You can't help but like them!
When we were young and in school, 'being popular' felt like everything. But often, the 'popular kids' weren't necessarily the nicest people. As such the word "popular" can sometimes carry a negative connotation in adulthood.
But the truth is ... some people really are more popular than others. And what makes them popular isn't fame, beauty, or other trappings of a 'look at me' lifestyle. Instead, true popularity — being a person most people can't help but like — is based on very specific (but attainable) traits.
So, why are we so drawn to 'popular' people?
If you've read my articles before, you know I like to explain character traits in relation to survival of the individual and survival of the species. We all have a survival need for others to like us. At the same time, we also have a need to rapidly judge whether people are a danger to us.
All mammals rapidly categorize others of their species. Humans do this, too. During this scanning process, we look for things that might prove poisonous or harmful to us, physically or emotionally.
Well-liked (or, 'popular') people feel safe to us.
We sense their high opinion of us. And when we feel happily safe around others, we can relax and be our playful or vulnerable selves.
Jaak Panksepp, eminent animal researcher and a human psychoanalyst, speaks about every human's survival need for social-play. Mice that are stand-offish do not play as robustly. Those mice exhibit decreased health and vitality.
Play (whether that's actual lighthearted laughter with friends or simply experimenting with new ideas or approaches in the workplace) is essential to our well-being, feeds our ability to image and create, and helps us develop more flexible responses to what life throws at us. Feelings like: fear, anger, pain, hunger and judgemental-ness stop play in its tracks.
So, we feel relief (and elation) when we're around someone whose respectful smile or curiosity makes us feel safe to relax, explore, and play. In fact, we adore these people. We even get a hit of dopamine when we feel well-liked, which generates an enhanced sense of self-esteem, according to Panskepp.
'Popular' people ultimately make us feel good about ourselves! Here's how they do it:
1. They don't gossip about other people.
High drama doesn’t leave room for sharing real emotions. Popular people don't associate with people who feel victimized, talk trash about other people, or enjoy unnecessary drama. You like them because you know they won't tear you down behind your back.
2. They're realistic about life (and take failure and adversity in stride).
The ability (and resilience) to risk failure is essential to living a dynamic life. We're drawn to people with courage because they share their successes and when they mess up (making it safe for us to do the same).
3. They accept and give compliments easily.
They're good at making others feel appreciated. And who doesn't like to hear a compliment? Likewise, when you thank or compliment a 'popular' person, they say 'thank you' and accept the praise graciously. It is important to let people know how well they support you.
4. They have a great sense of humor.
Wit and humor are an invitation to make love, friendship and positivity more important than the slings and arrows of the world. Shared laughter heals and bonds people; it is a powerful stress reliever. And mutual laughter implies that you see the world in the same way.
5. They handle negativity with grace.
"Haters are gonna hate," as they say. 'Popular' people understand that you can't please everyone. They stay true to themselves and do their best to shrug off other people's negative attitudes or behaviors. They'll quickly distance themselves from a toxic person, but won't take that person's behavior personally.
6. They look people in the eye and let themselves be seen, as well.
Well-liked people are authentic. They don't hide who they are or how they feel. When we don’t know how someone is feeling, it's hard to trust them. That's why it's so appealing to spend time around someone who is open and genuine.
7. They're friendly.
In order for others to truly like you, you must truly like others. 'Popular' people exude body language that communicates openness and friendliness. They don't come across closed off, distant, or judgmental. A respectful, open stance is the most powerful trait well-liked people have.
8. They're confident in their ability to handle new situations.
Change and unfamiliar circumstances can freak the best of us out. But isn't it more refreshing to enter a new situation with someone 'up for the challenge' who is more curious about the possibilities than terrified of the unknown? 'Popular' people are open to change, curious about other people, and genuinely interested in exploring life.
So, how can YOU adopt some of the habits and mindsets of these 'popular,' well-liked people?
Do you spend more time judging others instead of appreciating them? Do you constantly put people and situations into rigid categories (good/bad, right/wrong)? Do you feel calm, kind and happy when you do these things? I'm sure you don’t!
So, take a lesson from the 'popular' crowd and spend more time playing and less time judging. Get curious about your surroundings. Look for possibilities in change and new situations (not just disaster). And stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. It will never help you in life to know what rude people are thinking and feeling. Focusing on them only makes you miserable.
Flexible responses allow more fun, interesting interactions to enter your life. So, open up. Nurture your playful side. Get some of that good dopamine floating around inside you. I promise, people will notice the difference!
Bill Maier works on attachment and trauma issues in a respectful, kind and effective manner. He provides individual, group, couples and family therapy. His office is conveniently located in downtown Portland, OR. Scheduling can be done online or over the phone.