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Monday, March 2, 2015

Habits of Likable People

As an on-air radio talent, I’m always interested to know a little bit more about “likability.” (It should be noted that the spelling of this comes into question, since you can also find a word “likeable” with the same meaning. But I digress.)

Thus, I was particularly interested in an article I found recently titled, “13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People.” It was stated that people tend to think that being likable is something beyond our control. In fact, developing certain habits can truly change perceptions about you. Or me.

From the article: “In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding (another person).”

Let me suggest a way that I perceive this plays out in media. My example is late night talk show hosts. Johnny Carson appeared to have a high “likability” factor. No one could topple his ratings. Likewise, Jay Leno had it. Then he left, and his replacement, Conan O’Brien, did not have it. David Letterman began to conquer the ratings. Leno returns. The ratings also return, and Letterman falls back into second place. Why?

This is strictly my perspective, tested only through unscientific, anecdotal feedback from friends. Jay Leno was and is an “everyman” kind of person. While a major talent, he gave off the impression of being a guy with whom you can easily connect. And, of course, he was funny. David Letterman often comes off as arrogant and cocky and above the crowd. He’s funny as well, but in a superior sense. Thus he can turn off a lot of people.

Then there’s Jimmy Fallon. This guy has it—likability. There is a boyish look and charm to his presence along with his superb talent. He has captured the hearts of the younger crowd, but I find his sense of humor, silliness, and “average man” approach to life engaging and, well, likable.

I’ve been in the studio audience for both Carson and Leno. Very different men. Carson engaged the audience only when he had to. Leno came out ahead of the show purposely to engage with the audience. Hard not to like that guy.

There is another good word for this likability of people. Winsome. From Merriam Webster: “generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence. A winsome smile.” That…is Jimmy Fallon. And Jay. And Johnny.

In the workplace, likability can deliver very strong payoffs. This is especially true in fields such as politics, media, public speaking, sales, and so forth. I will withhold my thoughts (for now) on the candidates we see emerging as presidential hopefuls. But think about that when you see them in the days ahead.

I imagine you’d also like to know those 13 traits of exceptionally likable people so you can start working on them yourself! Here are a few.
  • They are genuine. 
  • They don’t pass judgment. 
  • They are consistent. 
  • They smile. 
(You can look up the rest.)

People who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth should become more likable people as they mature. In Colossians 3:12-15 we read: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony….And always be thankful.” (NLT)

I’m working on those. But for now, I shall go out to face the world with more “childlike charm and innocence.”

Right. Who’s kidding who?

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Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

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