The secret to being liked

There was once a study where psychologists showed subjects a series of pictures, asking them to rate how attractive the people in the pictures were. Unknown to the subjects, they sometimes saw two of the same person– the difference being that one picture would be digitally manipulated to increase pupil dilation.  The impact?  The picture with the increased pupil dilation would on average receive one point higher in ratings– say, a 7, instead of a 6, out of 10.  The ancient Egyptians knew this two thousand years ago.  Before going out, girls would put eyedropper solution in their eyes to dilate their pupils.

But why does this work?

When you are attracted to someone, your brain instructs your eyes to let in more light– to collect more information on the object you are interested in.  Thus– the law of reciprocity, which is the old Dale Carnegie trick of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”.  How can you take the old techniques of remembering people’s names, asking people to talk about themselves, and giving compliments (instead of criticism)– and update that to the year 2009?

I like you

Do I?  Who knows, but there was once a car salesman in the Pacific Northwest who mass-mailed prospects and handed out zillions of business cards.  He is allegedly the top car salesman in the US.  The secret?  (No, not “The Secret”, which is a book and movie).  He printed “I like you” on the backs of these cards.  Completely obvious, yes– but effective, nonetheless.  Facebook just released a feature where you can click “I like it” against any activity in your feed.  There is almost no downside to hitting “I like it” to anything that is in your feed as well as anything that a friend posts (within reason).  At the extreme, perhaps you can be accused of a nodding bobblehead or a “yes man”– perhaps a risk if you were to create a script that automatically hit “I like this” for anything you and your friends do on Facebook.  Hint: who wants to write the script and sell it to people on Linkedin?  Insurance and real estate agents would love it, by the way.

Your baby is beautiful and what a delicious meal you made!

Not all babies are beautiful– sorry.  And not every dinner at a friend’s house was the best [insert name of food] that you’ve ever had. But back to the rule of reciprocity, people like folks who like them. So in the world of LinkedIn, you can write a glowing recommendation of someone who you’d actually like to have a recommendation from.   There is a good chance they will reciprocate– provided that your recommendation is authentic and thoughtful.

I’ll invite 10,000 of my best friends

Yeah, right. Remember the days of MySpace trains, where you could join the train and auto-friend everyone else– then get a million friends overnight?  The same is true with LinkedIn and Facebook– there are people who think that the quantity of friends makes up for the lack of any depth with a few key close friends.  “So how many followers do you have on Twitter?”, was a question that came up in last night’s Tweetup in San Francisco.  I happen to have almost a thousand. There are folks who have 30 times that.  Yet the ratio of how many folks you have followed, divided by my how many friends you have is a more accurate measure of your influence. There are guys who have followed 10,000 people and naturally got 3,000 folks to friend back.  Then they unfollow most of those original people and have a great-looking ratio.  It goes back to developing relationships, which can only be done one person at a time.

Too much of any good thing is bad…

There is abuse in any of these tactics– but it doesn’t mean the tactic is not valid.  Overdo it and people will wonder if anything you say is just a veiled attempt at self-promotion.  But as Mark Twain said, “The key to success is to be genuine. Fake that and you’ve got it made!”

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