Why You Should Stop Caring about Being Likable, According to Science

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Kayla Heisler1.16k
June 20, 2024 at 3:11AM UTC
It may seem paradoxical, but over-stressing about being likable can make you come off as less likable. When you’re focused on making others like you, one of your first instincts may be to fit a specific mold to make others happy — regardless of whether or not you actually agree with them. While it goes without saying that being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian is unlikely to win anyone over, being genuine can make others find you more appealing than attempting to appease everyone.

In a study for emotional intelligence coaching and testing company TalentSmart, subjects rated more than 500 adjectives on how applicable they found them as related to likability. While one might expect that the adjectives most selected would indicate that possessing characteristics such as friendliness or amenability would be essential to be likable, the results showed otherwise. The adjectives that received the highest ratings were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding.

The reason for this is that one of the most important traits to make people appear likable is that they are trustworthy. To be considered likable, people must trust you. When people detect inauthenticity, they are less likely to trust you and thus less likely to find you likable.

While demonstrating strong interpersonal skills is important to succeed, there are a number of other soft skills that you should also make an effort to sharpen to stand out in the work place. Instead of focusing on what not to say or how to behave, being your most authentic self will go further than trying to be the person who you assume other people will like. That said, you should treat others with respect and consider the way you speak to them, but being up front and honest should be a top priority.

Demonstrate confidence and assertiveness by expressing your ideas clearly. Having a strong sense of self can make you more comfortable with being transparent with others. Altering your opinions or behaving in a way that isn’t true to yourself can put people off. To combat this, you should focus on being the truest version of yourself, which will make people gravitate toward you. Additionally, spending too much energy focused on what others think about you can take away focus from improving skills that actually matter.

The next time you're tempted to change who you are to make others more drawn to you, take a step back and remind yourself that speaking your mind could have an even better outcome.


Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.

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