that there is something completely unexpected in the answer that I am about to hear that I didn’t expect and could not have foreseen. I become curiously interested in the answer, and as a natural by-product, in the person providing the answer as well. Besides, people like being the one to provide answers for someone who has a genuine puzzle.
3. Talk more, not less.
A friend of mine is a business owner, and he is extremely well liked by all. He is a bit gregarious, but without a doubt the strongest characteristic he portrays is that he tends to talk. Constantly. This is quite refreshing in a business context, as you simply never have to guess what he is thinking – he just tells you. Lucky for him, he has enough sense not to be rude or oppressively blunt about it either.
4. No strings attached.
I have found time and time again that having no pre-conceived notions or expectations is important for increasing opportunities as well as maximizing the potential for realizing those opportunities. Also important is to clearly communicate this fact openly and repeatedly. This allows me to offer a no-strings-attached approach to helping others. How do you like me now?
5. Listen. better.
While talking more can make me more likeable, there is an important balance I need to strike with listening. God gave me only 1 mouth. In contrast, He gave me 2 ears and 2 eyes. This is a good hint – and I earnestly seek to spend at least 4X more time listening and watching than I do talking. Even when I talk, it’s also important to pause once in a while and listen. Whether I am about to learn something new or something valuable, it only happens when my mouth is shut and my eyes are open wide.
I want to care. About everything I am working on, everyone I am working with, and every time that a difficult decision needs to be made. Caring makes the difference and the results are always good, even if the result is not the apparently ideal short term economic maximizer. Especially now in the age of social media and the attitude of ‘now’ in everything that we do, caring slows me down and lets me put quality over the short term gain. And most importantly, caring makes the process worthwhile no matter the result because when I care, I like the people I am working with. And people I like tend to like me back.
7. I don’t know everything.
I don’t want to be that guy who won’t ask for help. I don’t want to be a roadblock or a hindrance for moving forward. Surprisingly, this only happens when I don’t know the answer. When I think I know the answer and start talking – see number 5, above – this is usually a blockade to collaboration, teamwork, and taking action. Also, I don’t want to seem as though I have an agenda, as those who have it all figured out usually have an agenda that guides them. I don’t want to be blinded by pride, and the humility that comes from not knowing is something that people really like.
I recently watched a TED talk that described the physiological and animal brain function of laughter. Laughter is not restricted to homo sapiens, it is a common tool used by many mammals and is an essential aspect of group survival. Why do we laugh? In order to like each other! Laughter takes uncomfortable, painful, or negative situations – often involving myself or a colleague – and makes the situation a source of collective bonding and sharing. People who laugh together like each other, and I can always laugh more. Besides, laughter also sheds calories, I’ve heard.
9. Lighten up.
Highly likable people are those who can set aside their concerns and go with the flow. They’re selfless. This means putting their serious personal ‘drama’ aside and seeing the world from the perspective of those who don’t share the same concerns and drama.
10. Don’t be pushy.
This is very difficult for me. I often feel that I ‘see’ something about a business or an issue that needs to be shared because it will make such a big difference. And when I bite my tongue, sometimes my audience already had thought of it. Or they need my solution even more and it has a deeper impact. Or it would have made no difference at all. Being flexible and able to adjust to any situation without pushing my preferences and approach on others makes me likeable. I just have to make sure that I am not sacrificing openly and honestly speaking my mind in the process.