The Importance of Being Liked

When we are liked, others will:

  • go the extra yard for us,
  • excuse our mistakes,
  • generally make our lives easier.

People have all sorts of methods to try to be liked:

  • Strategies of ingratiation
    • Doing favours for other people
    • Becoming friends with their friends,
    • Telling funny jokes.
    • Flattery: Complimenting others can be an effective technique for getting others to like us, if handled delicately. Asking others for advice is also often effective, as it implies respect for their expertise and knowledge.
    • Smiling is a powerful tool for getting others to like us. However, if detected as a fake smile (which people have a pretty good frequency of picking up on fakeness: people can pick it up between 56-74% of the time), the result can be more damaging than doing any good because it can make you look insincere.
    • Express Liking for Others
  • Create Similarity: We often adjust our public opinions when we want people to like us. we recognize that people like others who
    are similar to them (Berscheid & Walster, 1978; Byrne, 1971). They like people who dress similarly, who have common tastes in movies and foods, and who hold similar opinions. It makes sense, then, that we often create similarity to ingratiate ourselves with others by altering our dress, activities, or public opinions. Of course, people don’t want to be seen as hypocrites, or as having no tastes, interests, or opinions of their own. So successful ingratiators often mix a small amount of disagreement in with their agreement (Jones, Jones, & Gergen, 1963).
  • Make Ourselves Physically Attractive: We do know, however, that physically attractive people are indeed liked more and viewed
    more favorably than unattractive people (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo, 1991; Feingold, 1992). Attractive people are more likely to be hired for managerial positions and elected to public office, even though interviewers and voters deny any influence of physical appearance (e.g., Budesheim & DePaola, 1994; 1976; Mack & Rainey, 1990). They receive lesser fines and bail judgments in misdemeanor cases, and
    shorter sentences in felony cases (Downs & Lyons, 1991; Stewart, 1980, 1985). They get paid more: Compared to being of average attractiveness, there is approximately a 7 percent penalty for being unattractive and a 5 percent premium for being highly attractive (Hamermesh & Biddle, 1994). It clearly pays to be physically attractive.
  • Project Modesty: People who downplay their successes are generally liked more than people who boast of them (Baumeister & Jones, 1978; Rosen, Cochran, & Musser, 1990; Schlenker & Leary, 1982a; Wosinska, Dabul, Whetstone-Dion, & Cialdini, 1998). As a consequence,
    we often give public credit to others for aiding in our successes and gently point to weaknesses we have in other—less important—areas (e.g., Baumeister & Ilko, 1995; Jones, 1990; Miller & Schlenker, 1985). There are risks associated with being modest, however. If people don’t know of your successes, they may believe you when you profess a lack of talent. If you are too modest, people may think you have horribly low self-esteem or little self-insight (Robinson, Johnson, & Shields, 1995). And if you appear insincere in minimizing the importance of what you’ve done (“Oh, the award is no big deal”), people may view you as smug and arrogant (Pin & Turndorf, 1990).


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