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Be Likeable! Be Trustworthy! Then You Will be Persuasive.

They liked to like people, therefore people liked them. Joan of Arc, 1896, bk.2 ch.16.

Proverb: Catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

For decades, I subscribed to the mantra: You don’t have to like me to be on my team. You do not have to like me to be my boss. You do not have to like me to be persuadable. Today, I am persuaded otherwise.

If you are liked, if you are trustworthy, you will be persuasive.

Author John Maxwell*: John Maxwell is a Minister turned Management Guru. He has authored approximately 62 books. So, I was reading Thinking for a Change. One chapter is entitled, “How to Get People to Like You.” He listed six behaviors to get people to like you:

-Be genuinely interested in other people.

-Smile. Be inviting.

-Remember the person’s name.

-Be a good listener.

-Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

-Make the other person feel important.

Strikingly, I was already teaching all of these behaviors in my negotiation, mediation, dispute resolution, conflict management and communication classes! I had simply not packaged it into the frame of “like.” (This is an excellent example of the Persuasion Law of Verbal Packaging as included in the negotiation books of Kurt Mortensen.

Further, I was struck by his introduction for the chapter: During the good times, people work with those they like; during the bad times, people work with people they like.*

As an independent contractor, I want the work during the bad and good times.

So with the “good times/bad times” quote and his six behaviors, Maxwell persuaded me that I needed to change my approach and I want people to like me in my profession, in my workplace, in my neighborhood, in my Home Ownership Association, et al.

Author Dale Carnegie**:. So one day, ten years ago, I picked up the latest version of the 1937 book: How to Win Friends and Influence People Author Dale Carnegie. I have been aware of this book for decades but I had assumed that Carnegie was “a wheeler dealer” negotiator which was not resonate with my “goal oriented” approach. As I read this book for the first time, I realized my assumption was erroneous. His negotiation approach was similar to mine! And so I read on.

I discovered Part II: Make People Like You. He outlined six behaviors to persuade people to like you:

-Be a good listener.

-Smile. Be inviting….

These behaviors were exactly the same as in Maxwell’s book. So, Maxwell’s book was written in 2007; Carnegie, first edition, 1937. The take-away? People’s behaviors may not change that much over the decades.

Persuasion Scale: To further persuade you that “liking and trusting” are important to being an effective persuasion, imagine a chart. On the vertical is how the Persuadee feels about the Persuader: don’t like, neutral, like, trust. On the horizontal is how you present the information:

-Do you tell?

-Do you show?

-Do you tell and show?

-Do you involve the Persuadee?

So, per the imagined chart, you want to be in the upper right hand corner meaning you want the Persuadee to at least like you, and better, trust you. Second, you want to involve them in the presentation. Where you don't want to be as a Persuader is the bottom, left where the Persuadee either does not like you or is neutral about you. Further merely "telling" or lecturing them usually is not effective. Simply showing is not that effective. Even "telling and showing" does not do the trick. What does? Involving them in the presentation; ask questions, begin a dialog and summarize.

How to be likeable? Dr. Travis Bradberry*** is with the California School of Professional Psychology and outlines behaviors to persuade folks to like you.

1. Be genuine exuding honesty and confidence.

2. Ask thoughtful question. Listen. Clarify.

3. Don’t seek attention. Be appreciative and humble.

4. Be consistent. Be reliable.

5. Use the body language to draw others in.

6. Leave a strong first impression, especially during the first seven seconds.

7. Greet people by name.

8. Smile, be positive.

Conclusion. Former Congressperson Barney Frank reveals in his book, Frank**** that he loved being a curmudgeon, the devil’s advocated sort of approach, but once he got in Congress, he realized this approach was not working. He was not persuading fellow Congress Members to co-sign his bills. He realized to persuade them to get on board, he needed to be “Likeable.” So that is one key to successful persuasion. If you are at least likeable, if not trustworthy, you will be super persuasive.

An Aside: In the buddy cop homicide Netflix (TV) drama Battle Creek, Josh Duhamel playing the new suave FBI Director-Battle Creek, MI, exudes “likability” resulting in his gaining much information from the good and the bad people including the Medical Director in contrast to his local detective counterpart played by Dean Winters who eshews likeability and the “soft skills” making his gleaning information a bit more difficult. :-)

In John Maxwell’s book: Winning With People he rephrases the good times/bad times quote: All things being equal, people will work with people they like; All things not being equal, they still will.

** Dale Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer, and the developer of courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.

*** Award-winning coauthor of the #1 best selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, as well as The Seagull Manager and the cofounder of TalentSmart®. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes…Bradberry is with the California School of Professional Psychology.


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