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How to make people like you


Your success in selling your ideas depends a lot on your ability to sell yourself. People will naturally be more likely to do business with someone they like. Your entire pitch can be doomed from the outset if your targets have already decided they don’t like you. But how can you influence their decision? Harrison Monarth explains.

Famous people or those with predisposed credibility have significantly less risk of default audience apathy than the rest of us. A former star athlete flown in to give a motivational speech and rub elbows with the workforce could make a drunken pass at the boss’ daughter and everybody would still love the guy.  

But for the rest of us, those of us without caché and a press agent, our audiences are composed of three innately judgmental demographics: those who are rooting for you, those who are tough sells but will give you a fair shot (which means you have less than one minute to impress them), and those who’ve already made up their mind that they don’t like you or what you are ‘selling’. This is why the very first thing you should do is turn yourself into someone they like. 

To illustrate the importance of projecting likeability as you present your message and sell your ideas, consider the results of a study reported in Trial Diplomacy Journal, where 600 jurors were interviewed after they had reached their verdicts in a variety of court cases. The jurors were queried on how they decided on the verdicts they chose. The answers shone a remarkable light on a major factor that evidently influences people’s decision-making process, as a full 100% - that’s 600 out of 600 jurors - reported that they made their decision in favor of the attorney and his or her clients they liked better.

And if liking plays a major role in life-altering legal proceedings, people of all skill levels and backgrounds would be wise to pay attention to what tips the balance in their favor on the likeability scale. But how?

People like people like them

Since liking is an emotional reaction and our emotions are largely a function of our unconscious mind, we have to ‘aim for the gut’ when communicating. One of the things that make us likeable to others is a sense of similarity, or a strong notion that we have something in common.

To accomplish this it is highly beneficial to know our audience beyond job description and superficial demographic information, and to understand at least some of what they believe, their values, interests, preconceived ideas and any biases they may have, against you, for you or otherwise.

Once you understand how an audience feels and thinks, you can frame and tailor your language, nonverbal signals like dress, visuals and supporting materials, as well as the specific language you use in the way they understand and best perceive information. You are in other words tapping into their model of the world.

This means that as we learn more about our audience than just the basics, we pay attention to specific words they use, certain jargon perhaps, how they express frustration, excitement, things they like and dislike. We should also listen to the metaphors and analogies they use. Their humorous references are valuable too. In short, everything that comes out of their mouths is valuable information. You should take note of and weave it into any information you present back to them, as it will sound literally like you are ‘speaking their language’.

The effectiveness of this ‘likeability strategy’ and the power of matching those you want to ‘capture’ is truly everywhere. From teenage girls who dress and accessorize alike within their group of friends; to groups of senior execs doing business on the golf course; to hunters mimicking the mating sound of their prey.

We are drawn to those who are like us, and the more you can be like your audience, the more they will reward you for the perceived similarity you project to them. And once they see you as one of them, the easier it will be to sell your point of view, because, if a friend talks, we usually listen.

Do you think it's important for the people you do business with to like you? What's the one thing that's guaranteed to put you off someone before they've said a word? Share your thoughts below.

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