When it comes to success in today’s world, being the kind of person others like outranks all of the fashionable traits like competitiveness, willingness to work harder then anyone else, piling up qualifications, or blind obedience to the demands of the people at the top. Pleasant, likable people have the best chances of being hired, promoted, and rewarded. Customers are more willing to buy from those they feel good around—even if they aren’t offering the best deal. Bosses who are well-liked get better performance from their staff and face fewer people problems. Subordinates who get on well with everyone are trusted more and given better assignments.
In contrast, the kind of boss who provokes fear rather than warmth quickly creates an atmosphere that produces worse results, higher employee turnover, and more conflicts. Tough, abrasive companies trap themselves in a culture of stress and anxiety, if only because nobody is willing to cut anyone else some slack.
Communication depends on trust, and trust is quickly destroyed by those who give off negative vibes. If you deal with others by being more abrasive than the next guy, expect to get the same treatment in return. People who are disliked are the ones others either don’t communicate with, don’t include in discussions, starve of any information, or don’t bring into the loop at all.
Here are some ideas on how to make sure that others see you as a good person to have around:
- Whenever you can, act friendly and open. If you’re seen as approachable—a person with neither a hidden agenda nor any “side”— people will make sure you’re included in whatever is going on.
- Don’t be manipulative. People hate it. It makes the person who is manipulated look like a fool. It establishes you as someone dishonest. Whatever the short-term benefits appear to be, in the longer term it’s the kiss of death to sound relationships.
- Take the risk (if risk it is) and freely offer your trust to others. Don’t buy into the nonsense that people have to earn trust. If you don’t trust them first, how can they prove that they’re trustworthy? If you trust other people, they will trust you. We all like to work with people we can trust. Colleagues who get a reputation for being untrustworthy are shut out of all the informal discussions that matter.
- Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. Self-centered people aren’t attractive. If you genuinely concern yourself with being useful to others, you’ll be swiftly rewarded with their support in return.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to play a part. Others quickly sense if what they see isn’t what they’re going to get. You may have no negative intentions, but they won’t see it like that. Someone who tries to fool them in one thing is probably up to something. Better to keep a distance and avoid being taken in.
- Take time with people. Your time and attention are gifts of immense value. Give them freely. People who have time for others, regardless of how busy they are, are good to be with. Unpleasant people, who only have time for themselves, are a bore. Never underestimate the impact on others of truly giving them your full attention.
- Listen more and talk less. Good listeners find themselves in the center of almost any group because that’s where the others want them. We all like to be listened to, so we all like good listeners. Besides, you can’t learn nearly as much by talking as you can by staying quiet and listening.
- Remember your manners. Politeness counts for a great deal. For a start, it shows that you value the other person. It protects their dignity. No one likes to be treated with rudeness or condescension. Poor manners suggest arrogance, ignorance, or disdain—none of them likely to increase your standing with other people.
- Try to be good humored at all times I’m not suggesting you act like a clown, but a little good-nature and a sense of humor go a long way to making others feel at more ease with you. Have you ever heard anyone criticized for being fun to be around? Or avoided because they make people laugh?
- If all else fails in times of stress and crisis, remember this: keep a tight leash on your anger, stay calm, and forget about it afterwards. If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t say things you’ll regret. And if you don’t hold a grudge, you’ll be free to start again without a lot of bitter memories. Giving vent to your anger rarely, if ever, does more than create future problems.
Friendly people have many friends: friends who will speak up for them, help them in tough times and watch out for their best interests,and, best of all, people forgive their mistakes and overlook their weaknesses.
Today’s constant obsession with competition and winning makes it easy for people to slip into bad habits towards colleagues, customers, and subordinates. The more successful you are, the more important it becomes to act with humility and genuine warmth towards everyone.
There’s nothing some people enjoy more than taking an arrogant prima donna down several pegs.
Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and its companion site Slower Living. His recent articles on similar topics include Right Relationships and How to give yourself the best chances in life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.
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