There’s a formula to making a great first impression: Smile, make eye contact, be engaging… while it’s not always easy, it is simple. But first impressions can also quickly lose their impact, especially when there’s no substance beneath the surface glow.
Being genuinely likable over the long haul is tougher. Building and maintaining great relationships, consistently influencing (in a good way) the people around you, and consistently making people feel better about themselves… that’s something relatively few people can do.
But you can, because being the most likable person in the room has nothing to do with your level of success, or your presentation skills, or how you dress, or the image you project… being genuinely likable is all about what you do.
How can you be more likable, in a sincere and authentic way?
1. Give before you receive, knowing that you may never receive.
Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.
Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.
2. Always shift the spotlight to other people.
No one receives enough praise. That means one of the easiest ways to be likable is to tell people what they did well.
Wait, you say you don’t know what they did well? Shame on you — it’s your job to know. It’s your job to find out ahead of time. Not only will people appreciate your praise, they’ll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they do.
And then they’ll feel a little more accomplished and a lot more important, and they’ll love you for making them feel that way.
3. Listen three times more than you talk.
Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond — not so much verbally, but nonverbally. That’s all it takes to show the other person he or she is important.
Then when you do speak, don’t offer advice unless you’re asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice does, because when you offer advice, in most cases, you make the conversation about you.
Don’t believe me? Who is “Here’s what I would do …” about: you or the other person?
Only speak when you have something important to say — and always define important as what matters to the other person, not to you.
4. Never practice selective hearing.
Some people — and I guarantee you know people like this — are incapable of hearing anything said by someone they feel is somehow beneath them.
Sure, you speak to them, but that particular falling tree doesn’t make a sound in the forest, because there’s no one actually listening.
Charismatic people listen closely to everyone, and they make all of us, regardless of our position or social status or “level,” feel like we have something in common with them.
Because we do. We’re all human.
5. Be thoughtful simply because you can.
I pulled into a service bay to get my oil changed. As I got out of the car, one of the techs said, “Man, those are nice wheels. Too bad they’re so dirty.” He smiled, just teasing.
“I know,” I said. “My next stop is the car wash.” Then I went inside to wait.
When I walked to my car to leave, the tech was just standing up, filthy rags in his hand. “It took some work, but I got ’em all clean,” he said. Every rim sparkled. Every speck of brake dust was gone.
“Wow, that’s awesome, but you didn’t have to do that,” I said.
“We’re not very busy,” he shrugged. “I had time. Figured I would make ’em look better.” Just then a car pulled into another bay so he hustled away, saying over his shoulder, “Have a good day.”
That was years ago, but I still haven’t forgotten it.
Instead of turning idle time into “me time,” likable people use their free time to do something nice — not because they’re expected to, but just because they can.
6. Always put your stuff away.
Don’t check your phone. Don’t glance at your monitor. Don’t focus on anything else, even for a moment.
You can never connect with others if you’re busy connecting with your stuff, too.
Give the gift of your full attention. That’s a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.
7. Never act self-important …
The only people who are impressed by your stuffy, pretentious, self-important self are other stuffy, pretentious, self-important people.
The rest aren’t impressed. They’re irritated, put off, and uncomfortable.
And they hate when you walk into the room.
8. … Because you realize other people are always more important.
You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view.
That stuff isn’t important, because it’s already yours. You can’t learn anything from yourself.
But you don’t know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who he or she is, knows things you don’t know.
That makes other people a lot more important than you — because you can learn from them.
9. Choose your words.
The words you use impact the attitude of others.
For example, you don’t have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don’t have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. You don’t have to go to the gym; you get to work out and improve your health and fitness.
You don’t have to interview job candidates; you get to select a great person to join your team.
We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves — and make you feel better about yourself, too.
10. Never talk about the failings of other people…
Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt.
The problem is, we don’t necessarily like — and we definitely don’t respect — the people who dish that dirt.
Don’t laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.
11. … But readily admit your own failings.
Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they’re successful. Their success seems to create a halo effect, almost like a glow.
The key word is seem.
You don’t have to be incredibly successful to be remarkably charismatic. Scratch the shiny surface, and many successful people have all the charisma of a rock.
But you do have to be incredibly genuine to be remarkably charismatic.
Be humble. Share your screw-ups. Admit your mistakes. Be the cautionary tale. And laugh at yourself.
While you should never laugh at other people, you should always laugh at yourself.
People won’t laugh at you. People will laugh with you.
They’ll like you better for it — and they’ll want to be around you a lot more.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.