Tap the Little-Known Secret to First Impressions for Building Likeability

Vala Afshar intuitively practices a little-known secret for attracting talented people as friends and colleagues. It’s an obvious truth, once stated. I saw it vividly demonstrated at Pivotcon. Via Twitter, he specifically cited others’ insights. Yet it was only in seeing understated @ValaAfshar in the packed reception that I saw how people were drawn into his warm orbit. In the midst of this active crowd, he brought out two essential parts of each person with whom he spoke. In his presence they exhibited their:
1. Strongest skill, tied to a passionate interest (talent)
2. Most becoming side (temperament)

How? Vala consistently made authentic, concrete references to the traits others most liked about themselves. Further, he asked the questions and follow-up questions that enabled them to display their remarkable knowledge and favorite ideas. Of course, they wanted to meet up with him again.

Here’s the counter-intuitive secret that connective Vala was practicing: Our first instinct to like you (and want to be around you and help you) happens, not from how we feel about you, but rather how you make us feel when around you.

From that good feeling about ourselves, in your presence, we project onto you the qualities that we most like and admire in others even if you have not demonstrated that you have those admirable traits.
The dangerous flip side is also true: If we don’t like the way we act when around you we will see in you the traits we most dislike and fear in others. That “Dislike Response” happens quicker, is felt more intensely and lasts longer than the Like Response.
Two Hints:
1. Whenever you notice that someone looks even slightly uncomfortable or otherwise unhappy when around you, make it your top task to turn the conversation to something they like in themselves, excel at or have a passion for doing.
2. People become more talented and happier when then have the opportunity to hone their skills rather than feeling forced to fix their weaknesses, according to research cited by Marcus Buckingham.

Avoid the Dangerous Relationship Downfall Ratio

Every time you are starting to engage with a stranger, loved one or anyone in between, consider the magic ratio for making relationships strong. For marriages to thrive that that’s a five positive couple interactions to every negative one according to John Gottman’s famous research, and it’s bound for divorce when the ratio sinks to 1:1. More stringently yet, Positivity author and researcher Barbara Erickson recommends a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences. When your ratio with someone is sliding the wrong way, think of opportunities to boost it, perhaps using No.

Shift the Role You Play in Your Life Story and in Others’
One of the most toxic effects on our well-being is our belief in the inordinate importance of our successes and failures on the possibility of happiness in the future, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, The Myths of Happiness.

Shake that belief, for yourself and others, by creating situations in which everyone gets to use best talents, working on projects that reflect a strong sweet spot of shared interest. In so doing you may play a different character role in the story that unfolds and make the storyline more adventuresome and satisfying.

As Lyubomirsky writes, “...Human beings are remarkably resilient, with the capacity to turn traumas into assets and bad experiences into growth experiences...” Like Stumbling on Happiness author Daniel Gilbert, Lyubomirsky believes we are not adept at foreseeing how happy we will be in the future. Yet we can become more adept at genuinely supporting others’ best side so they are more likely to see and support ours. We strengthen relationships and increase opportunities for shared happiness, accomplishments and a meaningful life. Uneven as our attempts will inevitably be, these seem like bountiful rewards, and we yearn for them. As

Gilbert wrote, “Our brain accepts what the eyes see and our eye looks for whatever our brain wants.” Why not reach out to one another to grow this resilience with together, and perhaps grow a new, true friendship?

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” ~ William Arthur Ward

Author's Bio: 

Speaker Bio: Kare Anderson’s TED talk on The Web of Humanity: Be an Opportunity Maker has attracted over 2.5 million views. She is an Emmy-winning former NBC and Wall Street Journal journalist, now a speaker on connective behavior and quotability. Her TEDx talk on Redefine Your Life Around a Mutuality Mindset is now a standard session for employees and invited clients at 14 national and global corporations. Her ideas have been cited in 16 books. Her clients are as diverse as Salesforce, Novartis, and The Skoll Foundation. She was a founding board member of Annie’s Homegrown and co-founder of nine women’s political PACs. For Obama's first presidential campaign she created over 208 issues formation teams. She was Pacific Telesis' first Cable TV and Wideband Division Director and a founding board member of Annie's Homegrown. Kare is the author of How We Can Be Greater Together, Opportunity Makers, Mutuality Matters, Moving From Me to We, Beauty Inside Out, Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, and Resolving Conflict Sooner. She serves on the boards of The Business Innovation Factory, TEDxMarin, and World Affairs Council Marin.