If you want people to like you, make them feel good about themselves. This golden rule of friendship works every time – guaranteed! The principle is straightforward. If I meet you and make you feel good about yourself, you will like me and seek every opportunity to see me again to reconstitute the same good feeling you felt the first time we met. Unfortunately, this powerful technique is seldom used because we are continually focused on ourselves and not others. We put our wants and needs before the wants and needs of others. The irony is that people will fulfill your wants and needs in any way they can if they like you.
The simple communication techniques that follow will help you keep the focus of the conversation on the person you are talking to and make them feel good about themselves.
The Big Three
Our brains continually scan the environment for friend or foe signals. People who pose a threat give off foe cues and people who do not pose a threat give off friend cues. When you meet people, ensure that you send the right nonverbal cues that signal that you are not a threat.
The three primary friend cues are the eyebrow flash, head tilt, and smile.
The eyebrow flash is a quick up and down movement of the eyebrows. As people approach one another they eyebrow flash each other to send the message that they do not pose a threat. Since eyebrow flashes can be seen at a distance, people typically eyebrow flash as they approach others.
The head tilt is a slight tilt of the head to one side or the other. This cue signals that the approaching person is not a threat because they are exposing their carotid artery. The carotid artery is the primary source for blood to reach the brain and if disrupted, causes severe brain damage or death within minutes. Exposing the carotid artery sends the signal that the person exposing their carotid artery does not pose a threat nor does the person they are approaching pose a threat.
A smile sends the message “I like you.” When you smile at someone, they have a hard time not returning the smile. A smile triggers a small endorphin release in the brain, which promotes a feeling of well-being. In other words, when you smile, you feel good about yourself. This supports the notion that people will like you if you make them feel good about themselves.
Empathic statements keep the focus on the other person. Because people are typically focused on themselves, they feel good about themselves when others make them the center of attention. Empathic statements capture a person’s verbal message, physical status, or emotional feeling, and, using parallel language, reflects that verbal message, physical status, or emotional feeling back to that person. Avoid repeating back word for word what the person said. Parroting can sound patronizing and sometimes condescending. The basic formula for constructing empathic statements is “So you…” This basic formula keeps the focus on the other person and away from you. We naturally tend to say something to the effect, “I understand how you feel.” The other person automatically thinks, “No, you don’t know how I feel because you are not me.” The basic formula ensures that the focus of the conversation remains on the person you are talking to.
George: I’ve been really busy this week.
Tom: So you didn’t have much free time in the last few days.
Once the basic formula for empathic statements has been mastered, more sophisticated empathic statements can be constructed by dropping “So you…”
George: I’ve been really busy this week.
Tom: Free time has been at a premium in the last several days.
The most effective way to flatter people is to allow them to flatter themselves. This technique avoids the problem of appearing insincere when complimenting someone. When people compliment themselves, sincerity is not an issue and people rarely miss an opportunity to flatter themselves. Consider the following examples:
Henry: How do you manage to stay in shape with your busy schedule?
Vickie: I haven’t met one person who didn’t like your home cooked pies.
Asking a Favor
Ben Franklin observed that if he asked a colleague for a favor, the colleague liked him more than if he did not ask him for a favor. This phenomenon became known as the Ben Franklin Effect. At first glance, this seems counterintuitive. If you ask a person for a favor, you would think you would like the person more because they did you a favor; however, this is not the case. When a person does someone a favor, they feel good about themselves. The Golden Rule states that if you make a person feel good about themselves, they will like you. Asking someone to do you a favor is not all about you. It is all about the person doing you the favor. Do not overuse this technique because Ben Franklin also said, “Guests, like fish begin to smell after three days” (as do people who ask too many favors.)
Getting people to like you is easy if you follow the Golden Rule. The hard part is following the Golden Rule because we must put the interest of others above our own.
Published on July 30, 2011 by Jack Schafer, Ph.D. in Let Their Words Do the Talking