Everyone, whether they like to admit it or not, has a mixture of good and bad traits. And interestingly, a lot of these human traits actually hark back to our physiology. In fact, several of the qualities we most appreciate in other human beings today are actually the product of evolution. But while there are some traits that are almost universally still considered to be good, other qualities have been overlooked over time. In the modern world, however, the value of others is being recognized more than ever. So read on to discover 20 of the most important traits commonly found in likable people today, and the science that explains why…
20. A sense of humor
While you can probably think of someone you’d call “humorless,” most of us do find something funny, even if we don’t openly show it. And when we look to others, humor is a very important trait. Funny people are more likable but they also foster trust, as humor provides a window into their genuine nature. Plus, humor reduces stress by releasing dopamine into our brains. So there’s another reason to like funny people – they’re good for our health.
Honesty is vital in all kinds of relationships. In fact, a 2007 survey of 500 company employees, almost a third of workers ranked honesty as the trait they desired most in their leaders, above experience and communication skills. And in our day-to-day lives it’s something we value highly too, particularly in romantic partners. Why? Well, for one, when trust is broken, it’s very hard to fix, and so we’re pretty keen on those who we believe will remain honest.
Most of us are drawn to sociable people, even if we are shy ourselves. Meeting sociable people feels good, but also serves a vital cognitive function. Living within a social grouping is hardwired into our evolution – it’s long been essential to man’s sense of security. We are naturally programmed to seek out sociable people, and we like them because it ties in with our innate sense of survival.
17. Listening skills
Being a good listener is one of the most frequently overlooked, but most likable, traits a person can have. Really listening to someone helps create loyalty and trust, and people are far more likely to like those they know have really taken the time to understand what someone has to say instead of just paying lip-service to their words.
Consistency is a highly-valued trait that reduces feelings of anxiety and risk. A consistent athlete, for example, is more likely to be a team’s most valued player. And on a face-to-face basis it’s great to know you have a good idea what response you’re going to get from a person, regardless of how their day is going or how they’re feeling at that time.
Given that all humans are in some way vulnerable, it makes sense that we would value this intensely likable (though not always obviously so) trait. Being vulnerable rather than guarded is crucial to fostering relationships, and sharing vulnerability can actually create and enhance connections between people too.
When we speak of open-mindedness as a likable trait, it isn’t just in terms of someone’s worldview but also how they are likely to react to us as a person. Open-minded people are less controlling of their thoughts, allowing themselves to be receptive to new ideas and viewpoints. And it’s a likable trait, as we know that even if what we say contradicts a person’s previously held beliefs, it won’t necessarily be dismissed.
Generosity is a trait valued by most people in one way or another. We appreciate generosity whether it is shown through charity or what we perceive as generosity from loved ones in the form of material possessions, compassion or simply the gift of time. But generosity is also a likable trait because it is intrinsically linked to our nature. In particular, it’s linked to the relationship we shared with our mother in early years, and it is, therefore, something we’re likely to seek out in others.
12. A non-judgemental attitude
No one likes to be judged, and no doubt some of us are better at taking criticism than others. However, in general we do tend to like people who don’t judge either us or other people. Why? Well, to avoid being judgemental you need to see the world through other people’s eyes. And knowing that someone does this tells us they are an empathetic person, which makes us more likely to like and trust them as a result.
We’re naturally drawn to humble people because they make us feel comfortable and liked. Contrast world leaders such as Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela with President Trump, for example. While the latter is known for his ego and his aloofness, the former two were famous for the relaxed way in which they greeted people. They were likable because they spoke to people on an equal footing. Being humble isn’t the same as eaten humble pie, however, but we do like those who aren’t full of it.
Most of us don’t like people sometimes referred to as “touchy-feely.” Indeed, excessive physical contact can make us feel awkward at best, and at worst under threat. However, we tend to like those that don’t shy away from physical contact. It immediately makes them seem more friendly and sincere, and we’re drawn towards these kinds of people more than to those who are distant.
Integrity is an incredibly likable trait in others. Perhaps we value integrity so highly today because it has been lost in so many of the institutions we once trusted, including politics and business, as well as many of our high-profile athletes and entertainers. And so when we see someone acting with integrity, we know they’re doing what is right, not what furthers their own interests. And so even when it’s unpopular, it’s the kind of thing that gives us hope and cements our trust in that person.
No, we don’t like to be grilled 24/7, but when someone asks us lots of (relevant and related) questions in response to what we say, we know they’re really listening. And as a result, we feel our words are valued and are much more inclined to like that person.
7. Strong body language
Body language is an essential part of communication and tells us a lot about how likely we are to like someone. It also encourages us to feel comfortable (or uncomfortable) in their presence. For example, someone with their arms folded, offering no eye contact and leaning away is likely to be either afraid of us or unfriendly. On the other hand, strong body language draws us in, making us more likely to get on well with someone.
6. A winning smile
When people smile at us it usually makes us feel good, so long as the smile is genuine. And we’re also likely to copy such behavior too, as it helps create a bond. As a result, we tend to be attracted towards people who smile a lot because they’re easier to bond with.
“Patience is a virtue” may be an old saying, but one that never gets tired. We’re more inclined to like patient people than those who get easily agitated, as that in turn can make us anxious. In his essay Develop a Pleasing Personality, self-help expert Napoleon Hill wrote, “Remember that proper timing of your words and acts may give you a big advantage over impatient people.” For example, when we know someone has thought about their words or actions, the chances we’ll like them go through the roof.
We don’t tend to like workaholics or people who are lazy. In fact in general, we’re drawn to those who have – or at least seem to have – a pretty strong work/life balance and good priorities. Someone might be passionate, but if they’re too serious all the time we’re not going to like them, even if we respect them. On the other hand, someone who is never serious might not garner our respect, and this too can impact on us liking them.
3. Thinking before speaking
We’ve all met that person who speaks their mind with pride. But in reality, choosing what not to say can be just as powerful (and much more likable) than saying whatever you think. Those who can’t filter their words may be successful but they’re likely to have fewer friends, as saying whatever you think can be at the detriment of other valuable traits like empathy and patience.
2. Being able to put a name to a face
It might sound overly simplistic, but if someone remembers our name in a secondary conversation, we feel good. We also appreciate the fact that they’ve remembered who we are, instantly like them more and leave their company with a strong and lasting impression.
1. The ability to compromise
It’s good never good to be surrounded by too many “yes” people. But it’s a whole lot worse to meet someone who argues over every point as if it’s a sport. While debate is healthy (and vital) in all walks of life, there’s a much bigger chance we’ll like someone if they debate and argue in order to find a compromise and agreement, rather than simply being right. This kind of behavior can ultimately leave people feeling bad about themselves.