Justin Cobb on the Number One Thing to Make You More Likable

Leadership / May 24, 2019

Justin Cobb knows that making a great first impression is paramount in business. Any deal, interview, or pitch can be over before you even begin if your character isn’t well received. We all have some idea about how to make a good first impression. The first time we prepare for a job interview or speech, we probably hear all the usual advice. Smile, make eye contact, speak slowly and at a good volume. Dress well, and remember names. Shake hands like a confident person.

But what about the things we actually say? Are there specific types of speech that make us more likable as a person. Science says yes, and the answer is not only yes, but a dramatic yes. Research at Harvard shows that people who engaged in this one change in their conversation were perceived as significantly more likable.

Ask Don’t Tell

The one magic tool you need is not even that complicated. All you have to do is ask questions and then ask follow-up questions. It’s not surprising, since people love to talk, and love to be listened to. But the research shows that it’s not the initial question that has the most impact. It’s the follow-up. Why is that?

Most people ask questions in conversation. It’s a normal way to progress a discussion. But just asking a question doesn’t necessarily communicate that you care. Many people ask, “How are you today?” and on hearing the response, start to talk about themselves. In the process, they demonstrate that they never really cared about how the other person was. But if instead, they followed up by looking for more details, it shows that they’re really listening, and also that they aren’t just asking to be polite.

How to Use It

The best way to use this is to remind yourself to move past the ‘what’ and onto the ‘why’ or ‘how’ or ‘when’. Try to find out at least one more detail about anything a person tells you. If they’re telling you about a new business deal, ask “How did you make that deal?” or “When is it starting?” Then just listen. You’ll be surprised by how much more you learn, and by how many close business relationships start to develop.

Justin Cobb runs a network of successful businesses around the globe and regularly speaks about entrepreneurship, management, and attitude for success.


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