The 11 Laws of Likability

Relationship Networking . . . Because People Do Business with People They Like

The 11 Laws of Likability

Author: Michelle Tillis Lederman
Pub Date: September 2011
Print Edition: $16.95
Print ISBN: 9780814416372
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814416389

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I used to believe I knew most of what there was to know

about connecting with people and building relationships.

But one day my belief got completely upended. It happened

while I was teaching one of my classes at New York University.

The course was about organizational communication, and it

was for business school sophomores. The students were

there to learn strategic tactics for communicating effectively.

Even though we covered a wide range of topics during the

semester—from understanding the audience to constructing

oral and written presentations—my overarching message was

always the same: You must have a purpose for every commu-

nication. If you haven’t established your intent, I told my stu-

dents, you are wasting your time and your listener’s patience.

I pounded home that message at every opportunity.

Then one day I asked my class, ‘‘What do you think my

objective is this semester? What is my intent?’’ A young man

sitting in the front row eagerly raised his hand. With a big

smile he said, ‘‘You want us to like you!’’

I was startled by his comment, and my answer was swift

and seemingly nonchalant. ‘‘No, that’s not my intent,’’ I

scoffed. ‘‘I don’t really care whether you like me or not.’’ Re-

flecting on the incident later, though, I realized that my re-

sponse had been a smokescreen. I did want them to like me;

of course I wanted to be liked. Who doesn’t?

What bothered me the most was that my response to the

student’s comment had been so harsh and abrupt, and it was

because I was uncomfortable with the accuracy of his assess-

ment. Even if I was willing to admit that I wanted to be liked, of

course I didn’t want my class to know it. In my mind, someone

who wanted to be liked was needy and weak and wasn’t very


To this day I’m not sure if the student’s comment was intended

to be smart-alecky or sincere, but regardless, it had a

profound impact on me. It got me thinking about likability, and

not just why we want to be liked but why we should want to be

liked. That classroom incident changed the course of my

work, my approach to teaching and coaching, and my own

methods of networking and relationship building. Now I focus

on the importance of likability—being likable, liking ourselves,

and in turn, liking the people we meet.

Many networking experts urge people to be strategic and delib-

erate to a fault, focusing on how to work a room and get in front of

key people. The act of meeting people and seeking connections

begins to feel like a dreaded chore, and when it feels like some-

thing you have to do rather than want to do, it’s hard to motivate

yourself to do it at all, let alone do it well.

Contrary to what many networking experts counsel (and what

I, too, used to believe), every interaction does not need to have an

intent or a specific objective.We do not need to focus with laserlike

precision on what our takeaway from a conversation will be, because

building relationships is not about transactions—it’s about

connections. It is about creating opportunities for honest and auth-

entic interactions, and making them advantageous for all parties

involved. It’s about liking and being liked.

Tapping into likability doesn’t mean making everything all

perky and bright and constantly being happy. In some ways it’s

just the opposite. Harnessing likability is about uncovering what

is authentically likable—in you, in the other person, in your con-

nection. It is through the strength of what is genuine that meaning-

ful connections build into relationships. The term networking is

simply another way to think about how to start a relationship. Our

relationships are our network. Whether they stem from business

or personal situations, our relationships are what support us, con-

nect us, and allow us to progress in all aspects of our lives.

To fully engage the power of likability, we need to understand

what it is and how it works. We are all, obviously, different, and

that’s a fact to be celebrated and embraced. What makes each of

us likable is distinct to us. But the basic drivers of likability are the

same for us all. I call them the 11 laws of likability. This book takes

an in-depth look at each of these ‘‘laws,’’ breaking them down to

find out how they function in both business and social settings,

and how to fully incorporate them into our lives.

This new likability-based paradigm for networking and building

relationships minimizes moments of inauthenticity and missed

opportunities. Instead, I’ll show you how to uncover what is inher-

ently likable about yourself, and how to share those qualities with

the people you meet to create relationships that are honest and

real, and that lead to win-win situations for everyone involved. By

approaching your interactions through the lens of likability, you

can expect to be happier, more comfortable, and more successful

in establishing meaningful relationships.

Even those of you who are comfortable approaching new people,

generating a conversation, or asking for what you want will

benefit from shifting your traditional thinking about how to make

connections. Expanding your perspectives on networking and em-

bracing the tenets of likability can open up whole new paths to

connecting with people and nurturing strong relationships.

Building fruitful and lasting relationships starts with abandoning

the conventional ‘‘me’’-based thoughts that are so prevalent in

the business world and so easy to slip into in our personal lives.

‘‘What can this person do for me?’’ becomes ‘‘What can I do for

this person?’’ Likewise, ‘‘What can I get out of this situation?’’

becomes ‘‘How does this situation benefit us all?’’

You must shift your thinking:

• From Me to Them

• From Work to Any Topic

• From Now to Long Term

Because here is the essential truth about meaningful connections:

It’s not about you—it’s about the relationship.

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