Three Little-Known Ways to Make
People Like You …

While I probably don't know you personally, chances are you're a likable person. (I've found most copywriters are.)

This, of course, is a very good thing.

According to Richard Wiseman in his book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, likable people are 50 percent less likely to get divorced. Plus, they are likely to be healthier. Doctors tend to urge people they like to come in for regular visits.

For freelance writers, the more likeable you are, not only are you more likely to be hired for a new job, but also the better chance you have of your client referring you to their friends and business associates.

So how do people become likeable anyway?

It may surprise you, but it does take some conscious effort to be likeable.

Dale Carnegie says one way is to express a genuine interest in others. He says you'll win more friends in two months this way than in two years of trying to make others interested in you.

You can increase your likability by complimenting others, demonstrating modesty, and being generous with your time, resources, and skills. They all work.

But there are three less common ways to be more likeable that I'd like to share, borrowed from 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

  1. Ask a small favor – Founding father Benjamin Franklin wanted to gain the cooperation of a difficult and apathetic Pennsylvania state legislature member. Rather than "bowing and scraping" to the man, Franklin decided to go a different route. Franklin was aware that the man was in possession of a rare book. Franklin asked him if he might be able to borrow it for a couple of days. The man said yes.

    According to Franklin, thereafter "when we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions."

    Wiseman writes that Franklin attributed the success of his "book-borrowing technique" to the simple principle: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged." In other words, to increase the likelihood of someone liking you, get that person to do a favor for you.

    As a freelancer, you could use this technique to meet new people online. If you come across a LinkedIn profile indicating its owner works at a company you are targeting, send them a quick note. Ask them if they know if their company uses freelance writers. This might start a conversation going where you end up with the name of the person you should contact and even what projects are on their to-do list.

    A word of caution: the "Franklin Effect" (as it is commonly referred to) only works for small favors. If the request is too big (you ask someone to help you move … borrow their car … cut your lawn, etc.), it will most likely backfire, and they will most likely refuse your request.

  2. Admit your mistakes – In 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy authorized an invasion of Cuba. The ensuing operation turned into a huge failure known as The Bay of Pigs.

    You'd think, because of this military blunder, Kennedy's popularity would take a hit, right? But just the opposite happened. A national survey taken after the failed invasion showed that the public actually liked Kennedy more than before his disastrous decision.

    Two factors attributed to this seemingly strange finding.

    First, Kennedy didn't try to make excuses or pass the buck. He immediately took full responsibility for the calamity.

    Second, up to that point, Kennedy had been seen as somewhat of a superhero. A charming, handsome, and powerful man who could do no wrong. The Bay of Pigs disaster made him appear more human and thus more likable.

    Wiseman references studies that backed up that likeability goes up when a mistake is made.

    A word of caution: Wiseman found likeability only increases when people view you as being "too perfect." In other words, if a person is viewed as a “loser” making (another) mistake, it will have no impact on their likeability scale.

    For freelancers, the lesson here is always to take ownership of your work. For instance, if you write a headline and lead that targets the wrong audience, admit you made a mistake and then put a plan together to make things right.

  3. Withhold negative comments – The third technique actually involves not doing something. As Wiseman writes, John Skowronski from the University of Ohio (and his colleagues) investigated the downside of spreading malicious gossip.

    In the study, participants watched a video of actors talking about friends and acquaintances. Some of the actors' comments were very negative. They'd say things like, "He hates animals. Today, he was walking to the store and he saw this puppy. So he kicked it out of his way."

    They then had the participants rate the personality of the speaker. What they found was that even though the actor was speaking about somebody else, participants associated their negative comments with who was speaking them. This is known as "spontaneous trait transference."

    For freelancers, the tip here is to never speak ill of a former client to an existing client. For starters, your existing client will wonder what you are saying behind their back. And as Wiseman points out, they will associate your negative comments with the feelings they have towards you.

    On the flipside, when you say positive and pleasant things about people, you are seen as a nice person. So that famous line our parents told us, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," was pretty darn good advice.

Being liked is very important. It's something most everyone strives for in life. And while being nice to other people is the number one way to get people to like you, these three techniques could make the difference between forming a solid working/personal friendship with someone and a friendship that never gets off the ground.

What do you think of the three "likability techniques" above? Have you used any of them and found them to be effective? If so, I'd love to hear from you. You can post your comment below.

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Published: April 5, 2012

11 Responses to “Three Little-Known Ways to Make People Like You...”

  1. John,

    Great article on something over which all of us have control. And in these competitive times, it could make all the difference. Thanks!

    Guest (Bob Sands)April 5, 2012 at 7:56 am

  2. "In other words, to increase the likelihood of someone liking you, get that person to do a favor for you."

    I believe this is very true and that it works because you have given the person a reason to feel good about him/herself at a small cost.

    "Hey, there's that lady I helped. I really am a kind, helpful guy! And she recognized what a nice guy I am, or she wouldn't have asked for my help."

    SunnydaysApril 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

  3. John I have been in a service oriented business my entire life, so interacting with people (who are sometimes defensive) is something I am familiar with. All the points in your article are extremely valid and indeed, necessary, in maintaining a good "one on one" productive, relationship. The one that is surprising to me is the "asking of a small favor" from your client, friend, whatever. I may have done this unknowingly in the past, but it makes perfect sense. I will try this purposefully from now on.

    Guest (Bobby D)April 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm

  4. Also, if you are willing to be an interested listener you will be liked. Only give advice when asked.

    DaleApril 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm

  5. This dove-tails nicely with an article I read about the top five regrets of the dying.

    Number Five was "I wish that I had let myself be happier."

    The article I read pointed out that happiness is a choice. Bottom line, if we are kind to others, focus on being positive with those around us (and online) and take ownership of our work...We will shine in the end.

    Sounds like a good prescription for the Writer's Life to me!

    Great job, John!

    Susan LairdApril 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  6. Excellent tips, John. Tip #1 is totally new to me. I really hadn't considered the a positive outcome of asking a small favor.
    #3 is a very good reminder. All of these are so important in our personal and our work lives.
    Thank you.

    Guest (Ann)April 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

  7. Thanks John for a good reminder. I have personally used the Franklin technique (I called it asking for help) and I have recommended it to clients.. Too many of us believe that the way to be liked is to be admired. When we ask for a small favor or ask for help with something we are seen as approachable and more likeable. Thanks again. By the way the more I see of copywriting and the more I experience the ccmmunity the more I like it and the more I feel at home. P

    images in apple valleyApril 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

  8. Each day I am impressed with the support that AWAI provides its members, such as: I know that if I need anything to help me succeed that your library has it. The quality of your daily articles and the help of your contributing writers are helping me prepare myself for a new career in writing. I know that I will remember these days and how much AWAI's Resources have lifted my spirits and boosted my confidence! Thank You! Thank You! Floyd

    Guest (Floyd)April 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

  9. Another likeability point: The Golden Rule, often translated 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is, in my view, the finest human relations principle ever uttered.

    It comes from Matthew 7:12 in the Bible, so it's nothing new. Application of that maxim alone will increase your success at relationships manyfold.

    Guest (paul)April 8, 2012 at 3:33 am

  10. Even though I know these things, it's crucial to be reminded again and again. For some human nature reason, I fond myself about to make an error again and again. Thank you

    Guest (Derk)April 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm

  11. John I totally agree with each of your points. I have always found that if I make a mistake and own up,people are very forgiving. I am a Government employee and mistakes happen fairly regularly. Even if it is not my mistake, when I say I am sorry to a client he or she is always very thankful and although they may have been agressive, the aggression immediately disipates. People in general like when someone accepts responsibility for their errors.

    MaryMcLeanApril 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm


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