Making Yourself More Likable to Others, According to Research

There isn’t enough cooperation in our divisive world, and being better liked should help people access more valuable opportunities.

Copy the person you’re with

This strategy is called mirroring, and involves subtly mimicking another person’s behaviour. When talking to someone, try copying their body language, gestures, and facial expressions.

In 1999, New York University researchers documented the “chameleon effect“, which occurs when people unconsciously mimic each other’s behaviour. That mimicry facilitates liking.

Researchers had 72 men and women work on a task with a partner. The partners (who worked for the researchers) either mimicked the other participant’s behaviour or didn’t, while researchers videotaped the interactions.

At the end of the interaction, the researchers had participants indicate how much they liked their partners.

Sure enough, participants were more likely to say that they liked their partner when their partner had been mimicking their behaviour.

Spend more time around the people you’re hoping to befriend

According to the mere-exposure effect, people tend to like other people who are familiar to them.

In one example of this phenomenon, psychologists at the University of Pittsburgh had four women pose as students in a university psychology class. Each woman showed up in class a different number of times.

When experimenters showed male students pictures of the four women, the men demonstrated a greater affinity for those women they’d seen more often in class – even though they hadn’t interacted with any of them.

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Tell them a secret

Self-disclosure may be one of the best relationship-building techniques.

In a study led by researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the California Graduate School of Family Psychology, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Arizona State University, college students were paired off and told to spend 45 minutes getting to know each other.

Experimenters provided some student pairs with a series of questions to ask, which got increasingly deep and personal.

For example, one of the intermediate questions was “How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?” Other pairs were given small-talk-type questions. For example, one question was “What is your favourite holiday? Why?”

At the end of the experiment, the students who’d asked increasingly personal questions reported feeling much closer to each other than students who’d engaged in small talk.

You can try this technique on your own as you’re getting to know someone. For example, you can build up from asking easy questions (like the last movie they saw) to learning about the people who mean the most to them in life.

When you share intimate information with another person, they are more likely to feel closer to you and want to confide in you in the future.

Show that you can keep their secrets, too

Two experiments led by researchers at the University of Florida, Arizona State University, and Singapore Management University found that people place a high value on both trustworthiness and trustingness in their relationships.

Those two traits proved especially important when people were imagining their ideal friend and ideal employee.

As Suzanne Degges-White of Northern Illinois University writes on PsychologyToday.com: “Trustworthiness is comprised of several components, including honesty, dependability, and loyalty, and while each is important to successful relationships, honesty and dependability have been identified as the most vital in the realm of friendships.”

Display a sense of humour

Research from Illinois State University and California State University at Los Angeles found that, regardless of whether people were thinking about their ideal friend or romantic partner, a sense of humour was really important.

Another study from researchers at DePaul University and Illinois State University found that using humour when you’re first getting to know someone can make the person like you more.

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Act like you like them

Psychologists have known for a while about a phenomenon called ‘reciprocity of liking‘: When we think someone likes us, we tend to like them as well.

In one 1959 study published in Human Relations, for example, participants were told that certain members of a group discussion would probably like them. These group members were chosen randomly by the experimenter.

After the discussion, participants indicated that the people they liked best were the ones who supposedly liked them.

More recently, researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Manitoba found that when we expect people to accept us, we act warmer toward them – thereby increasing the chances that they really will like us.

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Climate Change Threatens Prospects for Human Society

The burning of fossil fuels that leads to climate change carries with it numerous threats to the environment, and the world’s nations must quickly transition to the use of clean energy to avert massive catastrophes in the future.

NOAM CHOMSKY: A couple of weeks ago, the IPCC, the international group of scientists monitoring climate change, came out with a very ominous report warning that the world has maybe a decade or two to basically end its reliance on fossil fuels if we’re to have any hope of controlling global warming below the level of utter disaster. And that, incidentally, is a conservative estimate. It’s a consensus view. There are—repeatedly, over the years, it has been shown that the IPCC analyses are much less alarmist than they should be.

Now comes this report in Nature that you mentioned, a couple of days ago, which shows that there has been a serious underestimate of the warming of the oceans. And they conclude that if these results hold up, the so-called carbon budget, the amount of carbon that we can spew into the atmosphere and still have a survival environment, has to be reduced by about 25 percent. That’s over and above the IPCC report. And the opening up of the Amazon to further exploitation will be another serious blow at the prospects of survival of organized human society.

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We have to make decisions now which will literally determine whether organized human life can survive in any decent form. You can just imagine what the world would be like if the sea level rises, say, 10 or 20 feet or even higher, which is within the range—easily within the range of predictions. I mean, the consequences are unimaginable. But it’s as if we’re kind of like the proverbial lemmings just happily marching off the cliff, led by leaders who understand very well what they’re doing, but are so dedicated to enriching themselves and their friends in the near future that it simply doesn’t matter what happens to the human species. There’s nothing like this in all of human history. There have been plenty of monsters in the past, plenty of them. But you can’t find one who was dedicated, with passion, to destroying the prospects for organized human life. Hitler was horrible enough, but not that.

By Biomass, Humans Have Eliminated Half of the World’s Plants and Over 80% of the World’s Wild Mammals

Staggering statistics, being a warning that humans can eliminate their own species at scale (through nuclear weapons or climate change, for instance) if they fail to be careful enough.

While scientists and conservationists grow increasingly worried about the world’s biodiversity, a new study that sought to estimate the biomass of all living creatures on Earth has shed some light on humanity’s impact.

The planet is largely dominated by plants, which make up 82 percent of all life on Earth, followed by bacteria at 13 percent, and the remaining five percent is everything else, including 7.6 billion human beings.

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According to the study, published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), people only make up 0.01 percent of the Earth’s biomass—however, their impact has been massive.

The researchers estimate that, in terms of biomass, the so-called rise of human civilization has destroyed 83 percent of wild mammals, 80 percent of marine animals, 50 percent of plants, and 15 percent of fish.

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Scientific Research Into Happiness

I am unsure how much I agree with the conclusions of this happiness research, but it is interesting to read nonetheless.

Over the past two decades, the positive psychology movement has brightened up psychological research with its science of happiness, human potential and flourishing.

It argues that psychologists should not only investigate mental illness but also what makes life worth living.

The founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, describes happiness as experiencing frequent positive emotions, such as joy, excitement and contentment, combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose.

It implies a positive mindset in the present and an optimistic outlook for the future.

Importantly, happiness experts have argued that happiness is not a stable, unchangeable trait but something flexible that we can work on and ultimately strive towards.

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Recent research indicates that psychological flexibility is the key to greater happiness and well-being.

For example, being open to emotional experiences and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort can allow us to move towards a richer, more meaningful existence.

Studies have demonstrated that the way we respond to the circumstances of our lives has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves.

Experiencing stress, sadness and anxiety in the short term doesn’t mean we can’t be happy in the long term.

Two paths to happiness

Philosophically speaking there are two paths to feeling happy, the hedonistic and the eudaimonic.

Hedonists take the view that in order to live a happy life we must maximise pleasure and avoid pain. This view is about satisfying human appetites and desires, but it is often short lived.

In contrast, the eudaimonic approach takes the long view. It argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty and courage.

If we see happiness in the hedonistic sense, then we have to continue to seek out new pleasures and experiences in order to “top up” our happiness.

We will also try to minimise unpleasant and painful feelings in order to keep our mood high.

If we take the eudaimonic approach, however, we strive for meaning, using our strengths to contribute to something greater than ourselves. This may involve unpleasant experiences and emotions at times, but often leads to deeper levels of joy and contentment.

So leading a happy life is not about avoiding hard times; it is about being able to respond to adversity in a way that allows you to grow from the experience.

Growing from adversity

Research shows that experiencing adversity can actually be good for us, depending on how we respond to it. Tolerating distress can make us more resilient and lead us to take action in our lives, such as changing jobs or overcoming hardship.

In studies of people facing trauma, many describe their experience as a catalyst for profound change and transformation, leading to a phenomenon known as “post-traumatic growth”.

Often when people have faced difficulty, illness or loss, they describe their lives as happier and more meaningful as a result.

The ConversationUnlike feeling happy, which is a transient state, leading a happier life is about individual growth through finding meaning.

It is about accepting our humanity with all its ups and downs, enjoying the positive emotions, and harnessing painful feelings in order to reach our full potential.