Likeability is a Skill



“I’ve trained myself to illuminate the things in my personality that are likeable and to hide and protect the things that are less likeable.” — Will Smith

Last week, I picked up the book The Likeability Factor, by Tim Sanders.

It’s a book about how the single biggest improvement you can make in your life is likability.

From winning elections to having the best job … it’s all about likability, based on research.

The more likeable you are, the happier your life will be.  Likability impacts your health, wealth, and happiness. People choose people who they like.

They hire them, vote for them, buy from them, and spend time with them.  Research even shows that doctors spend more time with those they like.

The 4 Keys to Likeability

The beauty of the book is it treats likability as a skill.  Here are the key parts:

  • Friendliness
  • Relevance
  • Empathy
  • Realness

Friendliness is your ability to communicate liking and openness to others.

Relevance means you know what matters to people and you can connect with others’ wants, interests, and needs.

Empathy means your ability to recognize, acknowledge and experience other people’s feelings.

Realness means your authenticity and integrity behind your likeability.

Working On Your Likeability is Like Working Out

Unless you’re naturally a 10 on the likeability scale, it takes work.  As Sanders puts it, “A high L-factor is a form of social fitness, and achieving it can be just as tough and time-consuming as developing physical fitness.”

In this case, your L-Factor is your likeability factor.

It’s an insightful book, full of anecdotes, stories, and pragmatic advice.  I’ll be sharing more book nuggets in the future.

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  1. Hi J.D.

    I totally agree with you on this “likeablility” it is very important. It does help a person with opening more doors.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  2. It’s true, anyone would rather spend time with someone they like than someone they don’t – not just doctors. 😉

  3. Interesting, maybe I’ll have to add that book on my To Read List. I never really thought of likeability as a skill to develop. I always thought it was something you had or didn’t have. I think back to the little kid in me who wondered “Why don’t they like me? What’s wrong with me?” But it’s empowering to think that maybe it’s not something inherent about a person that makes them likeable or not, maybe it’s a skill that can be learned and developed.


  4. Thanks for letting me know about this book, JD! It sounds so interesting and I’ve definitely added it to my To Read list. Likeability is one of those things that’s so important, but it’s not talked about as much as some other qualities are. Thanks for bringing up the book and highlighting some of the key points!

  5. Becoming likable does take work. I’m proof of that. I was awkward in high school and college, but like any skill I’ve worked at it. Now I feel like I’m becoming a happier and a more likable person.

    What it came down to was me. I became more accepting of my weirdness, creativity, and my sense of humor. Once I started enjoying who I was it was a lot easier for everyone to accept me for me.

  6. JD
    Sounds like a great book. I think I am a 12 on the Likability list but I am an introvert so I need lots of time away from others. I also was designed to absorb other folks emotions which can make me overloaded / overwhelmed in a very few minutes. Doing the on email counseling has been a boon for me because I find the separation helps me not absorb and yet still be helpful.

    When I was teaching at the College – Ethics – students made judgments about me by how I looked – I look like someone’s Granny and should be baking cookies and not be smart – and I am tough in the classroom. It usually took 2 semesters before word of mouth made a waiting list for my classes.

    Wow fun to think about – I find that most engineers I meet even computer engineers have sometimes a difficult demeanor in person – Do you find that in your work? hard to read?

    I should get this book for my IT person, she is very hard to get to know.

  7. @ Giovanna

    In fact, another way to put it is, unlikable really closes more doors.

    @ Louisa

    It’s a reminder of the saying you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

    @ Vi

    I’m finding more and more things really are skills (optimism, happiness, feeling good … etc.). Nature gives us the start, but nurture really goes a long way.

    @ Positively Present

    I think you’ll like it a lot. It’s rich with stories and data and it’s so down to Earth. The author makes a great case for improving likeability.

    @ Karl

    I like your story and perspective. I think you make a really great point about liking yourself first and then others follow. It’s sort of like a domino effect and you’re the first domino in the line up.

    @ Patricia

    Empathy is a blessing and a curse. It’s really feeling the pain, but luckly it’s fully feeling the pleasure too, and empathy is a key to emotional intelligence.

    When it comes to relating, whether to engineers or anybody, a little blending goes a long way. In fact, you can use the likeability factors to dail up or dial down the friendliness, relevance, empathy, and realness.

    Once I learned the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), I instantly became more tolerant and accepting of critics, pessimists, and you name it … I think of the saying, people do the best with what they’ve got.

    @ Melissa

    It’s been like an endless flow of lightbulbs going off since I’ve started the book. Thank you and back at ya!

  8. Reminds me of the old Cheers episode where Norm has to fire someone. At first, his is so likable, so connected, so upset, that the person being fired is more worried about Norm than his own situation. Fast forward and he gets so used to the idea of firing that just the sound of Norm’s voice on the telephone is enough to terrify an office worker. His likability factor dropped to 0 and so did his effectiveness….

  9. Yeah, please share more on that. I now totally understand why I suck at so many social related issues – very few like me. Mostly just accept. True. Even my precious wife hated me before we started to date. I guess i found a way to become a likable back in the days. I want to learn this skill now. Badly. Please share more!

  10. @ Fred

    I love that episode! It’s a great example how likeability is something you can change, for better or for worse.

    @ Jannie

    Sleep can make a huge difference. We all know the expression, “did you get wake up on the wrong side of the bed?”

    What I’ve noticed is eating, sleeping, and working out help keep a better disposition.

    @ Alik

    I think a lot of likeability comes down to being mindful and doing what you know (vs. knowing what to do.) You already have it in you. I’ll share ways to crank it up, later this week.

  11. The granddaddy of books on this subject is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. His book covers a lot of ground, articulates (mostly) timeless principles, and applies them using humorously clunky and dated anecdotes.

    I would like to read “The Likeability Factor” to see whether and how it extends Carnegie’s work. Does anyone already happen to have that answer?


  12. @ Michael

    Yes, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a timeless classic with some great principles, patterns, and practices.

    I think the big deal about The Likeability Factor is the framing of the information, as well as the depth of the exercises and techniques. It’s incredibly prescriptive when it comes to how to eliminate unfriendliness or how to share your realness, as well as several other techniques.

    From a metaphor standpoint, I think How To Win Friends is more of a cornucopia, while The Likeability Factor is more of a driver’s guide for results.

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