By Kacy L. Michel Ph.D., CHES, Texas Christian University
You don’t get another chance to make a first impression.
Although it may sound true, you only have a few seconds to make a first impression before someone asks you for a second date, hires you, votes for you, and so on. It’s crucial that you make a good first impression. You only have a few minutes to do it.
Before you start rolling your eyes and thinking “But I have an open handshake and a winning smile,” remember that “likeability” is empirically studied within Psychology, Communication, and Politics.
Likeability can be defined by extraversion, emotional competence, and agreeability (Szcygiel & Mikolajczak (2018). Perloff (2008) states that “just being likeable can help a communicator [their] goals.”
This article has two goals. I want you to be able to gather this information and pass it on to your students to help them get hired, find love, or do internships. Two, I want to make you, the instructor, more successful in the classroom and earn higher teaching evaluation scores.
Teaching likeability to students
It is important to emphasize that the use of tenets such as likeability does not amount to manipulation or coercion when presenting this information. It is about using proven Psychology aspects to your advantage in order to be your best self. Here are some tips I use to help my students understand this concept.
Tip 1: Ask questions
A strong opening is essential. Always have a “location” and “occasion” question ready.
You could ask the bride or groom how they met (occasion) if you’re at a wedding. You could ask another passenger, if you’re on a plane, what he enjoys most about the destination (location).
You can easily open up to a longer conversation by having either a place or an occasion question ready. Consider the cliche “Do you visit this area often?” It is both a location question and an occasion question. Avoid using location/occasion questions like “Are your friends with the bride?” or “Are they traveling for business or pleasure?”
Tip 2: Learn context
Make use of context to your advantage. Pay attention to the shirt of a student, a potential employer’s workplace or the personal accessories of a date. These are all clues to who the person might be. Ask the Cubs jacket-wearing student about the season. After spotting a framed photograph on her desk, inquire about the employer’s children.
Being liked does not mean you are a good person. It is important to find interest in others. Pay attention to context.
Tip 3: Mirror Communication Styles
People like people who are similar to them. What does this mean? Let’s say, for example, that she is very laid back and low-affect. Are you more likely to think that she speaks loudly or theatrically How would you imagine her response to a dynamic, strong personality like that of a rock star?
You can read the person and adjust your communication style to better match the speaker. This is what experts call mirroring. It’s a subtle way to increase the likeability factor.
Tip 4 – Call people by their names
Names are crucial. Names are crucial.
In a Zoom session, go out of your way and say the names of students. Their names are listed right below their faces. Always include the student’s name at end of written feedback. Names are more important than any other thing. Use names if you want people to like and respect you.
Tip 5: Soften Criticism by Offering Compliments
Use the sandwiching technique when giving feedback. Sandwiching, also known as the Oreo effect or sandwiching, is a way to put criticism or complaint between two positives.
This tactic is well-known, but it’s surprising how few people actually use it. This is a tactic I almost always use as a professor when I give feedback on assignments.
I will write, for example: “Nice job presenting the thesis statement with such clarity. I would have appreciated more information about the theoretical framework. Overall, however, it was a great job.
You can make negative feedback more digestible by taking a few extra seconds. This is something I teach in class. Students will be challenged to do this when they have to ask for a raise from their boss, have a conflict with a roommate, and talk to a parent about not coming back for Christmas.
How to put likeability into practice
This class activity will help students to practice the concept of likingability.
For your In-Person Class
Place two chairs near the instructor before class begins.