Navigating social situations can be tricky. Most of us want to make good impressions and come across as likable, but there are things that all of us (seriously, all of us) do that can make people dislike us at times. And of course, wanting to be liked should never be your end-all, be-all. What other people think of you isn’t a measure of self-worth. However, while being adored shouldn’t be our guiding light, we also don’t want to go to the opposite extreme of being kind of rude or a jerk and not caring.
The truth of the matter is that most of us fall somewhere in between. We don’t want to be walked all over, but we also don’t want to do anything that will actively upset or alienate other people. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The question then becomes: How do we know we’re doing something that could be bothering others? It’s one of the hardest questions to ask ourselves, because it not only may entail active change on our parts, but also requires honest self-reflection and potentially admitting that we’re not always perfect.
If you sometimes find it hard to connect with people, or you just want to be the most positive and relatable version of yourself possible, here are seven things you may be doing that could be making you less likable.
1. You Share Too Many Photos On Facebook
Studies have shown that we tend to find people who overshape photos on Facebook less relatable. Specifically, our relatives tend not to like it when we share a ton of photos with friends, and our friends tend to dislike it when we post a ton of photos with family. The solution? Either post as much as you darn well please and don’t worry about it, or become more judicious with what you post. Instead of posting 10 photos every time you do something in a group, post just one — or try not posting anything at all, and just be completely present in the moment. You might enjoy it.
2. You Complain A Lot
Sometimes we just need to let off some steam in the form of some good old-fashioned venting. Just be careful that you don’t complain too much around other people — or worse, are seen as the person who is always doing it. Psychologist Guy Winch says, “The constant negativity issuing forth from chronic complainers presents a huge challenge for those around them. And nothing makes chronic complainers happier than being more miserable than their friends.” Take note of how many complaints you make in a day, or if your first vocalization about a person or situation is often negative. If that’s the case, other people have probably noticed it. Plus, think about it: Have you ever met a person and thought, “I love them because they’re just so negative!”? Probably not.
3. You Over-Share
Studies show that others are generally put off when we share too much personal information too soon. Disclosing something really personal typically needs to be earned by having spent enough time or shared experiences with another person. Jumping the gun and telling a person all the prescription drugs you’re on, or that your last boyfriend cheated on you, could make them uncomfortable when shared prematurely.
4. You Hide Your Own Nervousness By Seeming Aloof
In a piece for Psychology Today on making a good impression, psychologist Fredrick Nueman noted that sometimes we make the mistake of trying to appear a little reserved or aloof to mask our nervousness — especially when meeting others for the first time. However, he said that trying your best to seem interested and engaged is actually a much better approach to being likable. “Being interested in someone makes you seem more interesting.” he wrote. If you know that you can become reserved, or even “too cool for it all” as a defense mechanism, make it your goal to try to approach your next social interaction with earnestness and openness, and see how it feels.
5. You Humblebrag
According to a study out of Harvard Business School, the humblebrag — or that thing some people do when trying to brag without seeming like it — is actually just as annoying as straight-up regular bragging. The study found that humblebragging even comes off worse than constant complaining, as the complainer at least comes across as sincere. So the next time you find yourself about to do it, check yourself!
6. You Don’t Ask Questions
In a piece for Forbes, Travis Bradberry, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, says that studies show that those who ask questions about the person they’re with instantly seem more likable. And this makes a lot of sense; have you ever spent an afternoon with someone and walked away thinking, “Wow — that person only talks about themselves. I don’t think they asked me a single question about me or how I’m doing.” Don’t be that person!
7. You Let Shyness Get The Best Of You
As a shy person myself, I know this one is hard to hear. However, in a piece for Psychology Today specifically about dating — but which applies to any social situation — Harvard psychologist Craig Malkin said that both men and women generally prefer people who appear confident over those who seem shy and reserved, because confident behavior instantly creates a stronger sense of trust. The reason being, he noted, is that confident people will often look you in the eye and be more open right off the bat. Shyer people, however, can come across as disinterested or standoffish due to their more timid and reserved body language. So even if you’re naturally on the shyer side, consider faking it until you make it, especially in situations where you want to impress.
Being likable isn’t rocket science. Usually, it just comes down to recognizing what you like about other people and assessing if you exhibit those same qualities. If you wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time with a chronic complainer, or a person who brags all the time, then odds are people won’t respond well when you’re doing it either. So be yourself — just be your best self.