This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Laws Of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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How does making people like you work? Are there certain techniques or strategies to get people to like you?
Making people like you isn’t as difficult as it sounds. There are a few clear strategies that can ensure people like you and have a positive impression of you.
Read to find out the best strategies for making people like you.
Making People Like You: Confirm Their Self-Opinions
To influence people, you need to get them to drop their defenses by making them feel validated and confirming their self-opinion. People can think whatever they want about themselves, but they don’t know that it’s true until someone else confirms it. When they get confirmation, they relax and feel secure, which allows them to stop worrying about themselves and think about other things, such as whatever you’re trying to convince them of.
When you come up against someone with a low self-opinion, you still need to validate this opinion. Be empathetic about how difficult their lives are. Only once they feel validated can you start convincing them out of their low self-opinion.
If you try to get people to do what you want in any way other than validating them—for example, by pleading or making them feel guilty—you might get what you want once, but they’ll resent you and be unlikely to help in the future. And if you always try to influence people in these ineffective ways, you become in danger of thinking that everyone in the world is indifferent.
There are five strategies for confirming someone’s self-opinion and making people like you:
Strategy #1: Listen Deeply
In a conversation, everyone is more interested in their internal monologue than what the other person is saying. We’re partly listening, but we’re also partly thinking about what to say next or even zoning out. The best way to improve your listening skills is to motivate yourself to be interested in the other person. Think of them as a mystery—you already know what’s going in your head, but you don’t know what’s going on in theirs, which should interest you.
Listening deeply serves two purposes:
- Getting the other person to reveal information about themselves (such as their insecurities) that you can later use to influence them
- Making them feel good about themselves so they like you and want to continue interacting with you
Once you’re listening deeply, encourage the other person to talk by:
- Steering the conversation towards topics they’re interested in. Look for nonverbal cues to find out what these topics are—if someone gets more animated when a subject comes up, they’re probably interested in it.
- Discussing topics that almost everyone is interested in—family, childhood, causes, and work.
- Repeating something they’ve mentioned back to them. Rephrase and personalize it to your point of view.
- Nodding and making eye contact as they chat
- Carefully regulating your questions. The other person will close up if they feel like they’re being interrogated.
Strategy #2: Manage Insecurities
By listening deeply, you’ll have learned what people’s insecurities are and it’s one step toward making people like you. To soothe them:
- Be positive when people ask for your opinion. Everyone wants to hear positive comments.
- Don’t trigger any insecurities. Be careful of both verbal and nonverbal triggers.
- Don’t immediately ask for anything. Interact with and flatter people during a few interactions before making a request.
- Flatter the qualities and insecurities people are uncertain about. If people don’t already have an idea of their value in something, this is where they need reassurance.
- Get other people to pass along your flattery. This makes it seem like you genuinely believe what you said, because you didn’t expect it to make it to the original person.
- Flatter people for things you actually like about them. Be subtle, natural, and sincere. Don’t use absolutes or go over the top with praise.
- Flatter people for effort and things they’ve earned. (Don’t flatter people for talent—people don’t earn talent, they’re born with it, so praising someone for something they haven’t earned can feel belittling.)
- Occasionally give mild criticism along with your praise, which will make the praise feel more genuine.
- For example, you might tell someone you like their painting, but one corner could use a bit of improvement.
- Don’t flatter people with low self-opinion. It will seem like you’re lying.
- Don’t flatter people for things they know they’re bad at. It’ll be clear you’re lying.
- For example, if someone is objectively bad at soccer, don’t try to tell them they’re good at soccer.
- Don’t flatter your superiors—just agree with them. Flattering people above you is too heavy-handed.
If you do flattery right, making people like you is easy.
Strategy #3: Use Empathy to Set the Mood
As we learned in the empathy section, people’s moods are contagious. Go into interactions relaxed and expecting to enjoy yourself, which will influence the other person to feel the same way. There are two ideal moods to project:
- Indulgence—be nonjudgmental and empathetic.
- Rapport—create a warm feeling by making others laugh or sharing stories.
You can also create mood by touching people, which makes people like you even if they don’t know why. Touch only arms or hands and don’t make eye contact at the same time, or the contact will feel sexual.
Finally, since expectations are expressed nonverbally, you can try thinking of a person as you want them to be. For example, imagine people as generous if you want something from them.
Strategy #4: Validate the Global Self-Image Qualities
As we learned at the beginning of Part 1, everyone likes to believe they’re autonomous, intelligent, and good.
To validate the autonomy element of self-image, create the impression that people are choosing to do whatever it is you want. There are three ways to do this:
Option #1: Frame the action as desirable by making it seem rare or enjoyable.
- For example, in the novel Tom Sawyer, Tom gets in trouble for fighting, and his aunt makes him whitewash a fence as punishment. When his friend Ben comes by, Tom pretends to be interested in the fence by making his body language attentive. He tells Ben that the job only needs to be done every few years and is important—the fence is right in front of the house and all the neighbors see it, so it has to look good. Ben wants to try and Tom refuses, making the job feel more desirable, and he only gives Ben the brush in exchange for an apple.
Option #2: Leverage people’s competitiveness. Many people can’t stand to be beaten or to see someone else do something they could do better.
- For example, director Billy Wilder wanted Marlene Dietrich to star in his film A Foreign Affair, but she refused because the film had to do with the Nazis. The two were friends and Wilder told Dietrich he’d found two other actresses and wanted her opinion. Both were talented actresses but inappropriate for the role, and Dietrich hated their performances so much she volunteered to take the role herself.
Option #3: Give small gifts. Small gifts make people feel deserving. Large gifts look like bribery, and even if someone is desperate for the gift, they’ll still feel suspicious.
To validate people’s intelligence, tread carefully when you have opposing ideas:
- Don’t disagree with the other person. This makes it seem like you think you know better, which will just make the other person defensive and stubborn.
- Or, disagree but let the other person change your mind. This will make them feel both smart and influential.
- Present your idea as something you’re just thinking about—you don’t have an opinion on it yet.
- Ask someone for advice.
- Agree with the other person’s point of view.
- Let others win trivial battles, which will give you leverage in larger battles. For example, when Pierre-Augustin Caron De Beaumarchais finished The Marriage of Figaro, the French king had to approve the manuscript before it was performed. The king didn’t approve and tried to censor it. Beaumarchais put together a group of well-respected politicians and academics to help him edit the manuscript, and he promised to implement all their suggestions. This group only suggested adding small jokes or costume changes, and Beaumarchais did include them. This flattered the group, so when the censors asked for larger changes, the group defended him.
To validate people’s opinion of their own goodness:
- Frame your request as part of a cause.
- For example, if you own a local business, suggest that buying from you not only gives people possessions but also helps the community.
- Let other people spread the word about what you want.
- For example, if you have an open position and want candidates, let the opening spread through word of mouth, which will make it seem popular and social.
- Use language carefully. Use words like “team member” instead of “staffer.”
- Make a mistake in front of someone. This will make them feel superior, especially if you ask them to forgive you.
- Bring up nice things they’ve done previously. This will remind them that they’re good people. (Don’t bring up things that you’ve helped them with previously. This reminds them that they once depended on you, and people prefer to feel independent.)
- Show that you have a high opinion of them. This will make them feel like they have to meet this opinion.
Strategy #5: Redirect Resistance
Some people won’t respond to any of the strategies above, particularly if they have a low self-opinion. These people are often rebellious and won’t take advice from anyone, even if they asked for help.
To redirect their resistance:
Option #1: Push strong emotions in new directions. Strong resistance to something can transform into strong motivation for something else.
- For example, when a teenager was caught dealing drugs, he was suspended from school but still had to do his work at home. His mother, on the advice of a therapist, told her son that the principal was trying to sabotage him—the principal believed that in-class learning was the only way to succeed, and the principal was trying to make the son fail. She recommended her son not work too hard, because if he proved the principal wrong, the principal would be embarrassed. The boy was so angry at the principal that he was determined to embarrass him and worked hard at his homework, which was exactly what his mother wanted.
Option #2: Quote them. This makes them feel like they’re doing what they want to.
- For example, one of therapist Milton Erickson’s patients was a husband who wanted a “friendly divorce” from his wife. Erickson didn’t think he actually wanted a divorce—he thought the husband and wife weren’t connecting because they were both insecure about sex—but agreed with the husband that divorce was the correct course of action. Erickson recommended that the man take some of the following steps to start the divorce process: Have a last “friendly” kiss, a last “friendly” glass of champagne, and so on. The couple ultimately stayed together.
Option #3: Let them maintain their stubbornness. When people oppose something, they’re often motivated by fear of losing control. Provide a way for them to make a change but maintain control.
- For example, a pawnbroker’s son wanted his father to practice Buddhism. His father thought religion was a waste of time and always claimed to be too busy with his business to pray. When the son asked Zen master Hakuin for help, Hakuin offered to pay the pawnbroker for every prayer he said. This was fine with the pawnbroker because he didn’t have to change his opinions about Buddhism—praying was just a way to make more money. After a couple of weeks, though, the pawnbroker realized he enjoyed praying and stopped accepting payment.
Option #4: Agree with them. If people’s main opposition to doing what you want is that they want to be rebellious, if you tell them to carry on, they’re doing what you want. They have to do something different to oppose you, usually the thing you wanted all along.
- (Shortform example: A mother wanted her daughter to stop staying out late, so she told her daughter not to be home before 10. If the daughter stayed out, she would be obeying her mother, so she came home early instead.)
Now that you know the best strategies for making people like you, you can put them to work and build strong relationships.
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- Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
- How you behave differently when you're in a group
- Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life