How Do You Like Me Now?

How Do You Like Me Now?

Gerald was sent to us for coaching with the vague goal of “getting along better”. No specific behavioral infractions were cited, just a general lack of connection with any of his staff.

“No-one likes to work for him,” said his supervisor. “The quality of work in his department is going down. Everyone seems dispirited.”

This situation was not new, but the new director of the organization placed high value on collegiality, and he believed that relationships affect work performance, so he hoped that Gerald would be able to make some changes.

Gerald was a pleasant enough fellow, but his attitude was that he didn’t come to work to make friends, and he pretty much didn’t care if his staff liked him or not as long as they did their jobs. He didn’t see what the problem was and he thought the new director, while well-respected and well-liked, put too much emphasis on “touchy-feely stuff”.

Over time Gerald was persuaded that better relationships with his staff might yield better work results, and he began to consider ways to make himself more agreeable to his staff. More likeable.

But it was a hard sell. As Gerald said, he had never been abusive or disrespectful; he thought he was polite and fair. He thought respecting one another for their efforts was enough, and he didn’t know what the next level in relationship development would be.

Gerald isn’t alone. The world is filled with people who are civil, diligent, and impersonal. Sometimes we call them “business-like”. And there are many who are not charmed by people at the far end of the personality spectrum: the aggressively friendly and insistently personal.

To better define likeability, and to learn how it might relate to him, Gerald was encouraged to observe the interactions of people who seemed to enjoy collegial and comfortable relationships with one another, to discount behaviors that he found distasteful or “overdone”, and to make note of behaviors that he thought he could adopt.

Gerald reported that everyone he observed who seemed to be well-liked, as opposed to those who just acted like they were popular, had one characteristic in common: an interest in other people. He said it showed up in a number of ways:

– Asking questions and listening to the answers;

– Exhibiting interest in the interests of others;

– Relaxing and smiling;

– Making eye contact.

And his favorite: not making everything be about themselves. Gerald said that people who kept the focus on others were freed of having to talk very much so they didn’t have to think of things to say all the time.

As Gerald said, “I think people like you if they think you like them. I guess everyone wants to be liked.”


Language at Work: helping people find their likeable selves for over 28 years. Call 202-298-7700 today.

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