Sugar and spice and everything nice: Characteristics of likeable people

I’m not always the sweet, giving, caring, as-close-to-angels-as-you’re-gonna-get specimen that you’ve come to know me as. Sometimes, I just can’t help but be sarcastic, or wonder why some people are just so…so…what’s a nice way of putting this…short-sighted? Clueless? Hang on…*types therausarus.com in Google*…ah – obtuse! Like that woman who was sitting in the hairdressing chair last week. When my hairdresser asked her what happened to her face (the woman’s forehead was red and raw), she confessed that she had use a pumice stone to smooth out the skin…on her face.

“A pumice stone…” I said in disbelief as I took a seat in the chair. I sounded like what I assume Evel Knieval’s mother must have sounded like when she said (or what she must have said) when he told her what he wanted to do with his life. “A motorcycle…you want to jump over giant flaming things with your motorcycle…”

My hairdresser stifled a laugh. “Yup, a pumice stone.”

“On her face,” I continued.

“On her face,” she nodded.

“The same stone we use on our FEET to remove giant, hard CALLOUSES,” I said with sarcasm.

She hushed me, struggling in vain not to burst out laughing. “She might hear you!”

It makes me wonder though: How would a nice person have reacted? And most importantly, how do you define a “likable” person? Is it the person who speaks only kind words, gives without expecting anything in return, and doesn’t make fun of people who use pumice stones on places other than their feet? I decided to let my non-sarcastic data do the talking.

Analyzing data from our Emotional Intelligence Test, we focused our analysis on people who:

  • Are popular among their peers
  • Experience conflict less often than others

What we discovered was that likability isn’t just about being tactful and polite; it’s a reflection of a person’s self-image as a whole. Here’s what our study reveals about likable people:

  • They possess keen social insight. Their attention to social cues and body language allows them to understand others (their emotions, motivations, behaviors) and adjust their own approach accordingly. Likable people are skilled at building a rapport and putting others at ease in social situations. So if we go back to our pumice stone situation, a likable person would have looked beyond the woman’s shortsightedness and recognized the fact that she “cares” about her skin and wants it to look “good.” A likable person would also ignore the fact that my last sentence was loaded with sarcasm.
  • They recognize their strengths. Likable people are self-motivated, self-confident, and believe in their ability to succeed.
  • They treat themselves with respect, and accept the fact that they are not perfect. Likable people rarely speak ill of themselves or of others, particularly people who use pumice stones on their face.
  • They have an upbeat attitude and are not easily discouraged (unlike this famous SNL character). Rather than focusing on everything they don’t like about themselves or others, they focus on the positive. Likable people do not obsess over mistakes, failures or the past. If they are not happy with their life, they won’t sit there and complain about – they’ll take the steps necessary to make changes.
  • They control their impulses. They self-monitor their thoughts and behavior, and will consider the consequences of their actions before saying or doing something they may regret. (I should probably tell you that I started laughing after I re-read that last sentence – you know, the part about “doing something they may regret.” As Confucius said, “Pumice stone is to face as cement is to face – or rock – or brick – or asphalt.”).
  • They know how to assert themselves without being too aggressive. Likable people are comfortable saying “no” when they need to, and are willing to speak up and share their opinion, even if there is a chance that their views or requests will not be well-received. This seems to fly in the face of the belief that it’s best not to “rock the boat” if one wishes to maintain harmony in relationships.

iamge 1

  • Empathy and keen social insight aside, likable people are also willing to take others’ words at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt. They won’t over-analyze people or situations in an attempt to uncover problems that don’t exist.
  • They are good at controlling their temper – and negative emotions in general. Even when their buttons are being pushed or they’re having a bad day, likable people are able to remain objective and keep the situation in perspective.
  • In most disagreements, they meet others halfway and try to find a compromise that will make everyone happy. Being right isn’t as important to them as being able to regain a sense of harmony in their relationships.
  • They are comfortable with the sense of vulnerability that comes with sharing their feelings. Likable people don’t shy away from emotionally charged situations. They are in touch with their emotions and are not afraid to tell people how they feel.
  • They are able to maintain a civil disposition, even when they have to deal with people they don’t like. This isn’t to say that likable people are fake; they just recognize the need to self-monitor and to treat everyone with dignity, tact, and respect.

And please, don’t use a pumice stone on your face, because I will make fun of you.

Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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