Psychological Tricks for Being Likable

I’ve taken a lot of psychology classes during my time at Brown, both as requirements and out of genuine interest. My professors always love to pepper their lectures with weird fun facts about the brain and human behavior. Here are some I’ve learned over the past three years that involve getting people to like you… a valuable and applicable set of science-based fun facts. 

1. When talking to someone, use their name often

The brain is activated in a unique way when we hear our own names, as opposed to others’. Your name identifies and distinguishes you from others. So when we hear our own names, brain behavior mirrors that which occurs when we are participating in self-representational behavior, or enjoyable activities that define us. Eliciting this raw sense of identity makes the listener feel closer and more connected to the speaker. This can also be used to your advantage when complimenting someone. If the compliment contains their name, people will be less likely to feel objectified and will take the compliment as genuine. Essentially, we love hearing our own names and using them often establishes trust and friendship early on.

 2. Compliment other people

Studies have found that when you speak highly of others, people start to associate those same good qualities with you. Complimenting someone who is not there to hear it is admirable and makes you seem more genuine and warm. On the flipside, if you bash people consistently enough, people will start to associate you with those traits as well. Bottom line: avoid the gossip and people will trust you and want to spend more time with you.

 3. The importance of eye contact

One of my professors told us when meeting someone, to always make a mental note of their eye color. This is not because eye color is important, but it requires an extra moment of eye contact to register that information. Research has shown that this small effort makes a huge difference in establishing a deeper connection, as long as the eye contact does not remain long enough to come off as creepy.

 4. Ask for a small favor

The brain will go to great lengths to make sure our behavior is consistent with our beliefs. If you ask someone for a small favor that you know they will agree to, like borrowing a pen, the brain starts to rationalize why you are worthy of a favor. Even if someone doesn’t like you initially, without realizing it they will start to tell themselves you’re not so bad. Granting favors also makes us feel good about ourselves and boosts our self-esteem, serving as attributes that someone may associate with you.

 5. Mirror body language

Copying someone’s body language (to a reasonable degree!) makes you appear more likeable. We’ve evolved to rely on quick first impressions to determine group membership. Mirroring someone’s body language signals that you share similar features, which relaxes others and helps establish rapport right off the bat.

 6. Tylenol can ease the pain of social rejection

Bonus! We’re optimists here but if all else fails and you do face rejection, Tylenol can interestingly be used to ease the blow. The brain responds to social rejection and exclusion the same way it does to physical pain. Tylenol helps the brain treat this mental pain just as it does physical pain, since it can’t distinguish between the two. Other placebo effects have also been found to work when you treat the body as you would when injured.

If you want to make a lasting impression on someone and encourage (or trick) them into liking you, be sure to try out some of these tips. Considering that the brain is the center of our entire being and has evolved into a highly efficient and complex system, it’s funny how easy it is to trick it into doing exactly what we want.