Editor’s Note: This article is one of the top 10 habits to adopt to be better at your job in 2016. See the full list here.
If you want to predict your chances of getting ahead at work, answer this one question: Are you well liked?
Luckily, likability doesn’t rely on being the best-looking, smartest, or most outgoing person in the room. It’s much easier than that, and it’s something anyone can attain. You can improve your reputation by practicing these seven habits of likable people.
When you say positive things about other people, those words can rub off on you.
"People unconsciously attribute the qualities of people you talk about to you as well," says Keith Rollag, professor of management at Babson College and author of What to Do When You’re New: How to Be Confident, Comfortable, and Successful in New Situations. "Psychologists call this ‘spontaneous trait transference.’"
If you tell someone that your boss is warm and caring, for example, they will have a tendency to remember you as someone who is somewhat warm and caring, too. But beware of doing the reverse: "If you rant on about how much of a self-absorbed jerk your boss is, they may walk away thinking you possess those qualities as well," says Rollag.
Attention is the current that connects us, says Lou Solomon, founder and CEO of Interact, a leadership communication consultant.
"It’s unattractive to be distracted when others are speaking, leading a meeting, or just trying to have a conversation," she says. Checking your phone is okay when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or riding the train into work, but try to stay in the moment when you’re in the presence of others.
"They are comfortable being who they are, and they don’t try to be someone different," she says. "They are approachable and sincere even if what they have to say isn’t popular."
People who value relationships over power are perceived to be more trustworthy and likable than those who are concerned with status, says Solomon.
"It doesn’t take long to connect," she says. "We all love that moment when a leader looks us in the eye. People know when you only glance and quickly look past them, you’re absorbed in your own mental agenda."
How much a person is liked is measured by their ability to get others talking. Solomon says you do this by being curious, asking questions, listening, and being positive.
"Researchers at MIT have found that upbeat people who are sincerely interested in what other people have to say have natural charisma, and they’re successful in negotiations and presentations," she says. "You have a serious handicap in conversation if you’re not curious about the other person."
Likable people look for opportunities to share accolades with others.
"If they are honored or given credit for something, they turn around and credit others who may have been involved," says Friedman.
Your personal story is a vehicle for connection. Solomon once coached an entrepreneur who had lost a leg during his service in the military, and kept his prosthetic leg concealed under long trousers.
"His instinct was to keep this part of his story to himself and speak only to his business experience—he didn’t want people to think he was telling a ‘sob story,’" she says. "It turned out that sharing this part of his story increased the connections he made as a human being."