To a large measure, your likeability will lead to success or failure. It often trumps skill levels in surveys of HR people who are asked to name the most important characteristic of job candidates and employees. Other than ‘don’t be an asshole’ what can you do to increase your own likeability? Is it really possible to change? Or, do you believe your likeability has been set by some cosmic forces, and that if people don’t like you as you are, so what? BTW, being rich or good looking is not on the list. Here are ten characteristics of likeable people, who can pass the no-asshole test, or the always reliable would-you-fly-across-the-country-with-them test.

Number 1. No Left Turns.

Years ago, someone wrote about his 90-year-old parents’ Secret to a Long Life. He thought they would reveal the “secret” as eating right, exercise and wine with dinner. But their answer? No left turns.

When he asked “why left turns?” his parents said they read that more elderly people die from car accidents than heart attacks. Old people often turn in front of oncoming traffic and with deteriorating depth perception, accidents happen. So, they resolved to never make left turns again. They made three right turns to get them going the right way. Some days, they would lose count and have to make seven right turns. If they lost track again, they just went home, they said. After all, they reasoned, there wasn’t that big of a rush to get there anyway.

Such a simple solution to a big problem: No Left Turns.

Same thing with how to make yourself more likeable. There is one simple thing, that every likeable person has—a positive attitude. But we all have positive attitudes; especially during good times. It is easy to have a positive attitude then.

What’s more differentiating and difficult is how to have a positive, optimistic attitude when things are not going so well. If you can conjure up a positive attitude when things are bad in the shitter, people will be drawn to you.

Here are some tips for you to help you develop your own positive attitude.

First, develop the skill of self serving illusions. When suffering from negativity, think about something good that has happened to you recently in a similar situation. Chances are, you were able to solve it. Get good at drawing on these success stories in your mind. We all need to remember these little jolts of optimism and positive energy. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.

Next, realize you can control your thoughts. Most of the negative people you encounter choose to be that way. I have never seen a birth announcement that says Mary and Bill Jones had a beautiful but negative baby daughter last night at 10:52 pm. We learn negativity, and it can be unlearned. Distract yourself from it, think about other things, and move on. Don’t dwell on it. After all, ‘stinkin thinkin’ decreases your creativity (scientifically proven!) and hampers your ability to solve the issue. Like my friend Roger Larson used to say, “the more you stir it, the more it stinks.”

Lastly, positive people know that most setbacks can be attributed to external causes which can be challenged, fixed or changed, not them. Negative people tend to think these are self afflicted, deserved, and permanent wounds.

I understand that becoming positive is a life changing process for people…and it is not quite as easy as this. There are books and books about this subject.

But again,….no left turns. Some times the solutions are easier than you think.

Set a goal for yourself. A simple goal—try to be positive for 30 days. Think about it and act upon it. Nothing can be more worthwhile. Can you imagine how powerful this one little change might make in YOUR life?

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

— [tag]Albert Schweitzer[/tag]

Number 2. Be Engaged, Passionate.

Every strength taken to excess is a weakness. Which is basically why some philosophers and parents counsel moderation…don’t get too high or too low. Don’t expect too much, don’t go overboard.

Let me explain that first sentence a bit better. I had a boss once who was very articulate. He was actually a college national debate champion. Speaking well was a definite strength, he could literally mesmerize an audience. My boss was no cult leader, but being so good at debate, he could literally win almost any argument inside the company. One time we were figuring out a clever way to announce an event to our 100 sales people across the country.

He said, “Here’s what we do, let’s get 100 carrier pigeons, tie the note to their leg, and send them out to the guys’ homes. Can you just imagine the impact it will have to have a carrier pigeon delivering our notice?” After looking around the room to see who would be the first one to throw cold water on this idea, I said,…”I don’t think carrier pigeons work that way, map reading is not one of their skills.” But, he was such a good debater, he wanted to go on and convince me that indeed it would be possible. Strength to excess…

But we do like people who are engaged in life, who have that sparkle in their eyes when they talk about what they do. The more passionate you are, the better. Just don’t go all Jim Jones on us.

It is easy to find passion. You can have passion about your kids, your hobbies, your convictions. The more engaged you are, the more interesting you are, and the more we want to be around you.

If you are one of those who keep looking for that one job where you can have passion, you might be wasting your time. Every job deserves your passion. I believe that every job has something about it that should make you proud of it or the company—if you give it a chance. Sometimes it takes a willingness to commit to showing passion before you feel it.

Once at a family gathering, I asked a younger relative about his job. Talk about showing passion—he said, “Can I tell you why I have the most exciting job in the world?” What a great line!! And he believed it, too. He worked in a feedlot, by the way. And literally shoveled manure shit all day. He loved what he did, simply—and more to the point, he was unconcerned with my preconceived ideas about HIS job.

If you are like me, you want to be around people like that, instead of the people who are always searching for that one, stimulating job that gives them passion. You give passion, you don’t take it.

Sure, you can go overboard with the passion stuff. But I will still like you.

Number 3. Be of Good Humor.

This is so easy to do, but we often get all wrapped around the axle of professionalism. We lose sight of the fact that we all love to laugh. Those people who make us laugh are the ones we want to hang with.

I have written before about the power of smiling. I am amazed at how serious people can be inside a business. For Cripes’ sake, smile a little.

Someone recently told me that his work environment was different, it was ‘old school,’ very professional and extremely serious. So serious that people didn’t greet each other in the hallway, even. I told him that chances were good that the people wanted it to be more interesting and fun. And that he should lead the way. Changing the culture takes one person at the lowest level to get it all started. Company CEO’s don’t change the culture even though they take credit for it, people do.

Here are a few baby boomer tips to practice improving your humor. Watch The Office, Boston Legal, and Jon Stewart. And then talk about it the very next day with someone at work . Eg., What was your favorite Denny Crane line? My favorite from a couple of weeks ago: James Spader’s character was describing the new hot girl and commenting on her beautiful neck. “Denny,” he said, ” you should see her neck.” Slight pause for effect, he repeats for emphasis, “her neck.” Then the Denny Crain (William Shatner) line, “she has two necks?”

Generally speaking, most of us already have good humor. We laugh with our friends. Simply, use it more, even look for ways to use it more. Tell a joke, however badly…then laugh at yourself, if it is THAT bad.

The world is serious enough without all of us contributing even more. I choose to like people who are of good humor.

Number 4. Assume Goodwill

First, an assume-goodwill story. Years ago, I managed distribution centers for my company. There were twelve of these centers spread across the US, and my job, circa 1980, was to make sure they served our distributors with timely and positive service. Service had gotten so bad that it was all the distributors/dealers would talk yell about, not how much more they could sell, but how terrible our service was…and, for those of you familiar with third party sales channels…when your distributors are upset, angry, even pissed…it gets ugly fast.

So, I got the job of fixing them. I had zero warehouse, inventory, or operational-type experience. Zilch. I was told the DC managers were so bad, so non-customer service oriented, that I should just start over. I had free rein to do so.

Instead, I called a meeting for all the DC managers at the home office. Most had never been to the home office before. They had not drunk the kool-aid yet. They arrived thinking that the new guy (me) was about to fire them all. They were scared, defensive and angry, too.

Even though they were uniformly described as malecontents and sloppy representatives of the company…that chances were pretty good,I thought, that they had simply been ignored. In short, I believed they wanted to do better…but someone had to show them how.

Once they understood that I was not going to fire them, that I assumed they wanted to fix this common, not-just-them problem, we all buckled down and fixed it within a few months. They even proudly wore the uniforms I strongly suggested they wear while working at the DC….’course it helped that everyone in top management stopped by our meetings…IN UNIFORM.

My takeaway lesson was we should always assume goodwill in other people…instead of jumping on some out-of-control, negative, ain’t-they-awful bandwagon.

This works in almost all situations. If you are thinking negative thoughts about someone’s actions, let your first thought instead be to assume goodwill on their part.

Number 5. We All Like Compliments.

This is a dicey one, because it is very easy to overdo handing out compliments—I’m just saying that people who feel comfortable complimenting others and, who give them sincerely, are more likeable. Honestly, I have noticed that paying even untrue compliments has a positive impact.

Many people are starved for compliments…and many spend entire lives without hearing something positive or complimentary. Please look for a way to compliment a co worker or a customer. It is really quite easy.

Obviously, you must do this carefully. Just because you call a pig a horse, doesn’t make him one. But there are plenty of ways…compliment on something he just said, compliment on a recent completed project—without saying how you would have improved it—or even on his thinking process.

I believe people like being valued…and a well placed compliment shows them that you value them. Other compliment-rich areas include: anything about their kids, their thoughtfulness, their thinking process, their departments, teams, company, their skills, even their voice.

Number 6. Control Your Insecurities.

I know someone who is constantly saying things like, “well, it’s not what you are used to” or “I know you would never buy this, but it is ok for me,” stuff like that.

Maybe he means well, and perhaps is trying to show a bit of humility, but to me, it comes across as being incredibly insecure. Admittedly, we all have a bit of insecurity, it is only normal and natural. But communicating your own insecurity often is a turn off to a lot of people. Therefore, to make yourself more likeable just watch how you communicate yours.

We all do this, I understand. And, thankfully, we have people who are close to us who understand these moody comments and can help assuage our insecurities. But co-workers might be different.

There is a huge difference between admitting a lack of ability or skill—actually a positive, likeable trait—as in, “I don’t understand the issue or what I must do to solve this problem,” and “I guess I am too dumb to understand this issue here.” I hope you can hear the difference.

Number 7. The Trick to Listening.

Since grade school, we have been taught, or told, to listen better. Trouble is, this is where most advice ends. So, when we hear that listening skills are important in all relationships, we don’t really do much differently…other than get a new, “Iamintenselylistening” now look on our face.

Good listening is more than that.

Here are some more tips to better listening. Listen, acknowledge and add something of value. One can’t simply listen with a vacant look in your eyes..you have to acknowledge what is being said. This is more than “uh-huh, uh-huh.” Say something back that lets the person know you were actually listening and thinking. Not too hard, you say? Sure it is, because you will be more concerned about your part of the conversation, WHAT WILL I SAY NOW?, than actually listening. The more confident you get and the better you listen, you will find that you are worrying less about what you will say, and you will listen harder to what they are saying. After you acknowledge them, you will become a lot more likeable if you add something…as long as it is relevant and on topic.

We have known people who apparently listen but have that “what-I-am-doing-here” vacant look in their eyes. By training yourself to listen, and acknowledge…and then add value…you will be a better listener than 90% of all adults.

By listening better, even if you don’t get to say too much in a one-sided conversation, people will think you are quite smart for taking such an active interest in what they are saying.

Number 8. Flexibility.

This has nothing to do with doing the splits or some yoga move. Peace out.

People who are willing to do new things, consider others’ viewpoints, or learn some new skill are generally more interesting and likeable. There are some people who won’t try a new restaurant or a new food or a new type of entertainment. We are all different, sure. I don’t like opera music on the radio. But if someone invited me to attend a local opera, I would go. Ok, I might not. We all have likes and dislikes.

But the more you are willing to accept change and are viewed as flexible and adaptable, you will be obviously more likeable.

Duh.

Number 9. Manners. Grooming. Language.

Some think that having good manners is outdated. Far from it. People with good manners are most definitely likeable…if nothing else, most of us like being around people who have ‘em. Just remember what you learned in kindergarten, or what Mom ragged on you about all the time. Say please and thank you, write prompt thank you’s, stand up when a woman enters the room, take your ballcap off indoors, use the right utensil, say excuse me, open doors and let others go first. Better yet, buy a manners book and work hard on improving yours.

I have noticed that some people have poor grooming skills. You would think this is an adult type skill, but perhaps no one ever took the time to explain these facts. Wear clean clothes, shower or bathe daily, don’t overdo the cologne, brush your teeth. Seriously, how hard is this? If you choose not to do anyone of these things…watch how people avoid you.

Personally, I like people who have good language skills. It’s not that I dislike people who have trouble with subjects and verbs, I just notice is all. But even more than using proper grammer, I find myself avoiding people who use toxic language— swearing excessively, showing a temper, complaining or whining. And, gossip. If you are a gossip, just be aware that people will eventually migrate away from you. If you talk about others, the reasoning goes, you will get around to me…and THAT I don’t like.

Number 10. Humility is Endearing.

Genuine humility is very appealing to others. The issue is how do you attain it without being false or fake. All of us have known someone who fakes humility—”Oh no, I couldn’t have hit all those homeruns without my hitting coach and his advice”—as a way of generating even more compliments for their achievements or actions. This fake humility is transparent and communicates more insecurity than humility.

How can you make yourself more humble? Here a few ideas: Stop comparing yourself to others, old classmates and/or co-workers. Who cares what they are doing, instead– how are you doing on your own path? Next, acknowledge your own faults. Trust me, you are not perfect. There is always someone better, who has more skills than you. Next, defer to others. Sometimes other people have better ideas than you. Review your past, ask yourself how you got to where you think are. Was it as a result of your own natural born charisma? Or perhaps— just luck?

“After crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.” Benjamin Franklin

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