The BLOG: Voices

Why do people like me?

People like me. OK, not everyone. And it’s not that I’m a “big deal.” But for the most part, I’m seen as a likeable guy.

But why? It’s something I’ve been wondering about recently.

Throughout my entire life, I’ve always had strong relationships, and I continue to maintain meaningful and helpful relationships with people I’ve met at every stage of my life.

The people in these relationships come from all walks of life. People don’t just like me because I look like them, think like them, or talk like them. Many of my meaningful relationships are with people that don’t think, act or look at all like me.

So why do people like me? Why am I able to build strong connections when we live in a busy and tech-driven world?

I recognize that on the face of it, this seems like a strange — if not egotistical — question to be asking. But I work with people to help them build more meaningful and effective relationships, so I feel a broader sense of purpose about this introspection. What insights and tips can I share from my own experiences that others might benefit from in their lives?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1) Avoid negativity. I can thank my parents for this, because they ingrained in me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.” As an adult, I recognize that hard things need to be said. But I focus on saying them in a way that builds up rather than tears down, one that strengthens trust rather weakens it. I rarely ruminate on the flaws of others, and I usually give them the benefit of the doubt. I resist the temptation to criticize or shame. I hate complaining.

2) Give frequent and candid appreciation. There are some simple statements that most people simply don’t hear often enough: “I’m thankful for you.” “You showed strength and poise in that difficult situation.” “Your support of others adds so much to our culture,” or even, “I really like how those glasses look on you!” If I notice something positive, I try to make a sincere comment about it. Doing this also makes it easier to not be negative (see #1 above).

3) Pull rather than push ideas. I find it’s usually more productive to state my opinions beginning with questions like, “What are your thoughts on this?” or “What’s important to you?” rather than statements like, “I think we should do this,” or “My opinion is…” I’ve found that the extra time it takes to collaborate around shared ideas is far less than the extra time it takes to convince people of my ideas.

4) Think about other people. My default mindset is about myself—my agenda, my problems and my desires. As I mentioned in my last post, though, a freedom and connection comes from self-forgetfulness. I force myself to remember other people. I have notecards in my car that remind me of the problems other people are facing. I have a list of people written in the notes app on my phone. I set reminders on my computer to schedule time with people. I do whatever I can to really care about what’s going on with other people.

5) Smile and laugh a lot. I find that feelings follow actions. When I smile, I feel better about other people and situations, and they feel better about me. I’ve also found that smiling works better from the inside out, meaning I work on cultivating a spirit of joy and gratitude that makes it easier to smile.

6) Work hard to remember names. That’s just what remembering names takes: hard work. I have to listen when people say their name, really see the person (not look past them), repeat their name in my head, and come up with tricks in my mind to connect their name to something memorable. I look people up on Facebook and LinkedIn before events. I ask people to remind me when I forget their name. I say people’s names over and over and over to myself. Because if you can’t remember their name, good luck having a meaningful relationship.

7) Ask a lot of questions and listen. I try not to interrogate people or invade their privacy, but I’m genuinely curious about people. I know that no matter the circumstances or the differences, questions build bridges. Questions make people interesting. Questions can be a gift, because we all have thoughts that become clearer when we answer a question out loud.

8) Remember what people care about. When I know what someone cares about, I can help them get it. And helping people get what they care about is one of the most rewarding things in life. It’s rewarding to experience the joy of helping, and it’s rewarding when people often reciprocate and multiply the helpfulness. Part of being helpful, too, is verbally affirming to people what they care about. When I say, “This is a big deal to you,” or “I know that this is important to you,” it allows me to line up with the other person’s head and heart.

9) Promote others. I love to make introductions, brag about people, treat people with more respect than they expect and see people for what they can be. People are the most important things on the planet. Let me say that again: People are the most important things on the planet. Every single person—equally.

Sometimes ideas need to be re-discovered. In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People. My dad handed me that book in 1988, and I read it cover to cover. Pretty much everyone in my extended family has read that book. I committed as a teenager to put the ideas to work. The nine ideas above mirror the first nine principles in the book, under the sections titled “Fundamental Techniques in Handling People” and “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” They aren’t hard to understand; they are just hard to do.

If you want people to like you, consider making these nine points a checklist to read and remember.

Matt Norman

Matt Norman

Matt Norman is president of Norman & Associates, which is the largest provider of Dale Carnegie Training programs in North America. He is the author of several articles published by Dale Carnegie Training and Training Magazine on organizational effectiveness and personal growth. He blogs weekly at