One of the biggest realizations I’ve had in my career is also one of the purest: the simple fact that people are drawn to likable people. It’s human nature. People want to do business with people they like.
Yet when you look around, you’ll notice that many people don’t make it a priority to learn the habits of likable people. They overlook honing the emotional intelligence needed to build great relationships and attract new levels of success.
Whether interacting with customers, vendors, partners, or employees, we can all make great strides in our personal relationships and career by raising our emotional intelligence (EQ).
Here are five traits shared by people with high emotional intelligence.
1. They attract more opportunities
There is a direct correlation between the development of my emotional intelligence and the number of opportunities that have come my way. When you build better relationships and come across as likable, people tend to share more information with you, make introductions on your behalf, and invite you into new opportunities. It’s been a big source of my success over the last five years.
2. They receive the benefit of the doubt
If you treat people well, you’ll get the benefit of the doubt. I’ve experienced this positive outcome in my own business life.
One time, while negotiating with a sizable company, we made an honest mistake which, frankly speaking, could have been interpreted as deliberate. But my counterpart quickly told me, “Andrew, I know you’re a good person. I know you meant no harm. We’re all good.”
The trust I had earned by building a meaningful relationship with this person gave me the benefit of the doubt–and an opportunity to move forward without any hiccups.
3. They are effective leaders
By building the soft skills associated with likable leaders, chances are you’ll find yourself earning greater respect, handling challenges with poise, leading your team through change more effectively, and communicating more persuasively.
4. They possess long-term vision
People with high emotional intelligence understand that entrepreneurship is a journey, and that success is a process. They are better able to handle the ups and downs of everyday life as a business owner. Emotionally strong entrepreneurs are able to stay focused on the long term and “stay in the middle,” while others with low EQ are often hurt by their impulses and unchecked emotions.
5. They can read people (and situations) better
People with high EQ foster their natural curiosity, asking questions–and then listening–to get to know people and situations better. By developing these traits, we can give ourselves a leg up to negotiate for better outcomes, build stronger teams, and neutralize any toxic relationships that are counterproductive to success.
Putting it all together
Many theorists have built on the idea that EQ is more important than IQ, especially when it comes to achieving our goals. Just as you can stretch your mind to learn more, knowing how to relate with others and interact effectively are skills you can develop. For as much time as you focus on thinking and your mind, focus on your emotional intelligence. Together, they will help you enjoy a new level of success.
There are a lucky few born with natural charisma – masters of working a room in seconds with handshakes and laughs. Candidly, I was not the most likable person in the room during my late teens and early twenties.
I admired the way likable people made me feel and how others people gravitated toward them. It hit me that our greatest gift is the way we make people feel. I wanted to learn the secrets of their success.
Starting in 2011, I started learning how to be more likable. The most effective thing I did was notice the behaviors and traits of the most likable people – and then adopt them as mine own.
Here’s a list of 39 things that the most likable people do on a daily basis – so you can do the same.
The 39 traits of likable people
- They actively listen.
- They make a great first impression.
- They’re accountable for their mistakes.
- They do what they say they’ll do.
- They treat everyone with respect.
- They ask questions instead of making assumptions.
- They laugh.
- They live for themselves, not to please others.
- They follow-up.
- They smile.
- They remember your name.
- They offer to help.
- They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
- They send thank you notes.
- They encourage others.
- They speak slowly and confidently
- They don’t judge you.
- They apologize.
- They forgive, but do not forget.
- They don’t speak for you.
- They know how to give a compliment.
- They know how to accept a compliment.
- They tell the truth.
- They celebrate others.
- They have good body language.
- They don’t criticize others.
- They give you their undivided attention.
- They don’t make you feel defensive.
- They don’t take credit for other people’s success.
- They maintain good eye contact.
- They let you do most of the talking.
- They know how to have a tough conversation.
- They admit when they’re wrong.
- They are consistent.
- They don’t interrupt.
- They’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
- They don’t exaggerate.
- They can laugh at themselves.
- They’re optimistic, without being unrealistic.
This is a way of life
Take notice that these behaviors are all about being a good person and making others feel good. They aren’t tactics and tricks. They’re a way of life. You will see dramatic change when you make the necessary effort to practice these behaviors and truly adopt them into your daily life.
Putting this into action
Meaningful change is achieved when you consistently make small improvements over time. My results came from focusing on one or two of these behaviors at a time, and practicing them in my interactions until they became a habit. Only then would I move to the next one.
Learning to be likable takes time, self awareness, and practice to authentically mold these behaviors into a natural routine. There are no shortcuts.
If you don’t quite understand these items, then do more research. The two books that helped me the most were “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Crucial Conversations” by Al Switzler, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, and Ron McMillan.
The most likable people avoid the fastest conversation killer: Interrupting. I’ve written about other secrets to being a better conversationalist, but not interrupting produces the quickest results.
My life quickly changed for the better when I stopped interrupting. Daily conversations became enjoyable, negotiations became easier and my network grew faster than ever – as people were happy to make favorable introductions to their contacts.
Here’s why interrupting is so toxic and how you can become more likable by breaking the habit.
It makes people defensive
When you interrupt someone, you tell them that your voice is more important than theirs. Naturally, they feel defensive and either fight back or become silent. It’s a lose-lose situation.
I didn’t realize how much I stifled other people in daily conversations. My interruptions made conversation impossible because the other person had to fight to voice their opinion or gave up trying because I wouldn’t let them finish.
If you want to be likable, make others feel good by not making them feel defensive.
It disrupts the flow of the conversation
If a conversation is like a dance, interrupting is like stepping on your partner’s foot. It disrupts the entire rhythm and it’s hard to recover.
Likable people avoid breaking the rhythm by not talking out of turn, asking an ill-timed question or finishing the other person’s sentences. They give their partner the space to flow and improvise – supporting them with active listening and genuine interest.
It creates an unsafe environment
When you talk less and listen more, it creates a safe space for others to share. They will trust you because there’s no threat of interruption. People will share their ideas, feelings and thoughts because you’ve proven yourself patient enough to listen.
Patient listening establishes an unspoken bond of trust between you and the other person – and you’ll both benefit from a good conversation.
It makes them interrupt you in return
It’s the golden rule at work. When I stopped interrupting others, they stopped interrupting me.
When you speak, you want to be heard completely. If I don’t interrupt you, you won’t feel like you didn’t make your point – and interrupt me in return. You won’t feel resentful, and you’ll listen patiently when it is my turn to speak.
How to stop
First, pay attention to when you feel the urge to interrupt. Second, bite your tongue when you feel that urge. Don’t let go until two seconds after the person’s last word. This way you’ll know they’re done talking instead of taking a breath before their next sentence.
I know it sounds a little silly. But it works. It’s how I kicked the habit.
If you need some motivation, consider this quote from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, the bible on how to be likable:
“If you want to know how to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe: Never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself. If you have an idea while the other person is talking, don’t wait for him or her to finish: bust right in and interrupt in the middle of a sentence.”
We live in a world inundated with interruptions. Not being one of them will make you stand out. It may sound contradictory, but it’s true: By talking less and listening more you will leave others with a lasting impression and you’ll enjoy all the benefits of being a more likable person. Avoid interrupting people and you’ll enjoy more of the benefits of being a likable person.