It’s safe to say that everyone wants to be liked. But, try as we might to ensure that those around us actually enjoy our company, we all do things that can make us difficult to be around, at least some of the time.
According to human-behavior experts ranging from likability coaches to therapists, there are some universal qualities that tend to rub people the wrong way. Here are seven things you may be doing that will make your presence less appealing to others.
1. You talk about yourself a little too much.
It's natural to want to share information about your life in conversation. In fact, research shows that most people's favorite thing to talk about is his- or herself. According to a 2012 Harvard study, people spend 30 to 40 percent of conversations talking about themselves. (An earlier study put the figure even higher at 60 percent.)
But even though we all do it, giving into this tendency can really turn others off. "Less likable people talk a lot, especially about themselves," says communication consultant and speaker Carrie Sharpe, who helps people strengthen their relationships by improving their communication skills. "They monopolize conversations. No one likes people who won't let anyone else get a word in."
2. You're a bad listener.
Whether you dominate conversations with soliloquies about yourself — or just tend to tune out when someone else is speaking — seeming disinterested when other people talk to you is another unlikable quality. But it’s also quite common: Likability coach Sofia Santiago says that most people allow their minds to wander more than 50 percent of the time when someone is talking to them. “We tend live in the past or in the future, rather than being in the moment,” she explains. Yet it’s the people who are truly present who tend to be more likable.
Being able to really listen to others is an extremely important quality for forging relationships, whether platonic or romantic. So, instead of spending conversation time thinking about what you’re going to say next, be an active listener who shows a true interest in what another person is saying.
3. You always need to get your way.
Overall, people tend to like others who are flexible and easy-going more than those who are confrontational or quick to argue, says therapist Lauren Cook, a professional speaker and life coach on the psychology of happiness. “People often feel uncomfortable when someone is combative and finds disagreement over menial things like whether there are two clouds in the sky or four,” she says.
Of course, you don’t need to be a total pushover in order for people to like you (in fact, being too conforming can be annoying), but likable people tend to offer their opinions without shutting others down, notes life coach Erica B. McCurdy.
“When deciding where to go for dinner, for instance, a likable person might offer up a suggestion. But if the group decides to go somewhere else, [he or she] would be more than willing to go along with the group because sharing the experience of community is more important than being the one who gets to pick the place,” she explains. “In conversation and discussion, a likable person would share thoughts on a controversial topic while still being able to leave the issue open for alternative points of view.”
4. You don't take pride in your appearance.
Beauty may only be skin-deep, however, when it comes to being liked, the effort you put into your appearance can make or break how others perceive you. In fact, people who make more of an attempt to present themselves also tend to be more likeable: A study from Harvard University found that makeup used to enhance a woman’s attractiveness boosted their level of likability, attractiveness and trustworthiness.”
While it might seem superficial, looks do matter: Taking pride in your appearance helps you be more physically and psychologically appealing to others,
5. You're too polished.
You might wonder if you're reading this right but, yes, there's a line between taking pride in your appearance and displaying too much pride. Even though being attractive can make you better liked, being too put-together can come off as insincere or phony — making you less appealing to others. “We find perfection annoying,” Cook says. “We love someone who can be a little goofy and isn’t afraid to self-deprecate a bit.”
It all comes down to authenticity, therapist Bridgette Price, M.S.W., says. “We tend to be drawn to people who are the ‘real deal,’ where what you see is what you get,” she explains. “Not only do we feel more relaxed around people who are down to earth, but authenticity also indicates to us that we don’t need to be concerned about manipulative, pretentious or self-serving behavior.”
6. You complain too much.
No one likes being around someone who’s a total downer. Whether you're constantly bringing up an ex who wronged you or lamenting about your boring job, being negative simply fosters more negativity. While you don’t need to make all the lemons in your life into lemonade for other people’s sakes, you may want to curb the pessimism to avoid being someone that makes others feel drained after hanging with you.
Even if you don’t habitually cry out “Woe is me” in conversation, others can pick up on a negative aura without you even saying a word. “When you have negative thoughts, your body language and microexpressions — which last approximately a 25th of a second — show it even when you don’t notice,” Santiago says. Giving off a bad vibe is enough to make people like you less.
7. You put others down—perhaps without even knowing it.
Being condescending is clearly a negative quality that won’t win you any points with others. But you may not realize you’re patronizing or dismissing someone in the moment.
For instance, if someone mentions that she likes a certain book — and you found it to be superficial — the condescending response would be: “For people that are not familiar with the topic, I can see why there might be an appeal. I was hoping for something a little more advanced.” In this way, says clinical psychologist Dr. Jon McCaine, you’re showing that there’s a scale (of intelligence, in this case), and you’re clearly on the higher end.
“Being condescending prevents a sense of mutual value because one individual is seeking to establish superiority of status in some manner that suggests the other holds lesser value on some scale,” McCaine says. No one likes to be made to feel lesser than, even if that wasn’t your intention.
What Do YOU Think?
Can you see any of these qualities in yourself? Was anything on this list surprising? What do you do to make yourself more likable? Having read this, will you change your behavior at all? What are qualities that you find unappealing?