How Likeability Can Deceive You and What to Do About It
If you want to enhance your personal brand or career potential, this article will provide you with validated factors for likeability.
With the ability to become an increasingly visible public figure, many of us may feel pressured to collect likes, engagement and followers from the comfort of our homes. For those who strive daily to reach influencer status on social media, the question may arise at a certain point: What is it about me that is unlikeable? The same question may also occur for others, feeling unheard and undervalued at work.
Chasing subscribers, likes, and followers is not necessarily the most profitable use of your time as a business owner or ambitious employee. Still, somehow, many of us can easily find ourselves fixated on our own likeability or questionable lack thereof.
Does it matter? Should we be so concerned about the admiration of others? Or is it just one big likeability trap?
While playing the likeable game and seeking to gain popularity may not be the first-class ticket to success, you may need to pay attention to the research on likeability to access your position as an industry leader.
Whether you’re investigating how to enhance your personal brand or career potential, this article will provide you with validated factors behind showcasing your personality through your communication. And if you’re a brand owner, founder or entrepreneur, understanding personal and brand likeability will serve you well.
This blog post is best digested in 3 parts:
- Take the likeability test below, you can use it for yourself to determine whether you are a likeable person, or for a contact.
- Check the tips summarised below.
- Watch the vlog for more detailed training.
- Discover the hidden tricks that no one is talking about which fast-track speaking confidence & executive presence. Join the FREE Masterclass – How to Look, Sound & Feel Confident at Work.
What is Likeability?
Likeability is an individualist trait that relates to the degree by which a “person is perceived as friendly, nice, polite and pleasant to be around” (Pulles and Hartmann, 2017).
Most find positive reinforcement more desirable than aversion, hate and disgust. So, it’s not uncommon for humans to strive to be liked for the best part of our lives.
Life places us in front of a wide assortment of people with a spectrum of personality types, preferences and behaviours, especially at work and in business. Early in the playground, we discover that it’s much easier to be liked than spurned.
The magnanimous hire public relations experts to get on the front pages of glossy magazines, celebrities seek out image consultants and personal stylists, and brands pay considerable dollars to maintain a likeable reputation.
Does likeability matter more than competence at work and in business?
Is it practical and worthwhile to consider your likeability when gaining career or business momentum? Should ambitious employees or aspiring industry leaders see likeability as an ingredient for success?
Will your success be determined by likeability or competence?
Both traits have an integral role in how persuasive you are.
Consider brand influencers whose earnings arise from brand partnerships that lead to follower purchasing behaviour.
Influencers create a direct trust bridge to purchase, using likeability and attention as the springboard.
“Likeability is the dominant element when influencing other people”
(Jensen and Hyldig, 2020)
From the influencer model, we can quickly realise that successful influencers are not liked by everyone. Instead, an influencer only needs to be liked enough to create sufficient buying behaviour that brands are willing to sponsor.
Universal likeability is not possible.
But you can naturally deduce that the more likeable you are to your target, the more you can persuade them, creating a robust platform for your persona, no matter how competent you are.
On the otherhand, competence takes time to prove. A track record of consistent behaviour at a high standard wins trust, but likeability fast tracks trust, often existing at face value.
Likeability is clearly worthwhile to gain influence.
But is it authentic?
If you strive to be too likeable, will you lose authenticity?
Maybe you’re wondering if the quest for likability makes you a plastic person.
Let’s take a moment to consider authenticity.
This trait has long been admired, pondered and explored as far back as Socrates and Aristotle. Authentic communicators are perceived to demonstrate self-awareness, openness to disclose aspects of themselves and to operate consistently within their visible code of ethics and morals without attempts to mask or manipulate their persona to gain reputation.
Without manipulating our personality and adjusting our behaviour to suit every contact, is there a set of skills and traits we can work towards to have a more positive impact and influence on the people around us without altering our personality daily according to who we’re speaking with?
Are there any concrete behaviours you can demonstrate that humans generally prefer?
First, let’s take an established likeability test to provide insights into how likeability is measured with the validated Likeability Scale from Stephen Reysen. Then, we will share more information about factors that trigger likeability, according to research.
Traits that Trigger Likeability
People tend to like people who are similar to them. Research by Selfhout et al., 2010 found that people select their friends based on an inevitable requirement for mutuality, choosing friends who share a similar degree of openness, agreeableness and extraversion to themselves.
Coming back to authenticity, if you present yourself without a mask, chances are similar people will most likely like you and those dissimilar won’t.
Similarity can come down to the most innocuous things, like sharing the same hometown, enjoying the same hobby, or more complex matters, such as a preference for a similar interaction style, shared values, goals or a matching humour.
Instead of trying to mould yourself to everyone around you (that’s ingratiation), build rapport and find common ground where you can with the diverse mix of people you need to work or do business with.
Focus on the meaningful attributes for healthy professional relationships- solid values, civil behaviour, shared respect and invest in learning strategies to expand your emotional intelligence, especially if you’re a leader.
All leaders need to work on their emotional intelligence. Instead of feeling frustrated about professional interpersonal pressures, feel relieved that there are concrete actions and behaviours you can acquire that conclusively refine your emotional intelligence to handle difficult personalities and team challenges better. Research confirms that “social intelligence is positively associated with problem-solving (Rahimet al., 2018), and raising your emotional intelligence will allow you to build connection faster with contacts you struggle to like, assisting you to overcome negative biases that may be cramping rapport.
Remember, you’ll be more likely to favour people who look, dress and interact as you do. Watching for similarity and knowing the risk of positive bias can protect your judgment. Take care as a leader that you don’t cramp vision and reduce creativity by associating with only people who remind you of yourself. It may seem easier to work with people like you, but homogenous teams stifle innovation, underperform and impede growth compared to diverse teams (Rock and Grant, 2016).
Your presentation, facial symmetry and visual demeanour will impact the degree of likeability you hold. There’s a higher chance your contact will like you, succumb to your influence and even agree with you if they find you aesthetically pleasing.
Working on your look is one of the fastest ways to build influence and executive presence. It’s a fact; people are watching you, and how you dress, move your body, and even smile sends signals that either back up your impact or make you look less likeable.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; take care.
Perceiving that you find someone attractive indicates that you are more likely to be influenced by them purely based on appearance. Safeguard your critical thinking skills by getting data on the person’s competence, ethics and integrity, as studies suggest visuals easily sway us.
“Attractive male and female salespersons induced more positive attitudes and stronger intentions to purchase a product” (Reinhard et al., 2008) when they overtly stated their desire to influence their customers than less attractive salespeople.
Likewise, do due diligence to look your best, not to be shallow or disingenuous, but because it can set you up for success and provide the opportunity to gain trust to allow your contact to start to recognise you and learn more about your competence, skills and value offer.
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Speakers who showcase high levels of charisma (a measurable trait) tend to be better liked by their contacts, employees and audience (Tskhay et al., 2018). Charisma has been shown to raise ratings of affability and persuasion having direct correlation to leadership impact, follower compliance and even sales success. Counterwise, “people are rarely charismatic if they are not likeable” (ibid, 2018). Research has increasingly uncovered that charismatic leadership is a trainable skill. Charisma is a tactic that you can integrate into your communication and the best approach to take is to mindfully embed each interaction with charisma strategies.
Speaking in a clear and rhythmic manner
Listeners prefer speakers with a clear and consistent speech pace.
Eloquent and precise delivery styles tend to create a stronger emotional connection with a conversation partner (Bosker, 2017).
Furthermore, the pace of your speech (the speed and clarity) will directly correlate to how competent and persuasive people find you (Seno, 2013).
You can improve the degree by which your speech flows and connects to achieve eloquent fluency- this involves applying concrete speech techniques to optimise and clarify your self-regulation, message preparation and word-finding skills, even when nervous.
Executive Communication sessions at Cadenza assist you in enhancing your voice tone, inflection and delivery using principles from speech science and performance to harness speaking fluency so that you can increase listener ease, eliminate mumbling and fastrack polished authority and influence.
Compliments and Gifts
Compliments and gifts, when used with a motive to raise likeability, can be classed under the trait of impression manipulativeness. Compliments boost likeability and persuasion, almost doubling the “likelihood of persuading someone into doing a favour due to the increased likeability” (Jensen and Hyldig, 2020). In addition, people are less likely to do you a favour if you don’t compliment them—gift-giving functions along a similar vein.
Is it a likeability trap or a clue to expand your interpersonal skill set?
It’s pertinent to be aware of the power someone can have over our decisions through their likeable influence.
One of the best ways to gain personal influence (please do it ethically) or be more aware of the influence others may have unknowingly over you is to get savvy about perceiving likeability traits (Jensen and Vangsgaard Hyldig, 2020).
Knowing more about the research into personality, influence, charisma, and human behaviour can be a helpful way to launch your branding campaign, gain brand impact in the public marketplace and even provide an enhanced experience for your customers.
Taking it further by raising your self-awareness and interpersonal skills when speaking in critical and high-pressure situations can all but fast-track your career or business growth goals, lift your profile, and establish the way you showcase your skills, expertise and value through an impeccable and authentic communication style.
How to Look, Sound & Feel Confident at Work
If you’re curious to learn more and enhance your professional presence, I’d like to cordially invite you to a free Masterclass – How to Look, Sound and Feel Confident at Work.
THIS CLASS IS A PRIORITY-WATCH IF…
✅ You feel like your personality sometimes holds you back from speaking confidently at work
✅ You don’t know exactly what your communication at work needs, but you know it needs to change fast.
✅ You can’t pin what it is that prevents you from securing a promotion or leadership opportunity and need to increase your executive presence.
✅ Your voice tone doesn’t work for you reliably, leaving you sounding hesitant and nervous when under pressure.
✅ You admire charismatic communicators and wish you could engage and inspire the way they do.
✅ Difficult conversations at work shake your confidence and you want some strategies to control your responses with polish.
Bosker, H. R. (2017). The role of temporal amplitude modulations in the political arena: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2017, 2228-2232
Decker, Brendon W. The Authentically Horrible Person: Delineating between Likeability and Authenticity, The University of Texus
de Vries, Reinout. (2018). Three Nightmare Traits in Leaders. Frontiers in Psychology. 9. 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00871.
Dunlop, P., de Vries, R., Jolly, A. and Parker, S. (2023). Three nightmare traits (TNT) and the similarity effect determine which personality traits we like and dislike,Journal of Research in Personality, 103
Jensen, P., and Hyldig, V. (2020). The Power of Likeability. Aalborg Universitet, 2020.
Pulles, N. and Hartman, P. (2017). Likeability and its effect on outcomes of interpersonal interaction, Industrial Marketing Management, 66, 56-63
Reinhard, M., Messner, M., and Sporer, S. (2008). Explicit Persuasive Intent and its impact on Success at Persuasion – The Determining Roles of Attractiveness and Likeableness. The Journal of Consumer Psychology, 16(3) 249-259
Reysen, S. (2005). Construction of a new scale: The Reysen Likability Scale. Social Behavior and Personality, 33(2), 201-208.
Rock, D., and Grant, H. (2016). Why Diverse Teams are Smarter. Harvard Business Review
Selfhout, M., Burk, W. J., Branje, S., Denissen, J. J. A., Aken, M. A. G. v., & Meeus, W. (2010). Emerging late adolescent friendship networks and big five personality traits: a social network approach. Journal of Personality, 78(2), 509-538.
Seno, T., et al. (2013). “I speak fast when I move fast: the speed of illusory self-motion (vection) modulates the speed of utterances.” Frontiers in Psychology 4(494).
Tskhay, K.O., Zhu, R., Zou, C., & Rule, N.O. (2018). Charisma in Everyday Life: Conceptualization and Validation of the General Charisma Inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114, 131–152.
Wortman, J., and Wood, D. (2011) The personality traits of liked people, Journal of Research in Personality, 45(6), 519-528,
About the Author
Dr Sarah Lobegeiger de Rodriguez is a Keynote Speaker, Executive Speaking Coach, and Opera Singer who likes to play with words, sounds, and your impact.
Her academic background is in Music Performance, Communication Science and Speech & Language Pathology. She assists executive communication clients all over the world as a communication consultant with strong expertise in CEO, Founder and Entrepreneur communication strategies.
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.
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