By J. N. Halm
“I don’t like him.”
“I can’t stand her.”
“He gets under my skin.”
“She is so irritating.”
We have all, in one way or another, made one of these statements at some points in our lives. It is not out of the ordinary that something somebody does, or does not, will not go down well with us. It is even not unusual for people who have never set eyes on each other before to rub each other the wrong way at their very first meeting. It happens. In other words, people do not need to know each other before they develop a dislike for one another. In the same vein, two people can meet for the very first time in the lives and they would instantly develop a great fondness for one another. That too happens.
These being a part and parcel of life, we always find a way of coping. If there is someone you particularly do not like but the one happens to be in the same organisation with you, I do not believe you will leave the job just because of that someone. You will find a way of “managing” the situation.
In life, you might be the very best and even rise to the top even if people hate your guts. There are some vocations and professions in life where you do not need to be “liked” for you to make it. I will tread cautiously to even say that if one happens to be a security man, you can survive or even excel without particularly being liked.
This is not to say that one has to be obnoxious to be the best security guard. But the point is that likability, especially with regards to customers, will not be too high on the list of qualities one needs to possess to be a very effective security man. Obviously, exhibiting a high level of machismo will be above the likability factor. If you happen to be in charge of auditing, you might get away with very low likability from those you are meant to audit.
It is even not unusual to read articles where people are advised to be deliberately dislikeable in certain areas. Dislikeability is even elevated under some conditions. So long as the one gets the expected results, they are urged to be more dislikeable.
However, in customer service, this is close to impossible. You cannot excel at the front line without the likability factor. Customer service is about dealing with other people—sometimes, people you are meeting for the very first time. It really helps when customers taking a liking to you.
It has been proven time and time again that people like to deal with people they like. It is that simple. It is said that whenever two people meet, the first question that they ask unconsciously is: “Do I like this person?” If the response is an overwhelming “Yes”, then the relationship gets off on the right note. If the response is an indifferent “I’m not sure”, then the relationship will start off on a cautious note. However, if the response, is a strong “No”, then the relationship starts off on a rocky note or might not proceed further at all.
For those at the front line, it helps a great deal if the response the customer gives is the overwhelming “Yes!” It really helps if customers form good first impressions of you when they come into contact with you. It is not a pleasant feeling to be dealing regularly with someone you just cannot stand. Therefore, customers will stay away, if they cannot stand the one they have to deal with. Unfortunately, customers do not just stay away. They go to the competition.
There is actually power in being a likable person, contrary to what we see and hear every day. Those who are liked tend to have more advantages than those who are not liked. For instance, when customers like the one they are dealing with, they are more likely to understand the situation when things do not go according to expectations. When a customer likes the individual he or she is dealing the customer will even go out of his or her way to offer valuable suggestions, advice and even help.
When you are dealing with, say a supplier, who does not like you, your chances of getting a good deal from the one are very slim. If you really need the one to be able to do your job, then you are in real trouble because the one will play hardball with you. The one may not care if you get into trouble or not simply because he or she does not like you. And since there is nothing criminal about not liking someone, the one can just frustrate you and there is really nothing much you can do to the one. Your only solution would be to stop dealing with him or her.
It is important, however, to stress the point that being likable does not equate to being weak. Likability should in no way be synonymous to being a “wimp.” Likability does not mean that the person has to lie down for every customer to walk all over him or her. You can be likable and firm at the same time. You can be likable without being taken advantage of by your customers. One can be likable and yet still stand for his or her rights when needs be. Likable people do not have to force it for people to like them. They do not have to do things they are uncomfortable with just so that others will like them.
Most times, people who act as wimps do so because they are afraid they will offend someone. They do not want to get into the bad books of others, so they will acquiesce to every request others make of them. Sometimes, employees have been found to have made wrong decisions and taken unlawful actions just to please a customer or just to get a customer to like them. Such individuals end up as tools in the hands of others. Since tools are meant to be used, these individuals are used to fulfil the selfish interests of others. In my experience, individuals who behave like that just to be liked by others end up not being liked at all.
It is true that we are all capable of being liked. Regardless of who you are as a person, you can be liked. You can be a morally-upright individual and you will not be liked whiles you can be a crooked person and still be liked by people. Likability, like other social skills, can be cultivated.
But how does one increase one’s likability factor, assuming we are all likable to one degree or another? How does a customer-handling professional ensure that customers give an overwhelming “Yes” response to the question of whether they like the individual or not.
I believe the first step in being likable is to become conscious of your likability status. For many people, the thought of whether they are likable or not has not really occurred to them. We take things like that for granted. People are more likely to make a conscious effort to cultivate other social skills than to work on their likability skills. People will gladly join Toastmasters and other groups to improve their public speaking skills. But how many make a conscious attempt to become more likable?
To be more likable, one must necessarily be very approachable. One’s body language must be welcoming to customers. Certain non-verbal signals push people away and must therefore be omitted from one’s language. To be likable, one must also make a conscious effort to go out of his or her way to care for others. Empathy is a key component in one’s likability pack. Since being empathetic goes with how well one is able to listen to others, it pays to develop one’s listening skills. This also means that you do not have to monopolise the conversation. People who are only interested in what they have to say and only want to talk about themselves are not too liked wherever they go.
It is important that people see you as someone who is genuinely interested in what they have to say. Being a lot friendlier also helps in increasing one’s likability. Saying nice things to others must become second nature to the one who desires to be likable. A little compliment will go a long way in warming people up to you.
Likability might not be listed among one’s qualifications in seeking promotion at work and in life. However, like an unseen force, its influence can be felt all over. As long we have to deal with people, it is important if they like us or not. Our performance, and by extension, rewards in life are all influenced by how likable we are.
Businesses regularly lose business because of customers who do not like one person or another in the establishment. Partnerships fail to materialise because one party dislikes another and lucrative deals are lost because of the same reasons. Whichever way one looks at it, it is not too difficult to notice that likability easily affects the fortunes of not only individuals but businesses at large.