10 conversational tricks that immediately make you more likeable, according to psychology

Avatar by Paul Brian | May 31, 2024, 2:56 pm

Who doesn’t want to be more likeable? I know I do. 

The thing is that striking a chord with others comes down to more than just chance, chemistry or having interests in common. 

Likeability is significantly influenced by how you speak and conversational mannerisms that psychology shows create a highly beneficial impression on others. 

Here’s a look at conversational tricks you can do that will immediately improve how people respond to you. 

Let’s dive in: 

1) Active listening

Active listening is when you listen to what somebody is saying and clarify it. 

You listen for the needs and emotions behind what is being discussed and provide feedback and more responses. 

You’re an engaged participant in the conversation, not just a bystander or a bump on a log. 

As organizational psychology professor Dr. Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. explains

“Work on becoming a more effective listener, through what is called ‘active listening’ where you reflect back what you believe the speaker said in order to ensure clear understanding.”

2) Ask followup questions

Part of active listening and being a great conversationalist is asking followup questions. 

When somebody mentions they used to live in Los Angeles or that they love surfing, ask a followup question:

“What job were you doing when you were in LA?”

“What was your favorite place to surf? Have you seen the movie Soul Surfer about Bethany Hamilton?”

By asking these questions, you show an interest and deepen the conversation, keeping it going.

3) Drop their name

Using somebody name when talking to them is another great power move that makes you very likeable

There are some ground rules, of course:

  • Don’t overdo it by adding their name constantly
  • Don’t use their name in a fake, schmoozy way the style of a car salesman
  • Don’t drop their name awkwardly or as if trying to get their attention, just do it naturally and smoothly

“Using an individual’s name when addressing them directly is a powerful relationship-developing strategy. It conveys attention and a wish to engage personally,” notes the Valens Mental Health Clinic.

4) Be real about yourself

When you are real about who you are and what you stand for, it opens a conversation up and makes it engaging and deep. 

Your sincerity sparks a flame in others and they feel called to also be true about their thoughts, emotions and experiences. 

They feel safe and proud to open up about what’s going on in their life and what they care about and resonate with. 

It’s a definite win-win. 

5) Seek out shared space

Another excellent conversational trick that really works is to find common ground

This can be done quite rapidly and you can vary it depending on who you’re around. 

For example, if you’re at a bar and the guy next to you has on a hockey jersey you could mention the name of their star player who you’ve heard of. 

Or if you’re talking to your accountant and she has a nice watch you can comment on how tasteful it is and how you also like watches.

“The highly socially intelligent person can carry on conversations with a wide variety of people, and is tactful and appropriate in what is said,” Riggio notes.

6) Validate their feelings

Another great conversational trick that immediately makes you more likeable is to validate a person’s feelings

Phrases like “yeah, I know what you mean,” or an appreciative chuckle are ideal.

This lets the person know that you hear them and appreciate them. 

Regardless of whether you fully agree with them, you are validating their emotional state and letting them know you’re not judging and are there for them. 

7) Share your imperfections and foibles

Opening up about where you fall short is another key part of being a very effective and likeable communicator

Being vulnerable and admitting some of your flaws can be done in a kind of slow-drip and with some humor.

“I never clear my dishes out of the sink after I eat a big meal,” you admit to a date, for example. 

Attractive? Not at all. Honest and likeable? 100%.

“Being vulnerable requires us to let our guard down and be seen for who we authentically are. This is difficult, and a key part of enhancing self-acceptance and genuine confidence, building relationships, and strengthening quality of life,” explains licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Caspari Ph.D.

8) Mirror others and then raise the vibration 

Mirroring is another outstanding and very important communication trick that makes you stand out from the crowd. 

Essentially what you want to do is mirror and reflect back empathy for another person’s emotions while also going on to generate your own reality or “vibe” and spreading that. 

Say, for example, you spread an aura of enthusiasm after mirroring somebody’s depression, slowly raising them up the emotional tone scale and causing a sea change in the whole situation.

As psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. and professor Richard Boyatzis explain

“Perhaps the most stunning recent discovery in behavioral neuroscience is the identification of mirror neurons in widely dispersed areas of the brain…

When we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our mirror neurons reproduce those emotions. Collectively, these neurons create an instant sense of shared experience.”

9) Joke moderately to break the tension

Laughter and jokes are a great way to break the ice when it comes to social interactions and conversations. 

By making other people laugh, you can break awkward tension and come across as much more personable. 

This is excellent at work and in interpersonal situations like dating, friendship, social gatherings or many other contexts. 

Professor Brad Bitterly, Ph.D. and behavioral research scientist Alison Wood Brooks, Ph.D. explain that

“One good laugh—or better still, a workplace culture that encourages levity—facilitates interpersonal communication and builds social cohesion…

However, jokes that fall flat (they’re not funny, or no one laughs) or are offensive (they’re viewed as inappropriate for the context) can harm…”

10) End on a high note

Ending on a high note, (“the peak-end rule” in psychology) is another great conversational trick that will bear fruit for you if done well. 

The way you do it varies with each interaction and conversation, but the basic idea is simple:

You make a brilliant comment, hilarious joke or insightful and deep rumination and then you excuse yourself and get going. 

You leave folks wanting more and commenting to each other about what a splendid fellow or amazing lady you are. 

You just went out on a high note…

As Clinical Management psychologist Larry Benz outlines:

“This is known as the peak-end rule, and it’s how humans summarize their experiences. 

We rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how an experience felt, which in turn affects our decisions about having that experience again.”

This habit of ending on a high-note is hilariously parodied in a classic Seinfeld episode, and when you do it you’ll experience real results.

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We’re all in this together

We often hear the phrase that “we’re all in this together” and sort of nod and smile. 

Part of us knows it’s true, and yet so many complications arise on the road of life.

But psychology and neurology actually show that this is far more than just a feel-good cliche:

It’s a scientific fact that our neurons fire to mirror people around us, and that influential and charismatic individuals cause a happy and positive chain reaction. 

We can be that chain reaction as we cause social neurons to activate in those around us. 

“The firing of social neurons is evident all around us. We once analyzed a video of Herb Kelleher, a cofounder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, strolling down the corridors of Love Field in Dallas, the airline’s hub,” write Goleman and Boyatzis.

We could practically see him activate the mirror neurons, oscillators, and other social circuitry in each person he encountered. 

He offered beaming smiles, shook hands with customers as he told them how much he appreciated their business, hugged employees as he thanked them for their good work. 

And he got back exactly what he gave.