As I write this, I have just finished watching 21-year-old golf phenom Jordan Spieth win his second straight major tournament for 2015. Besides his obvious physical and mental talent on the golf course, what strikes me most about Spieth is his maturity and relative ease under the glare of the media spotlight. During interviews he appears humble, pleasant and self-effacing. In other words, he comes across as being a likeable person.
Unlike some other athletes and celebrities who have a reputation for being the polar opposite of likeable (ornery, antagonistic or full of, um, braggadocio), Spieth is likely to win over many more fans both on and off the course over the next couple of decades. And while his livelihood does not directly depend on being likeable, it certainly won’t hurt his public image (and will therefore increase his marketability with sponsors).
All of this got me wondering about the importance of being likeable in an industry such as meeting and event planning. How many times have we worked with someone who has all the management and business talent in the world but is just too much of a pain the behind to want to spend any more time with than is absolutely necessary? Most of us want to work with people who are friendly, with whom we have something in common, who can understand the challenges we might be dealing with and who are coherent in their words and behaviour. And while I am sure most of us would say that we’d score high in any of those categories, wouldn’t it be nice if we could improve our business and personal relationships by simply understanding and learning a few strategies for becoming more likeable?
That’s where author and business relationship expert Tim Sanders comes in. His terrific book, The Likeability Factor, is chock full of great tips and advice on how you can take your business or personal relationships to the next level by raising what he calls your “L-Factor.” Naturally, I’d encourage anyone in the meetings industry to read the entire book, but here is just a sampling of how some of Sanders’ ideas might be helpful to meeting and event planners.
Friendliness: This is often the first thing we consider when we meet someone new. It’s defines the borders of likeability. A dictionary definition from Merriam Webster says that friendliness means expressing a “kindly interest and goodwill” or “serving a beneficial or helpful purpose.” I think it’s safe to say that we all recognize when someone is being friendly or unfriendly. The biggest upside of friendliness is that if you believe someone likes you, you’re more willing to like them back and a real friendship becomes a possibility.
Relevance: This element of likeability is all about knowing how important the other person will be in your life. The fact is, even if people are friendly towards you, you may have little reason to care about them if they have little significance to your day-to-day life. Relevance can also be the extent to which the other person shares some kind of common ground with your own interests, needs and wants. When someone connects with one of your principal interests or needs, their relevance to your life skyrockets. On the other hand, when people connect with a minor or passing interest or need, they are likely to be less relevant. Relevance is of course strongest when your business or product connects with a person’s wants and needs. If you have a skill or offer a service that will help someone complete a project, your relevance to that person rises. This so-called “value proposition” can create a positive vision of you in other people’s minds and boost your “L-factor.”
Empathy: If a person passes the first two likeability “tests” and is determined to be both friendly and relevant, you might start to wonder if that person is truly able to understand you. Empathy plays a key role in overall emotional intelligence and is one of the major factors in helping us to identify with and understand another person’s situation, feelings, and motives. Empathy is most easily summed up as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s figurative shoes and understand his or her feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. Empathy can boost likeability by delivering several emotional or psychological benefits, including an improved sense of personal worth and self esteem. After a conversation with an empathetic person, you probably feel more appreciated and understood, which can go a long way in improving relationships.
Realness: Simply put, a “real” person is someone who is perceived as genuine, honest, and authentic. Real people know who they are and do not display any pretense. They are most often high-integrity individuals who know their values and behave accordingly. Occasionally, it can be easier to recognize a lack of realness than its actual presence. A few ways that someone’s lack of realness can lower his or her likeability is by lying, hypocritical behaviour and insincerity.
Although it might not be wise to try to please everyone all of the time, I’m sure many of us could benefit from some of the above strategies for becoming a more likeable person. The end result may just mean more business and improved relationships. And don’t be shy – include your comments below for how raising your L-Factor has helped your business.