How Language Makes You Likeable—or Not!

Following the 2020 Supreme Court Justice Confirmation hearings and the presidential and vice presidential debates, you heard the pundits as well as regular people talk about talk. That is, many media interviews focused on the “communication style” of the politicians and how they were either “likeable” or “unlikeable.”

In fact, various political poll questions often focus on “favorability” ratings and associated opinions about how “communication styles” contribute to popularity (or its absence).

What about you? Based on your language and communication style, what would the pundits and polls say about your likeability?


What Language and Communication Habits Contribute to Your Own Likeability?


Questions Versus Commands

Likeable: “Would you please have that proposal to me by Wednesday.” Or: “Can you please have that proposal to me by Wednesday?”

Less so: “Have that proposal to me by Wednesday.”


Statements Versus Imperatives

Likeable:  “Poor customer service will eventually show up in declining profits.”

Less so: “If you advertise great service, then give it! Train your people!”


Listening Versus Talking—the Differential

Likeable: Consider a 60 percent listening/40 percent talking differential in a conversation with friends. They’ll walk away from the conversation thinking you’re the best conversationalist they know. People love to talk about themselves, their activities, and their interest. Those in sales should make it a 70 percent listening/30 percent talking ratio!

Less so: The more someone talks, the less time they have to listen and learn from the others. Common labels for those who “out-talk” their welcome: “Pushy.” “Arrogant.” “Disrespectful.“ Cocky.” “Self-absorbed.”


Positive Word Choices Versus Negative Word Choices


– “Please tell me more about your concern with this process.”

–“People generally do better when their primary job focuses on both their passion and special expertise.”

–“I’d like you to meet Casey, who works with me.”

Less so:

– “So what’s your complaint about the process?”

–“I recommend you stay in your lane—find a job that you care about and have some expertise in.”

–“I’d like you to meet Casey, who works for me.”


Body Language: Positive Versus Negative

Likeable: Genuine smiles involving the eyes. Relaxed, but energetic posture and movement. Gestures with open hands and arms rather than pointing fingers.

Less so:  Fake smiles.  Smirks.  Mocking sneer. Rigid posture. Arms across the chest in a closed position while listening. Steepled hands.  Arms and hands gesturing downward. Finger-pointing—particularly in someone’s direction when talking to them. Uplifted chin (elicits the comment, “He’s stuck up—always has his nose in the air!”)


If you want to be persuasive—and likeable—consider these inroads to better relationships and possibly a “new you.”


Learn more ways to improve your communication with Communicate With Confidence!: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time.

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