12 Surefire Ways to Make People Like You – Backed by Science
In school, everybody wanted to be the popular kid, including you. You wanted to be admired, appreciated, and you certainly wanted to be desired by the other sex. You wanted to be the coolest kid on the campus. In other words, you wanted to be loved by everyone.
And don’t lie to me… you still do.
Hopefully you’ve dialed down your ego a bit by now, but the desire to be loved and appreciated by others is still there. And it aint going nowhere.
It’s okay. It’s natural. As far as I know, nobody wants to die alone in a cave somewhere in the Somalian desert. So, what can we do to fulfill this need? How can we become more likeable? How can we be loved by everyone?
There’s, of course, the basic stuff such as being considerate, friendly, and just an overall decent human being. And while this is important, it’s probably not why you’re here. You aren’t satisfied with the basic stuff… you want more.
And you shall get more. In this article, you’ll discover 12 effective, research-backed strategies to make others like you. Use just a couple of them and your popularity is bound to explode. Enjoy it. Don’t get cocky.
1. Get Them to Do a Favor for You
You read that correctly.
When someone does you a favor, they like you more. As explained here in Adam Grant's book Give and Take:
“Half a century ago, the psychologists Jon Jecker and David Landy paid people for succeeding on a geometry task. In the control group, the participants kept the money, and visited the department secretary to fill out a final questionnaire. But when another group of participants started to leave, the researcher asked them for help. “I was wondering if you would do me a favor. The funds for this experiment have run out and I am using my own money to finish the experiment. As a favor to me, would you mind returning the money you won?”
"Nearly all of the participants gave the money back. When questioned about how much they liked the researcher, the people who had done him the favor liked him substantially more than the people who didn’t.”
Here’s my explanation behind why this works:
Asking others to do you a favor is like permitting them to do something for you. Doing something for others – aka helping others – feels great. By giving others a chance to help you, you make them feel great. And thus, because you made them feel great, they like you more.
Another explanation: Most people know that people’s behaviors follow their thoughts and feelings:
- Feel happy (feeling) --> smile (behavior)
- Feel attracted to someone (feeling) --> look them longingly in the eyes (behavior)
- Feel calm (feeling) --> breathe slowly and deeply (behavior)
- Like someone (feeling) --> do them a favor (behavior)
But did you know that this works both ways? It’s true. People’s thoughts and feelings follow their behavior – just like the other way around.
Studies show that smiling makes you happier. And that looking someone longingly in the eyes makes you more attracted to that person. And breathing slowly and deeply makes you calmer.
- Smile (behavior) --> feel happy (feeling)
- Look someone longingly in the eyes (behavior) à feel attracted to them (feeling)
- Breathe slowly and deeply (behavior) à feel calm (feeling)
- Do someone a favor (behavior) à like them (feeling)
Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine that doing someone a favor makes you like that person more.
(By the way, we’ll see this reversal a couple of times in this article. Feelings and thoughts follow behavior. And behavior follows feelings and thoughts. So if you know of anything that people do when they like each other… you can almost be certain that doing that thing makes people like each other more as well.)
“He that has once done you a kindness will be more read to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” – Benjamin Franklin
“We do not love people so much for the good they have done us, as for the good we do them.” – Leo Tolstoy
Bottom line: Find a way to get another person to do you a favor. This allows them to do something for you... which makes them feel great… which makes them like you.
2. Ask Them for Advice
Ask people for advice? Doesn’t that annoy them?
En contraire: People actually LOVE being asked for advice. It makes them feel appreciated, important, helpful.
This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Asking someone for advice is offering them the opportunity to help you. And whenever people help others it makes them feel good about themselves.
Also, asking someone for advice is kinda like paying them a subtle compliment. It shows that you respect and admire their expertise and their insights.
Lastly, people giving you advice have to justify their decision to do so. If they’re taking the time and energy to advise you, you must be a good person, right?!
Caveat: This only works when you’re sincere. Adam Grant explains in Give and Take:
“But here’s the catch: advice seeking only works if it’s genuine. In her research on advice seeking, Liljenquist finds that success “depends on the target perceiving it as a sincere and authentic gesture.” When she directly encouraged people to seek advice as an influence strategy, it fell flat.”
Oh, and don’t worry about being seen as weak or incompetent just because you ask for advice. In fact, the opposite is the case:
“Research shows that people who regularly seek advice and help from knowledgeable colleagues are actually rated more favorably by supervisors than those who never seek advice and help.”
Bottom line: Genuinely ask people for advice to show them that you respect and admire their expertise and wisdom. They’ll enjoy advising you - feeling important, competent, and helpful.
3. Don’t Try to Be Perfect: Show Your Flaws
Think back to your school days:
Remember that guy or gal who always had the best grades, was the teacher’s favorite, made the perfect presentations, and was always on his or her best behavior? Did you like that kid?
Nope. We don’t like perfect people very much. We can’t identify with them. We can’t relate to their nearly flawless behavior.
Most of the time we envy these people. Why? Because they make us doubt ourselves. They make us feel bad about ourselves.
Worst of all, we believe that they make us look bad… and we don’t like that very much, do we? Richard Wiseman explains how it works in his book 59 Seconds:
“Elliot Aronson and his colleagues from the University of California decided to take an experimental approach to the issue and discover if making a mistake or two really is good for your popularity. In one part of their study, participants listened to one of two audiotapes. Both tapes related to a student and detailed his participation in a general-knowledge quiz, followed by him talking about his background. The student performed very well in the quiz, correctly answering more than 90 percent of the questions, and then he modestly admitted to a lifetime of success. However, in one of the two editions, towards the end of the recording, the participants heard the student knock over a cup of coffee, ruining a new suit. All the participants were asked to rate how likeable they found the student. Despite the only difference being the fictitious knocking-over of coffee … the student who had committed the blunder was considered far more likeable.” – 59 seconds
This is called the pratfall effect and it shows nicely that the occasional slip-up can make others like you more.
Beware though that this only works if you’re in danger of being seen as too perfect. If others think you’re a loser, slipping up and making mistake after mistake will only make you look like an even bigger loser – which will see your likeability plummet.
Bottom line: Show your flaws and shortcomings from time to time. This will make you look more human and people will be able to relate to you.
4. Gossip – the Right Way
Be careful what you say about others… via 59 Seconds:
“When you gossip about another person, listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues, and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly complain about their failings, and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you.”
Whatever traits you assign to others will unconsciously be associated with you and be seen as part of your own personality.
Tell someone that a friend of yours is very honest and this person starts believing that you are very honest as well. Tell someone that a friend of yours is a complete loser and this person starts believing the very same thing about you – that you’re a complete loser.
This is something scientists refer to as “spontaneous trait transference”:
“Spontaneous trait transference occurs when communicators are perceived as possessing the very traits they describe in others.”
Bottom line: Never talk badly about other people. Instead, talk positively about others and people will unconsciously transfer that positivity and likeability to you.
5. Remember People’s First Name and Use It During Conversations
“… the average person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together. Remember that name and call it easily, and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment. But forget it or misspell it - and you have placed yourself at a sharp disadvantage.” – Dale Carnegie
A few weeks ago, I met a guy in the streets. It’s someone whom I previously had only met once and we had only chatted for a couple of minutes.
To my surprise he remembered my first name and greeted me by it.
I was truly surprised that he could remember my name. I felt kind of happy. And appreciated. It felt like he was paying me a subtle compliment, “Hey Nils, yes I remember your name. You’re important to me. Of course I remember your name.”
This is the power of knowing and using someone’s name during conversations. It might not sound like a big deal, but it is.
And here’s the research to prove it:
“Three experiments demonstrate that remembering someone’s name facilitates their compliance with a purchase request made by the rememberer. Experiment 1 shows that name remembrance increases request compliance, but name forgetting does not cause a decrease in compliance. Experiments 2 and 3 show that name remembrance is perceived as a compliment by the person remembered, which mediates compliance with the purchase request.”
In short, remembering someone’s name is shown to make that person like you more AND make it more likely that he or she will buy something from you.
Bottom line: Show someone you care about them by remembering and using their name during conversations. It’s like paying them a subtle compliment – and they’ll like you for it.
6. Give People the Opportunity to Talk About Themselves
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” – David Augsburger
Give someone the chance to talk about themselves and they’ll love you forever.
Why? Research tells us that talking about ourselves triggers the same pleasure sensations in the brain as money or food.
Here’s a study in “Give and Take” that underlines just how much people enjoy talking about themselves.
“Years ago, Pennebaker divided strangers into small group. Imagine that you’ve just joined one of his groups, and you have fifteen minutes to talk with strangers about a topic of your choice. You might chat about your hometown, where you went to college, or your career. After the fifteen minutes are up, you rate how much you like the group. It turns out that the more you talked, the more you like the group. This isn’t surprising, since people love to talk about themselves.”
The more you talk, the more you like the people listening to you.
And even better... The study also shows that the more you talk, the more you think you’ve learned about the other people in the group.
Letting others talk about themselves does two things then:
- It makes the other person like you
- It makes the other person believe they've come to know you
Funny how that works.
Bottom line: Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. They’ll love you for it and will even believe they’ve come to know you.
7. Expect People to Like You
"We tend to get what we expect." – Norman Vincent Peale
I’m sure you’ve heard of the placebo effect. Just in case, here’s a quick refresher:
The placebo effect happens when a placebo (a fake treatment, or a sugar pill) can improve a patient’s condition simply because the person believes and expects it will be helpful. The more a person believes he’s going to benefit from a treatment, the more he will actually benefit.
Science confirms that even completely irrational beliefs in a cure that has been proven NOT to work can significantly boost the body’s immune system when dealing with a deadly disease.
AND it works both ways. If you believe that you’re getting sicker and sicker every day, then you will tend to get sicker. This is then referred to as the negative placebo effect or the nocebo effect.
Our expectations shape our reality: What we expect is what we get.
It is then no surprise that according to research:
“People who expected to be accepted did act more warmly towards a stranger and consequently they were perceived as more likeable.”
People who expect to be liked and accepted, act more warmly, open, and friendly towards other people. This, in turn, leads the others to like them more.
Bottom line: Expect people to like you and they will. Easier said than done, I know.
8. Focus on What You Have in Common
“Birds of a feather flock together.” - ancient proverb?
Opposites do NOT attract.
Instead, like attracts like.
That’s what the science tells us: We’re more likely to be attracted to people who are similar to us. We’re more likely to hang out with people who share similar traits with us. We’re more likely to have a happy marriage with someone similar to us.
Heck, you’re even more likely to like people with similar names like yours.
And here’s another great example highlighting the powers of similarity... via Give and Take:
“In one experiment, psychologists in the United Kingdom recruited fans of the Manchester United soccer team for a study. When walking from one building to another, the soccer fans saw a runner slip on a grass bank, where he fell holding his ankle and screaming in pain. Would they help him?
It depended on the T-shirt he was wearing. When he wore a plain T-shirt, only 33 percent helped. When he wore a Manchester United T-shirt, 92 percent helped. Yale psychologist Jack Davidio calls this ‘activating a common identity’.”
As this study shows, making yourself similar to people makes a big difference.
Mirroring another person – aka making yourself physiologically and psychologically similar – is another PROVEN way to influence that person and make him or her like you more. I’ll discuss this tactic in the next point.
The easiest way to make use of what’s sometimes called the similarity-attraction theory is to simply lead the conversation towards topics you’re both interested or towards topics you share the same attitudes or opinions on.
Bottom line: The old saying ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is true. Always try to emphasize similarities and find common grounds with people. This’ll help you bond.
9. Mirror people
Here's a controversial one... via Words Can Change Your Brain:
“When two people like each other, they’ll mirror each other’s posture, facial gestures, and movements. It’s a sign that they feel connected, it builds mutual rapport, and it communicates a desire to affiliate and cooperate with each other. It may even earn you more money at work. When waitresses mirrored their customer’s comments, they increased their tips by 50 percent. Research has even shown that matching language style will improve the likelihood of a peaceful resolution, even in situations that involve serious conflicts and potential threats to one’s life.”
If done correctly, mirroring another person’s gestures, postures, tone of voice, breathing, facial expressions, and movements is a sure-fire way to connect and make that person like you more.
There are, however, a couple of problems:
First, mirroring is difficult if you’re not trained at it and it can backfire if the other person realizes what you’re doing.
Second, mirroring can cause a cognitive strain. It might make you tired, stressed out, and unconcentrated. These are all things that you don’t want during conversations.
That’s why I recommend mirroring only to people who know what they’re doing. In that case, it can be a powerful weapon of influence and persuasion.
For everyone else, I suggest something different: Deep Listening. This means paying close attention to what the other person is saying, but also to nonverbal cures reflected in the speaker’s voice, face, and body language. Try to give your full attention to the person who’s talking. Remain as present as possible.
This type of listening helps you automatically mirror the other person, without even thinking about it. Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg explain in Words Can Change Your Brain:
“As recent brain-scan research shows, the more deeply we listen, the more our brain will mirror the activity in the other person’s brain. This is what allows us to truly understand another person and to empathize with their sorrows and joys.”
Listen deeply and your brain will automatically mirror the activity in the other person’s brain.
Bottom line: Mirror another person’s gestures, postures, tone of voice, breathing, and facial expressions to connect with that person. The easiest way to make this happen is by staying present during the conversation and listening as deeply and undistracted as possible.
10. Get Personal
What do people who are in love talk about? Or what do close friends talk about?
Right, they talk about personal stuff. And so, again, the phenomenon happens:
- People who like each other talk about personal stuff
- And talking about personal stuff makes people like each other.
Here’s a study proving it:
“For his study, Aron separated two groups of people, then paired people up within their groups and had them chat with one another for 45 minutes. While the first group of pairs spent the 45 minutes engaging in small talk, the second group got a list of questions that gradually grew more intimate. Not surprisingly, the pairs who asked the gradually more probing questions felt closer and more connected after the 45 minutes were up. Six months later, two of the participants (a tiny fraction of the original study group) even found themselves in love — an intriguing result, though not a significant one.”
Next time you’re trying to make someone like you, get personal. Not in a creepy way, but in a genuine way. If you’re truly interested in the other person’s stories and struggles, then try to get personal.
If you don’t care about what the other person has to say, don’t bother asking or getting personal.
I can’t stress this enough:
When using these strategies… ALWAYS. BE. GENUINE.
If you’re trying to take advantage of someone by making them like you… it won’t work in the long-run. People are pretty good at spotting this kind of stuff… and you’ll end up being resented by other people.
Bottom line: Drop the small talk and get personal. Talking about personal subjects helps you connect with others. (Hint: Tell them a secret of yours – they’ll feel like an insider, which always feels great.)
11. Genuinely Like Other People
There’s a term in psychology called “reciprocal liking”. It explains that we are more likely to like someone when we think they also like us.
When we believe someone likes us, we tend to like him or her as well.
“They paired people up and experimented multiple times by telling the pairings (in private) that the other person liked them, didn’t like them or said nothing at all. Those that ‘liked’ each other were friendlier, argued less and were more likely to report liking the person who ‘liked’ them first.”
Make people think you like them… and they’ll like you back.
Best way to do that is to just genuinely like others. Don’t be prejudiced. See the good qualities in others. And overlook their shortcomings.
If you’re genuinely interested in the other person, try to show it and let them know.
And again, don’t bother using this or other strategies if you don’t actually give a shit – it will backfire.
Bottom line: Thanks to reciprocal liking: Make others think you like them… and they’ll like you back.
Here’s an interesting study:
Undergraduate women looked at pictures of another woman in one of four poses:
- Smiling in an open body position
- Not smiling in an open body position
- Smiling in a closed body position
- Not smiling in a closed body position
Regardless of body position, the woman in the photo was liked most when she was smiling.
Now, that might work for several reasons, but here’s the one I think matters most. What does it tell you when another person smiles at you? Here’s my guess, “Oh, this person smiles at me. I bet she likes me. She seems friendly.”
When you’re smiling, other people will think you like them. And because you like them, thanks to reciprocal liking, they will like you as well.
Bottom line: Smile more often. Especially, smile at other people more often. This will make them think you like them, and in turn, they’ll like you as well.
Here’s what we’ve learned today about how to be loved by everyone:
1) Get them to do a favor for you. Find a way to get another person to do you a favor. This allows them to do something for you... which makes them feel great… which makes them like you.
2) Ask them for advice. Genuinely ask people for advice to show them that you respect and admire their expertise and wisdom. They’ll enjoy advising you - feeling important, competent, and helpful.
3) Don’t try to be perfect, show your flaws instead. Show your flaws and shortcomings from time to time. This will make you look more human and people will be able to relate to you.
4) Gossip – the right way. Never talk badly about other people. Instead, talk positively about others and people will unconsciously transfer that positivity and likeability to you.
5) Remember people’s name and use it often. Show someone you care about them by remembering and using their name during conversations. It’s like paying them a subtle compliment – and they’ll like you for it.
6) Give people the opportunity to talk about themselves. Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. They’ll love you for it and will even believe they’ve come to know you.
7) Expect people to like you. The placebo effect tells us that we get what we expect. So, expect others to like you, and they will.
8) Focus on what you have in common. The old saying ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is true. Always try to emphasize similarities and find common grounds with people. This’ll help you bond.
9) Mirror people. Mirror another person’s gestures, postures, tone of voice, breathing, and facial expressions to connect with that person. The easiest way to make this happen is by staying present during the conversation and listening as deeply and undistracted as possible.
10) Get personal. Drop the small talk and get personal. Talking about personal subjects helps you connect with others. (Hint: Tell them a secret of yours – they’ll feel like an insider, which always feels great.)
11) Genuinely see the good in other people. Thanks to reciprocal liking: Make others think you like them… and they’ll like you back.
12) Smile. Smile more often. Especially, smile at other people more often. This will make them think you like them, and in turn, they’ll like you as well. So, what makes you smile?
That’s how to make the whole world fall in love with you.
If this kind of stuff excites you, then I suggest checking out Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. It’s full of this stuff.
Check out my summary of his 30 principles here.
And that was that. These were twelve research-backed ways to make people like you. Now go out in the world and try this stuff.
A few things before you leave…
I want to mention two more things before you leave…
1. Being true to yourself is more important than being liked. This may sound hypocritical right now, but let’s not give too many fucks about whether people like us or not. Ultimately, it’s about being true to ourselves and living life according to our values. If lots of people like us, great. If some people don’t like us, great.
Do your thing – whether others approve of it or not. It’s your life. You’re on your path. Don’t get sidetracked too much by the opinions and judgements of others.
If you must decide between being liked or being true to yourself, choose the latter.
2. What these strategies are really for. While these strategies will make others like you, that is NOT what I want you to focus on.
Instead, I suggest you use these tips to better connect with others. Use them to build more and better relationships. Use them to meet new people. Use them to have great conversations. Use them to create a great vibe between you and someone else.
Don’t focus on being liked, appreciated, or approved of. Focus on having fun connecting with others.
Oh, and before you get out of here. Be a nice boy or gal and let me know your thoughts about these strategies in the comments below. Which tricks are you already using? Which ones are you going to try next?
Thanks for Reading
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None of these tricks are deceitful or disingenuous, except for some ways, and I trust that you’ll only use that one with good reason.
i loved this ! thanks
I’m polyamorous and feeling massively insecure around my new-ish metamour (she’s been dating my partner for a couple years but just moved in with us a few months ago). She might not end up being one of my favorite people ever but I really want to give her a shot, so this was exactly the kind of list I’m looking for. Going to try things both directions (ask her for favors & offer favors, tell her about my life & ask her about her, etc) and try to open myself up.
That’s awesome, Sam. Best of luck! 🙂