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The Secret Behaviors That Make People Likable

How to impress others in initial encounters.

We meet someone — a stranger – and we immediately form an impression of that person. Often, we make a snap decision: “I like that person,” or “I really don’t care for them.” This important initial judgment can affect not only how we feel about the person, but whether we continue to interact with them, whether we want to develop a friendship or dating relationship, or, in the case of a hiring interview, whether the person gets the job.
Social psychological research suggests that there are certain behaviors that can strongly affect our initial impressions of strangers. In one study (Dufner & Krause, 2023), unacquainted young adults met in small groups and then spent a short amount of time interacting with each group member one-on-one. After each meeting, they rated how likable they found each stranger — whether they would like to get to know them and become friends with them. Trained observers watched each interaction and coded them for “agentic” and “communal” behaviors. Agentic behaviors are those that show confidence, dominance, and are slightly boastful. Communal behaviors include being polite, warm, friendly, and benevolent.
As far as initial likability, strangers who displayed high levels of both agentic and communal behaviors were better liked. However, when it came to establishing a deeper connection, it was only the communal behavior that predicted whether people wanted to form a friendship with the stranger. This makes sense. In an initial encounter, we may be impressed with people who are confident and proud/boastful. An air of confidence can increase liking. On the other hand, communal behavior – being warm, friendly, and polite – is strongly appealing and we want to get to know people better if they are warm, friendly, and seem to care.
Nonverbal Cues of Likability
In our own research, we found that in initial encounters with strangers, expressive body language led to greater liking. However, we also found a sex difference, such that men who were expressive with their bodies via posture and head movements were better liked, while women who were expressive with their facial expressions were most liked (Riggio & Friedman, 1986). We also found that nonverbally expressive people were better liked, and perceived as more attractive potential dating partners (Riggio, Widaman, Tucker, & Salinas, 1991).
So, what should someone do to increase their likability when meeting strangers? Try your best to appear warm and friendly, but it is also important to bring expressive energy to the encounter. Show that you are interested. Exude positive affect/emotions and a slight air of confidence. Demonstrate that you care about the other person by being a good listener. Let people know something about you, and show that you are proud of the positive things that you have accomplished.

psychology today

14 replies
  1. Mobina Mohammadinia
    Mobina Mohammadinia says:

    Hello, our first meeting with people is very important because it shows our personality type and how we deal with whether the other person wants to see us again or not. We should be able to use our body language to make a good impression on someone.

  2. Anis Farasat
    Anis Farasat says:

    It is important to have self-confidence and show it when interacting with a stranger. Being polite, warm and respecting the other party can affect the way people think about the person at first glance.

  3. fatemeh noorzadeh
    fatemeh noorzadeh says:

    Hello Sir ,
    Being kind, energetic, having confidence, being neat , smiling and … these are some points that are always attractive and these small things attract people around easily , just as you mentioned and opened it clearly.

  4. zahra moradi
    zahra moradi says:

    Hello, my dear professor, the behavior that destroys others, if it is repeated in large numbers, the person in question should immediately consult a psychologist.

  5. Mobina Mokhtari
    Mobina Mokhtari says:

    Hello master,
    This article was truly useful. well I agree with the importance of body language , also the fact of being energetic and showing and sharing the positive energy really attracts people to you.

  6. Omid Takook
    Omid Takook says:

    Omid Takook

    As the student of the Feeling and Perception Course on Fridays at 12:30, my opinion and comment about this essay is:

    The topic is very useful and good to make better relations, and as I searched more, there are other important elements to, such as eye contact, introduction, small talk, body language, assessment, and departure.
    Eye contact: When encountering a stranger, the first thing that often happens is eye contact. This can be a brief glance or a longer stare.
    Introduction: The next step is usually an introduction, where both parties exchange names and possibly some basic information about themselves.
    Small talk: After the introduction, small talk may ensue. This can include topics such as the weather, current events, or hobbies.
    Body language: During the encounter, body language plays an important role in communication. Gestures such as smiling or nodding can convey friendliness and openness.
    Assessment: Both parties may also be assessing each other during the encounter to determine if they feel comfortable and safe around each other.
    Departure: Finally, the encounter will come to an end with a goodbye or farewell gesture such as a handshake or hug depending on cultural norms and personal preferences.

  7. Anahita Bahreman
    Anahita Bahreman says:

    In my opinion, if a person always behaves correctly and appropriately, behaves according to the situation she is in, treats others well, etc., she can have a positive effect on people

  8. zahra kakavand
    zahra kakavand says:

    Behavior, like any other word, has multiple definitions and depending on where we want to use it, it may be defined differently.
    Collective behavior is an emotional behavior that occurs due to a situation or an incident of a person or persons and is transferred to others due to social contagion, and as a result, a more or less homogeneous group is created.
    active or non-reflective (active) behaviors; Operational behaviors are behaviors that are under our conscious control. Some may happen spontaneously and others intentionally, but it is the consequences of these actions that then affect their repetition or non-occurrence in the future.
    Behavioral social behavior includes any behavior in which it affects one of the other members. This is due to the interaction between those members. Social behavior can be thought of as an exchange of goods, with the expectation that when you give, you will receive the same. This behavior can be influenced by both individual qualities and environmental (situational) factors.

  9. Marzieh
    Marzieh says:

    I’m wondering how introverted and unsocial people could relate to the points mentioned in this article. I have seen people who have problems interacting with others, especially during the first meeting, and may appear unlikeable at first contact. However, after spending some time with them, I have seen the other side of their personality, which I find pleasant.

  10. sara.samani
    sara.samani says:

    This article shows well that before speaking, facial expression and body language can show our true feelings. By learning body language, we can take a step towards better communication.

  11. Farzaneh jornabian
    Farzaneh jornabian says:

    It was a very interesting article, body language is the first word in attracting people

  12. Orna shayanfar
    Orna shayanfar says:

    Body language plays a vital role in communicating with others. Body language leaves an impression on the other party before talking .

  13. نیلوفر نیکویی
    نیلوفر نیکویی says:

    Interesting article! I should keep facial expressions tip in my mind! That seems come in handy !!:)))


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