Remember the old adage, "Nice guys finish last"? In the corporate world, that phrase inferred that likeable people lacked the assertiveness or self-interest they needed to move ahead and, as a result, relinquished opportunities for others to seize and leave them behind.
Likeability is not the ability to make people laugh or take centre stage all the time. It is about considerate behaviour and keeping promises that make people feel comfortable around you. You win them over by fuelling their belief that you are a trustworthy person who they can count on to do the right thing.
It is not surprising that research confirms that likeability is critical to consistent career success. The most skilled technician will not earn the respect of colleagues if he treats them gruffly or indifferently. A 2012 Global Employability Survey conducted by the French consulting firm Emerging polled 2,500 recruiters in 20 countries. Human resources professionals polled said likeability is the most important trait when it came to hiring recent graduates. Canada placed fifth in producing the most likeable graduates, with the UK ranked first and the US second.
The growing use of video conferencing and social media at work are making "likeability" an even more important career skill. This is because the use of personal videoconferencing is expected to grow 47 per cent annually through 2017, according to Wainhouse Research, a Boston market-research firm. Viewers are more inclined to form an opinion of the speaker based on their appearance and manner than on the quality of their content. "The camera doesn't lie." This is never truer than when looking at a person's photo or seeing them on camera. Unless a person is skilled in appearing as likeable as possible before the camera, their content will lose a lot of its punch.
As social media becomes more prevalent, more employers track employees' likability on in-house social networks and chat services. They recruit those who are trusted and well liked to spread information or influence and inspire others.
Likeability isn't just a factor when it comes to technology. A 2014 study by the University of Massachusetts found if auditors are likeable and present a solid argument, managers will accept their suggestions, even if they disagree and the auditors lack supporting evidence.
Likeability Versus Charisma
Likeability is not the same as charisma, the power to inspire devotion in others with a natural charm, which is a trait some are born with. Charisma cannot be faked, since it is part of our makeup and a trait we either have or don't. It is inherently built into the make-up of those that are born with it, those that aren't, can learn to be likeable while getting the same results.
We have seen failed attempts at charisma when certain politicians or other public speakers move out of their comfort zone and try to be something they are not. On the other hand, likeability can be learned and eventually become second nature.
Here are some tips to increasing your likeability factor.
- Offer positive body language including an authentic versus a forced-smile and maintain eye contact.
- Vary your tone of voice to convey warmth, empathy and enthusiasm to properly reflect the situation and your audience or conversational partner.
- Answer questions in a direct and honest way versus answering a question with a question.
- Practice positive physical gestures. For example, to set the tone for a productive board meeting, instead of remaining seated, calmly move toward a person (don't rush at them), greeting them in a natural and enthusiastic way. You don't need to try to outdo comedian Jim Carey with your physical, comedic energy. Just remember that people like positive, authentic energy. They also often like a subtle touch on the arm or shoulder as a way of expressing appropriate affection versus crushing hugs.
- An open face, or honest and sincere facial expressions, as opposed to a closed face will enhance your likeability quotient, as you appear open and accessible -- and trustworthy.
- Be welcoming to strangers, especially those who appear to feel out of place at an event or meeting where they don't know anyone.
- Control your insecurities and focus on your strengths so you are not easily threatened.
- Remain positive and try to see only positive outcomes to your well-thought out plans.
- Be open to new things and see them from the other person's perspective. For example, if someone is describing their latest golf game and golf bores you, ask them what they like most about the game and to describe their most memorable moment on the golf course. Who knows? You may be willing to give golf another try after hearing their account.
- Remain humble, even in the face of the most boastful colleague or acquaintance. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.
- Don't be afraid to defer to others. Someone may have a better solution to a challenge. However, trust your instincts and do the best you can with what you have in the moment.
Likeability is no substitute for doing your job well, but it can give you the benefit of the doubt in a pinch. The question is, what are you doing to up your likeability factor?
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