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Many years ago my manager said to another program director, in the hallway in full voice in front of others, “You have to do something. Nobody on your team likes you.” Of course my friend was horribly hurt and embarrassed, and even worse, left to figure out on her own what that meant; what made her unlikeable was never explained, and suggestions for more effective behavior were never presented.


What makes someone likeable? Is that the same as nice, effective, trustworthy? Or are all those things part of being likeable?


Richard Feloni in a May 22 Business Insider blog defined likeability as habits that make others want to go out of their way to help you. And if managing is getting things done through others, then being highly likeable would be a great asset to management. Our own experience tells us that is true; when we like people we do more to help them than we might for others we don’t like, or worse, don’t respect.


The habits I find most interesting are those relating to communications; they help maintain positive relationships and reduce the potential for disagreements. Several of the habits relate to speaking and several others to listening.


First, likeable people are careful when they speak. They speak in a friendly tone and smile while speaking. They are careful about how much they say and judicious about what they say; they realize that not everything they think needs to be spoken. They are also honest in their praise, generous but not excessive.


Second, likeable people know how to listen carefully. They pay close attention to others, they are patient, and they keep an open mind to new ideas or opposing opinions. In addition, while they listen they are also expressing interest in the other person and getting to know him or her better. I know someone who is capable of this level at attention, and the feeling it generates in the speaker is almost elation. It’s almost as if the person speaking is the only person in the room right then. Those moments when that listener’s eye contact is unwavering and the smile expresses genuine interest in what you are saying are gifts of attention and deep regard, and they make a difference for a long time after they have ended.


Go to for a list of all 14 habits of likeable people and rate yourself on each one. Not everyone is likeable on all 14 elements all the time, but knowing a bit about a few of these habits can help us understand where we might need to spruce up our skills.


Some people will say they don’t care if they are likeable, that being likeable isn’t why they work or that people don’t need to like them, just respect them. And some people don’t even care about respect; they want you to be afraid of them and just get the work done.


Well, yes, people don’t have to like you to do the work, but wouldn’t it be easier if you were seen as a likeable person with whom people wanted to work and for whom they might exert a bit of extra effort? And the nice thing about these habits of speaking and listening is that they help you to maintain relationships, making it easier to resolve conflict or even reduce the potential for conflict. They are also probably the most important skills needed for conflict resolution.


Being likeable, I think, also helps you to be more positive and see the potential in everything around you rather than the barriers and limits, making it easier to be creative and open to ideas, also traits of effective managers.


I never saw my friend as unlikeable, and I never saw that manager as likeable. I have no idea why the manager would have said anything so hurtful, although he did that often so it was probably a method of control, but he could have made such a difference if, instead of criticizing her in public, he coached her in private to understand the dynamic and improve it. Instead of seeing the potential he saw only the problem, and didn’t help to address it.


Had he been kinder and more respectful, he would have appeared more likeable, and maybe being kind and respectful is the essence of being likeable.

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