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.
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.
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.