Are You Likeable? (Does It Matter?)

“Mommy, I don’t like you. You’re not my friend.”

I get this from my fickle 5 year old on a regular basis. My snarky reply is usually, “Good. I’m your parent, not your friend. You’re not supposed to like me.”

CEOs and business owners struggle with a similar issue on a regular basis: with employees, partners, vendors, and sometimes even customers. And here’s some interesting news: In a recent study highlighted by NPR and The Wall Street Journal, men who were rated as “highly disagreeable” on personality tests were paid an average of $9,700 more annually than men rated as “most agreeable.”

So how important is likeability (a factor that I consider one of the most fundamental in public relations, despite the study)? How much do people need to “like” you to do business with you?

Who better to start this discussion off than the king of business charisma: Dale Carnegie? If you don’t have an old highlighted and coffee-stained copy of Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People on your bookshelf, then I guarantee you’re not nearly as likeable as you could be.

At face value, his advice seems so simple that you could react with, “Well, puleeese. Like I don’t know that already.” But then you’ll realize that you’re not actually adhering the advice like you should. It’s filled with simple reminders like “Smile,” and poetic advice such as “The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely.” Reminders that will cause you to realize that you’re not always as consciously likeable as you could be.

Tough truth.

Tim Sanders, business expert and author of multiple books including The Likeability Factor, points out, “A Columbia University study by Melinda Tamkins shows that success in the workplace is guaranteed not by what or whom you know but by your popularity. In her study, Tamkins found that ‘popular workers were seen as trustworthy, motivated, serious, decisive and hardworking’…Their less-liked colleagues were perceived as arrogant, conniving and manipulative.”

For more advice on likeability, I recommend you take a look at Enchantment by Alltop.com Co-founder Guy Kawasaki and Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Both men are truly likeable business leaders who attribute much of their success to simply being nice.

I’d love your feedback on the importance of likeability. Who do you think “gets it right”? And where in business have you seen proof that “mean” leaders never win? …Or vice versa?


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