The Skill That Will Instantly Make You More Socially Likable

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two friend looking at each other

We've all been to a party where the person you're chatting with isn't paying attention to what you're saying, trying to casually scope the room for someone more fabulous to talk to. I don't think it's just an L.A. thing, though people in L.A. are amazing at it.

When the party guest who wasn't really listening sees someone more important and moves on, right when you're in the middle of telling a hilarious story, it leaves you with a bad feeling about them.

But when we're talking to someone who we feel is truly listening, we have much more positive feelings toward them.

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When someone is communicating with you and you're actually listening, it produces feel-good chemicals in their brain and they associate those feelings with you. You aren't doing much, but the simple act of listening and letting a person talk without interrupting them makes you more likable.

It may not seem like it, but listening is an active process. You aren't just standing there with dead eyes and a blank look on your face.

Most people think they're good listeners, and we've had it pounded into our brains that that's what we need to be successful in school and in life. But, truthfully, most of us aren't that great at it, with the average person listening at only 25 percent efficiency.

Listening expert Paul Sacco Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, explained that there are just a few simple habits that set the really good listeners apart from the not-so-great listeners.

"We all have a good listener within us. It all just depends on the ability and desire to be mindful of where you are, and who you're talking to. A lot of us are focused on the mechanics of listening — eye contact, nodding your head — but for good listeners, there's a naturalness to that we should all aspire to," he says.

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Being present in a conversation is a characteristic of a good listener. When your attention is focused on the speaker, you're more likely to retain what you're hearing and respond more appropriately.

Sacco says, "Good listeners really put everything down and focus on [the person they're speaking with]. And as a result, the other person becomes instantly aware that they have an interest in what they have to say."

One of the first self-help books ever written was How to Win Friends and Influence People, written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. It's sold over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. And the advice in it is still relevant today.

One of the sections in the book is entitled "Six Ways To Make People Like You." The six ways are: 

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile!
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener, and encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.

When you're really listening to someone and asking them questions about themselves, they'll feel comfortable and want to be around you.

By being a good listener, you'll be more likable to others, and you'll be surprised by how much you'll learn when you actually hear what someone is saying.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or and her Instagram.