When I volunteered to write about the importance of being likeable, I thought I knew what likeability actually was. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that everyone has a different definition of what makes someone likeable or dislikeable.
To get an idea of how often people define likeability, I turned to (of course) Facebook. When I asked others what characteristics they noticed in likeable people, I was glad to see that my definition was not so far away from everyone else’s. Here are some characteristics that most people particularly likeable people have:
- A sense of humility, not arrogance
- Being a good listener who doesn’t ramble or interrupt others
- A good sense of humor, able to laugh at himself
- A positive attitude
- A warm smile
Notice that the word “nice” isn’t on the list above. That’s because you don’t necessarily have to be nice to be likeable; you just have to be considerate. You don’t have to pander to someone else’s beliefs or be in a good mood all the time. Instead, you just have to be aware of other people and how you can affect them.
Does this remind you of something you may have heard in kindergarten or pre-school?
As a young adult, I have come to realize that “adulthood” is all about learning to play with others. In college you have to live with others, share spaces with others, and learn to work with others. Once you’re in the “real world” (whatever that is) you are also responsible for doing your best to make work an enjoyable environment.
You might think this just means making lots of friends, but I’d like to draw a fine line of distinction here: being likeable is very different from being popular. A likeable person may not have a hundred friends, but he can depend on every person he interacts with to respond positively to him.
For example, a middle school student recently approached me in a bookstore to see if I would donate to his charity. I could have reacted several ways; I could have told him to scram and scowled after him, or I could have smiled and politely said “no thanks.” I decided, however, to ask him about his charity. He was raising money for a soccer camp he wanted to go to, and as I asked him more questions he got more and more excited. I clearly found this kid likeable. He was humble (and clearly terrified when he first approached me), honest, brave, and enthusiastic. I trusted that he was really raising money for soccer and not just to buy the latest gadget or toy. I did donate, and even though it wasn’t much he was genuinely grateful. I think we parted ways with each of us feeling good about having met a likeable person. (If I can dare to presume I was a likeable! There goes my humility!)
Being likeable is not necessarily an innate social ability. You have to continuously appraise how likeable you are and how you can improve yourself—if not for the sake of others, then for your own. You are more likely to go further in life faster if you make friends and acquaintances who are willing to help you than if you burn so many bridges you get stranded. (Was that a horrible metaphor? It was, wasn’t it? My bad.)
As I get off my soapbox about the importance of being likeable, I’d like to know, what qualities do you find make someone likeable or dislikeable? Let us know in the comments below!
Now get out there and make your mother proud!