I may or may not be a likable guy—that’s not something I can judge without bias—but I know plenty of people in my life who are likable. I also know plenty who aren’t. Unsurprisingly, the likable ones share a lot of common traits even though their personalities may be completely different from each other.
What do I mean by “likable”? I don’t just mean someone who’s kind, generous, and good at heart. I also don’t just mean someone who’s charismatic, personable, and full of confidence. There are many who fall into these categories that are fine people, but not people who I’d consider “easy company”—the type of people who are effortless to hang out with, the type of people you look forward to hanging out with because it’s guaranteed to be a good time.
Here are some of the common traits I’ve noticed in “easy company” people, which you may want to incorporate into your own life if you want to be the kind of person who others enjoy being around.
1. Listen and Pay Attention
People like it when others show genuine interest in who they are, and the easiest way to do this is to actively listen when they speak. There are many facets to this: let them speak their thoughts freely with interruption, show that you’re listening by responding to what they said instead of moving onto your own thoughts, and actually remember what they say instead of storing it in your brain only for the duration of the conversation. You’d be surprised how touching it can be when someone else recalls a small thing you thought nobody paid attention to.
2. Build Others Up, Even at Your Expense
“At your expense” can mean many things. Most people like being treated to things, but do it too often and they might start to get uncomfortable as they feel more and more indebted to you. Try not to buy people in this way—consider spending your time, energy, and thoughts instead. People always appreciate it when you want the best for them and show it via your actions. Remember, it’s not just about giving them things; it’s about genuinely caring for their well-being and success.
3. Own Up to Your Mistakes
When someone admits and takes responsibility for a mistake they’ve made, it shows a lot of maturity, character, and security—and we’re all naturally drawn to those kinds of people. It’s surprisingly easy to respect someone who owns up to their failures, because we all make mistakes and it’s one of the few things that we can all relate to. Indeed, we hate it when people don’t do this, and if you find yourself shirking responsibility often, it may be a sign that you need to grow up.
4. Find the Humor in Tough Situations
Think about how you feel about someone who freaks out over the littlest things and is constantly anxious in their circumstances. Not easy to be around, right? On the other hand, there are those who can recognize when something is going wrong, but instead of freaking out about it, they go with the flow and do what they can to get through it. They’re the kind of people who help you feel calmer when anxiety strikes, and we gravitate toward that kind of people.
I’m not advocating for stoicism or emotional deadness. There are times when it’s healthy to let anxiety, stress, fear, and pain run their course in not-so-calm ways. But if you can find the humor in tough situations, that can go a long way toward being someone people like to be around. For example, if you get a flat tire on a road trip, poking fun at the situation is more “enjoyable” than having a mental breakdown.
At the same time, it’s important that you find the humor in these situations rather than trying to create humor. You don’t need to be a comedian.
5. Be Understanding and Slow to Judge
You have opinions, and you’ll inevitably run into others who hold opposing opinions. One of the most likable traits you can have is the ability to coexist peacefully with those who adhere to a different lifestyle, live by a different paradigm, and find joy in different things. No one likes having to defend themselves against someone else’s critical eye, especially if you’re just an acquaintance or stranger. If you can be understanding and slow to judge, people will naturally feel more comfortable around you.
6. Open Up and Embrace Vulnerability
You probably know this already, but it’s very difficult to build relationships with people who are closed off, guarded, and afraid of letting others know their true selves. I used to be like this, and I empathize completely with those who are. But I’ll also be the first to say that intentional vulnerability has done more for the health of my relationships than nearly anything else.
But beware! There’s a fine line between vulnerability and self-pity. Self-pity is when you force your weaknesses and insecurities on others and constantly try to put the spotlight on how insufficient you are. That kind of behavior will repel even the most patient of saints. Vulnerability is being honest about who you are, opening up when people want to know about you, and not putting up a wall out of fear of rejection.
Vulnerability is hard—you are, after all, making yourself vulnerable. There’s always a risk of being hurt when you expose yourself in this way. But being willing to open up about yourself is one of the things that will convince those around you that it’s safe to open up about themselves to you, and people like that.
7. Stay True to Your Word
You and your word must be one. What you say must match what you do. People may not agree with what you say and do, but they’ll certainly respect you for being true and authentic. Duplicitous people who say one thing but do another may be likable for a time, but once the true surfaces, they lose whatever they’ve managed to hold onto. Integrity is one of the keys to being likable.
Learn more about signs that you have real integrity.