Three Types of Liking:
People Liking People (Part 1)

You like cake? I like ice cream, although I’m flexible.

They’re both desserts. They fall under the same utility in classic Economic Theory, meaning they serve the same purpose: dessert!

Cake or Ice Cream? Photo "Sweet Treats" by Tradlands, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Cake or Ice Cream? Photo “Sweet Treats” by Tradlands, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Yet we all know that people have different tastes and preferences. Even economists understand that we like different things, which can make economic models complex!

In his book Influence, Robert Cialdini identified liking as one of his six (now seven) principles of persuasion.

If we want to persuade and influence people, it’s important that we’re liked and that we like others. It’s essential.

No one wants to help the jerk.

But in the age of Social Media, what does it mean to “like?”

Like (v): To find agreeable, enjoyable, or satisfactory

I like the information I learn on

Over the next few posts, I want to write a bit about three forms of liking.

There may be more than three types of liking. I don’t know!

These are the three that I want to discuss, in the context of persuasion:

Let’s get started.

People Liking People

People like people. Sometimes. In most of life, we choose to spend time with people we like. We give our business to partners that we like.

Bosses give promotions to employees they like.

You spend your time with friends that you like. Most of us tend to trust and accept information we get from people we like.

We usually agree with those we like.

On the other hand, we rarely agree with people that we dislike. Their argument might not have a chance to be evaluated.

We’d rather not support an agreeable argument at all if it comes from the wrong messenger.

Liking is so important in persuasion that Dale Carnegie made this a central aspect of his How to Win Friends and Influence People book and course. You can learn more about his enduring principals here.

Liking and being liked is a matter of cognitive dissonance and cognitive load. Our brains have trouble holding two opposing views, that a friend would say something horrible, or a rival would complement you. It doesn’t compute and so we dismiss one-half of the equation.

Our friend must have been misunderstood. Our rival must have been mocking.

Because people don’t often change their minds, it’s important to set a likable tone early in any relationship.

First impressions endure.

If you’re kind and take an interest in the other person or people, the rule of reciprocity will help ensure that you’re liked in return. This might start with small talk, and there’s no reason to not take a deeper interest in those around you.

Our brain has trouble holding two opposing views, so we dismiss one-half of the equation

Other people hold the keys to what you want in life, and they choose to help their friends.

If you want people to choose to help you, it’s important that you’re likable and that you like those around you.

Be a genuine friend. Persuasion cannot manifest as a bully.

I was reminded of the importance of being likable just today, as I read this Esquire piece on Charm. Charm, as it’s written there, is a product of taking an interest in those around us and working to make them comfortable.

Sounds like Persuasion to me.

Being likable and liked is of course not the same as being subservient. Self-respect and confidence are key to being likable.

Of course, you can fake it — no one knows otherwise, and your body language will actually change your mental attitude.

Fake confidence is better than no confidence.

"Friends :-)" by @BK, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
“Friends :-)” by @BK, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Our brains can only focus on one thing. Putting our limited focus on others makes them feel valued. Spending our limited time makes others feel valued.

We all like that feeling, that we’re important and worth someone’s time and attention.

Are we giving enough of that to those around us?

I know, I can always use more practice to pay attention to others. When I notice in my own body language that I’m not giving someone my attention, I turn my body towards that person. I’m trying to force myself to give additional attention when I can.

How about you, do you find yourself turning to those around you, or tuning them out? Are you interested in their weekends, or hoping to talk more about your own? Leave a comment below!

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People Liking People (Part 1)”

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