Should I Be Likable or Influential?

Be Likable and InfluentialActually, you can be both – and you should try to be both.

When you’re likable, you’re almost automatically more influential. As Bert wrote in You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard, “The likability factor dominates in politics. It dominates in business. And it dominates in our day to day lives. Likability is the key to trust and believability.”

It’s true. We trust and believe people we like. We are skeptical towards those we don’t.

While it’s possible to be influential without being likable – certain reality TV personalities jump to mind – your best bet is to be likable.

With that in mind, Inc. Magazine identified six traits of remarkably likable people. When you meet them, they:

  • Lose the power pose and become approachable. Use Decker’s Ready Position – a friendly, forward lean
  • Embrace the power of touch
  • Ask about you (Jeff Haden calls this, “social ju-jitsu”)
  • Are genuine
  • Ask for nothing
  • Say goodbye gracefully

Listen, it’s not terrible to always be closing. That said, meeting new people can’t always be about leads and numbers. Sometimes it’s helpful to forgo the sales opportunity in the moment. Instead, recognize the chance to let the other person know that you have listened to her. Trust that your kindness and empathy will lead to good things down the road.

When you’re communicating to a group – in a presentation, keynote speech or meeting – the same precepts apply: Focus on your audience. Make it about them. Don’t obsess over your power. Be likable!

Here are some specific pointers:

  1. Stand by the front door, and welcome people as they enter the room. Embrace the small talk.
  2. Be polite and respectful during the Q&A, even if the question asker is not. Here’s how to handle Q+A like a pro (and here’s what not to do during Q+A).
  3. Cater to your audience. Ask questions as you present – “Do you know this information already?” – and cater your problem-solving specific to them.
  4. Incorporate audience members into your talk. Tell a story involving one of them. Praise something they’ve accomplished.
  5. Don’t be afraid to share stories of fear and failure. Some of the most influential stories are ones where the narrator admits to defeat and doubt.
  6. Be thankful on your way out the door.
  7. Last –certainly not least – smile!

You have ideas, too. What else makes a person likable?