Having close relationships is one of the most meaningful elements to happiness. It’s not always easy to make friends, however. To form a friendship, you must like someone—and you must also be likable.
How can you boost the chances that someone will like you?
Here are eight strategies to keep in mind—not ways to manipulate people or to be fake, but to make sure that your desire to be friendly effectively shines through:
- Smile. Now, this is no shock, but studies do show that the amount of time you smile during a conversation has a direct impact on how friendly you’re perceived to be. Also, people mimic the expressions on the faces they see, so if you smile, you’re more likely to be smiled at. (Scientists have identified 19 types of smiles, by the way.)
- Be easily impressed, entertained, and interested. Most people get more pleasure from wowing you with their humor and insight than from being wowed by your humor and insight.
- Have a friendly, open, engaged demeanor. Lean toward people, nod, say “Uh-huh,” turn your body to face the other person’s body. Don’t turn your body away, cross your arms, answer in monosyllables, or scan the room (or look at your phone! I have seen this happen!) as the other person talks. If you’re worried that you’re boring someone, here are some ways to tell.
- Remember trait transfer. In “trait transfer,” whatever you say about other people influences how people see you. If you describe a co-worker as brilliant and charismatic, your acquaintance will tend to associate you with those qualities. Conversely, if you describe a co-worker as arrogant and obnoxious, those traits will stick to you. So watch what you say.
- Laugh at yourself. Showing vulnerability and a sense of humor make you more likable and approachable. However, don’t push this self-deprecation too far—keep it light. You’ll make others uncomfortable if you run yourself down too much. I met a guy who kept saying things like, “I’m an idiot,” “I have the most boring job ever,” etc. He was trying to be self-deprecating, but it was hard to know how to respond to that kind of comment from a stranger
- Radiate energy and good humor. Because of the phenomenon of “emotional contagion,” people catch the emotions of other people, and they prefer to catch an upbeat, energetic mood. Even if you pride yourself on your cynicism, biting humor, or general edginess, these qualities can be conveyed with warmth.
- Show your liking for another person. We’re much more apt to like someone if we think that person likes us. Look for ways to signal that you enjoy a person’s company. When I call my daughters’ pediatrician with some health question, she always says “Hello!” as if she’s genuinely thrilled to hear from me, and I’ve really noticed what a difference it makes on my feelings of warmth toward her
- Try to remember the person’s name! If you can’t remember it, here are some tips for coping with the situation. Studies suggest that we decide how close a relationship we’ll have with a new acquaintance within the first ten minutes of meeting that person, and that in evaluating people, we weigh early information more heavily than information acquired later. So make a big effort to be openly friendly the first time you meet someone.
How about you? Have you found any good strategies for showing your eagerness to be friendly?