This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What makes a person likeable? What do you think likeable people do differently?
According to Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, people generally like people who are “comfortable”—others feel at ease in their presence. Another important factor in being likeable is the ability to make people feel they are important, boosting their ego in some way.
Keep reading for Peale’s advice on how to be likeable.
We All Want to Be Liked
We all want to be liked and socially accepted—it’s a fundamental longing. Psychologist William James once said, “One of the deepest drives of human nature is the desire to be appreciated.”
Being liked is more important than just boosting your ego. It’s important to your success in life and in relationships. People who are isolated, with no support system, may end up feeling not wanted or needed—negative emotions that can even lead to illness.
Striving after popularity won’t work, and no matter what you do, you won’t get everyone to like you. It’s human nature. Even the Bible addresses this, saying that if the disciples went to a village and tried their best but still couldn’t get along with people, they were to leave and “shake off the very dust from your feet.” In other words, you won’t get along with everybody and you shouldn’t let it bother you too much.
Though you won’t get everyone to like you, there are ways to make yourself into a person who gets along well with others, even if you’re not very social or are considered “difficult.”
A “Comfortable Person” Is Well Liked
No matter what your life has been like, you can become a well-liked, popular person. Becoming well-liked is a skill that can be developed.
First, be easygoing and natural, someone other people can be around without a sense of strain. Peale calls this being a “comfortable person.” When you’re too reserved and stiff, people don’t know how to act or what to say around you.
To do this, Christianity suggests developing one trait: a sincere interest in and love for people. Getting other people to like you is simply a reflection of you liking them. When you can develop this trait, other positive traits will develop.
If you’re not a “comfortable person,” look inward. Don’t assume people don’t like you because something is wrong with them. Assume the trouble lies with you. Be honest about less than attractive personality traits and know they can be changed.
Peale once dealt with a good-looking, impressive man who found that others simply didn’t like him and he wanted to know why. Peale found the man conveyed a critical attitude—an air of superiority that was off-putting. He was a bit egotistical. Since he was being critical and unpleasant about other people in his thoughts, he wasn’t able to be warm to others.
Though at first baffled by this assessment, the man practiced the suggested methods of developing love for others and succeeded. One method he tried was making a list of people he met during the day. He was to picture each person and think a kind thought about them, then pray for them. Praying is particularly important because when you pray for someone else, you create a better understanding of that person and want the best for them.
For example, he had never noticed the elevator man in his apartment house, but after this exercise he took the time to get to know him. After practicing interest in and love for others, he found that the world is full of interesting people, and he’d never noticed it before.
To get other people to like you, you have to like them, and this isn’t always easy. Some people are a lot less likeable than others. Understand that when you get to know anyone, even someone who isn’t likeable on the surface, you’ll find admirable and loveable qualities.
Build Up Someone Else’s Ego
Another factor in getting people to like you is to build up their ego. Everyone wants to feel important. Think about how you feel when someone deflates your ego; you feel wounded and disrespected, and you won’t like that person very much.
Imagine someone telling a joke to a group of people. Everyone laughs, except you. You tell everyone you heard that joke a month ago. Nobody in that group is going to like you much; you deflated a person’s moment and took away their joy.
When you build people up, they’ll feel respected and they’ll love you for it. If someone contributes to your self-respect and self-worth, they are helping you be your best self, and you’ll be grateful toward them.
Build up as many people as you can; let them know the possibilities you see in them and the genuine love you have for them. They’ll reward you with their own respect and affection.
10 Practical Rules for Getting Others to Like You
Here are ten suggestions on how to be more likeable:
- Remember other people’s names. When you don’t, it will seem to that person that you’re not very interested in them.
- As explained above, be a “comfortable person,” someone who is easy to be around.
- Become relaxed and easygoing so unexpected things don’t rattle you.
- Don’t be a know-it-all; instead, be natural and humble.
- Develop the trait of being interesting; this way people will feel they’re getting a lot out of their interaction with you.
- Figure out the less-pleasant aspects of your personality and work on them.
- Try to heal any problems you have with others.
- Practice the skill of liking others; eventually you’ll be able to do so genuinely.
- Interact with others. Congratulate others on their achievement, or offer support.
- Offer strength to others, and they will give positive feelings toward you in return.
Exercise: Becoming Well-Liked
To get others to like you, you have to like them.
Think of a person in your life you don’t get along with very well. As Peale advises, look inward. What trait do you have that may be impeding this relationship?
Building up someone else’s ego is one method to boost likeability. What are some honest things you could say to this person that might generate feelings of appreciation toward you?
One method to build up positive feelings for others is to pay attention to the people you see during the day. Is there a person you see often that you have never taken the time to get to know? What about this person can you sincerely appreciate or be interested in?
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Positive Thinking summary :
- That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
- The practical techniques of applied Christianity
- How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them