Success is related to trust…having company leadership believe you can run that complex project, making the big sale to a skeptical customer, being voted into an elected position. How is trust built? As I’ve learned over time, it’s not just about capability and competence. Rather, it’s about developing a rapport so the decision makers have confidence in you. And more important than I had originally thought, an essential component to being trusted is being liked.
This seems obvious now, but as a young sprite out of college my low emotional intelligence had me believing your success was solely based on hard work. Working harder, pushing to meet all measurable objectives, would ensure success while chit-chat and nurturing relationships were a waste of time. It did seem odd when more socially adept colleagues received the promotions I wanted, yet my stubbornness and effective denial had me continue my bad habits despite a reputation that included such descriptors as ‘aloof’ and ‘arrogant’.
Time is remarkable in helping us mature and allowing even me to see my faulty logic. It was quite ironic to acknowledge that the know-it-all habit I find so annoying in others was my typical negotiating tactic. It was humbling to realize that the scowling faces I freely complained about were rarely as off-putting as the one I saw in the mirror. And it was freeing to realize that there were relatively easy ways I could make changes to help myself. I’ve learned to talk less and listen more. I’ve found a well-timed smile can ease most tense situations. Exposing a little vulnerability does wonders for allowing an adversary to equally open up, shifting a situation from confrontation to collaboration.
Being likeable does not replace nor negate the need for hard work and professional competence; that is still an absolute requirement for your success. Rather, it is a complementary skill which enables greater and faster success through the alignment of energies with those you do business with. This article describes tactics that I have used to become more likeable, and also some new ones I look forward to trying.