By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.
How often do we try to consciously increase how much others like us? Not for someone to develop a Peppermint Patty type crush on us or for vindication for mistreatment in grade school, but for social and professional growth. I am sure many people have the attitude; “If they like me they like me, if they don’t, who cares?” But, for those interested in increasing their ‘likeability quotient’ there are a few psychological theories that say it is possible.
The rule is simple, those who like us, we tend to like in return. According to Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., if we do not reciprocate once someone has extended kindness to us then we are violating a tacit social agreement; one that civilizes us and makes continued progress possible.
Unless there is some sort of negative result expected, people usually feel an obligation to return pleasant acts. And according to Theodore Million, Ph.D., and his writings on “interpersonal reciprocity” people’s interactions with each other are limited in a foretellable fashion by one person’s actions toward the other.
Mere Exposure Theory
This theory asserts that the more times we come in contact with a person the more we favor them. As long as no negative reactions result from the exposure (and in some cases even if it does) then positive feelings increase. As explained by psychologist Mike Cardwell, when we first encounter a stranger it can result in feelings of “fear or aggression.” However, repeated meetings result in an increased feeling of safety. This is followed by the feelings that this person is like you which increases the likelihood that you will accept them into your social circle.
Michael Palmer, Ph.D., states that if a person increases their positive feelings for you then you are likely to do the same for them. Essentially, this means that you can turn up the volume of ‘likeability.’ Further, having someone change their mind about liking you (dislike to like) leads to an even greater increase in ‘affection’ than if they always liked you.
Either way, as seekers of success, it’s not necessary to leave whether or not we will be accepted (read liked) to chance. If we exhibit pleasant behavior toward others, maintain a presence and increase our affections as the situation dictates it can lead to pleasant experiences and gains for all concerned. We just have to tailor these theories to our individual goals and aims.
If you liked this article, you’ll love Dr. Akil’s new book SUPER YOU! 101 Ways to Maximize your Potential on Amazon or Lulu. You can also download a free chapter on your Kindle or iPhone at Amazon. I know that intro was cheesy. :-)