One of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous essays, On Conversation, discussed how to make people like you, and his advice is still good today.
You can feel when you are around good company. Well-liked people are well-liked for a reason. They make us feel happier because we feel seen and heard. They take a genuine interest in the conversation and they offer kindness and support in return.
There are plenty of people out there who are vying to tell you how to make people like you, and each has their own way to become more likable. I recommend listening to someone a little older, and much more authoritative on the subject: Benjamin Franklin.
His advice has stood the test of time, and still remains to be the best way of making yourself more likable, even in the modern age.
The Ben Franklin Effect
Franklin wrote a multitude of essays on a range of different subjects. In his autobiography, he wrote:
“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.”
That statement has inspired psychologists to examine what is now called the Ben Franklin Effect, the counterintuitive phenomenon which inspires loyalty in others by making small requests.
Franklin wrote on his use of this phenomenon to improve a relationship between himself and a rival Pennsylvania legislator, asking to borrow a rare book. Apparently, it worked, and Franklin recorded a marked improvement in their relationship moving forward.
Although the Ben Franklin Effect is incredibly interesting, it is not the only advice Benjamin Franklin had to offer on the knack of making people like you.
“The two grand Requisites in the Art of Pleasing, are Complaisance and Good Nature”
The Art of Making Other People Like You: 10 Communication Mistakes
More than a simple trick, Franklin also two important factors that make a person more likable to others:
- That they are genuinely interested in what others have to say; and,
- That they actively listen to people and ignore their faults.
Franklin narrowed down these two personality traits through the observance of common mistakes people make during a conversation with others which make us dislike them:
- Talking overmuch – Talking too much
- To be ever speaking of ourselves and our own Affairs – Talking too much about oneself and not meaningfully engaging with others
- Impatience for a Cough or a Pause – filling the silence or talking just to be heard
- Seeming wholly unconcerned in Conversation – becoming distracted or distant during a conversation, zoning out, or ignoring others.
- Impertinent Inquisitiveness – Asking too many questions, or prying into the intimate business of others
- A Spirit of Wrangling and Disputing – Debating and arguing with the thoughts and beliefs of others without cause or provocation
- Storytelling – telling long stories and drawing all attention to yourself that is not relevant to the conversation, perhaps using them to ‘one-up’ others of the group
- Raillery – Mocking, Misjudging others, or jumping to conclusions without knowing the full story.
- Scandal – gossiping, both about yourself or others, in an attempt to be witty
- The Chaos of Noise and Nonsense – Interrupting others so that no one can get a word in edgeways
“In short, be his Study to command his own Temper, to learn the Humours of Mankind, and to conform himself accordingly.”
Although we live in a much different time to Benjamin Franklin, the basic rules of human interaction are not so unalike. We all know that one (or more!) annoying someone that loves the sound of their own voice, thinks they know everything about everything, and isn’t afraid to let you know about it.
They are likely the person we avoid at all costs, but unfortunately, some of these little traits and behaviors can be subconscious or difficult to realize you are doing yourself. Luckily, they aren’t difficult to break once you’re aware of them and begin to take action against them.
How to Make People Like You, According to Benjamin Franklin?
Good manners can take time and practice. You need to be mindful of them, and consciously implement them during social interactions. Luckily, following Franklin’s advice, there are only two to remember, and here are some ways you can practice them.
1. Practice Active Listening
Active listening is a way of listening that keeps you engaged with others while they speak. Rather than just hearing someone, active listening means you are fully concentrating on what is being said and withholding judgment and advice.
There are lots of different methods to practice active listening, but the main idea is to maintain eye contact, don’t interrupt, and stop yourself from becoming distracted by paraphrasing others to confirm you heard correctly.
Not only does active listening make you an easier person to like, but it also improves your relationships with others because they feel heard and valued by you.
2. Watch your non-verbal communication
You might be saying all the right things, but if your body language is doing all the wrong things, you’re not going to get anyone to like you. Watch out for where you are looking. During a conversation, you should be maintaining comfortable eye contact with the other person.
Looking around the room or off into the distance makes it very obvious that you’re bored and potentially daydreaming. Stay open to the conversation, trying not to close off with crossed arms or hunched shoulders, as this can make you feel difficult to talk to.
3. Refrain from filling the silence
We are all a little bit uncomfortable with silence. It can be awkward and we often feel the need to fill it. But, when we try to fill the silence, we run the risk of talking just to talk, coming off as full of ourselves, or annoying others. Not a way to get people to like you!
Try to relax in the silences, breathe through them, and stay calm. Try to only begin speaking again when it feels meaningful.
4. Hold back judgment, and never mock others
Not only should you be listening to others, but you absolutely should not judge, interrupt, or mock others. We all have our faults, and none of us like them to be pointed out. You don’t have to agree with everyone, and there will be those you very must disagree with, but disagreement is no reason for rudeness.
If you want to be a person who is truly liked, being mindful and respectful of others is one of the most important things you need to do.
The core of Benjamin Franklin’s advice on how to make people like you is this:
“Be ever ready to hear what others say… and do not censure others, nor expose their Failings, but kindly excuse or hide them”
It might seem like I’m rehashing all of the things we were taught as children; that manners, kindness, patience, and attention are all it takes to have good friends. Well, the truth is, I am.
Taking the time to master these simple things can make all the difference when it comes to making friends. Getting someone to like you doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. It doesn’t take a miracle or a multitude of fancy psychological tricks.
All it takes is some simple human decency, good manners, and some time and effort. Listen to others and accept them for who they are, accept their faults, and show them kindness.