Relationship Management: How Likable Are You, Really?

Forget the adage that charisma is something that you have or you don't. You can actually learn how to be more likable.

May 1, 2011

Everyone likes you and loves to sing your praises when you aren’t around, right? Maybe, but you might not be as endearing as you believe. Do people lose eye contact with you when you’re midsentence in a conversation? Or do they turn their shoulders or legs away from you when you’re talking? Do they start looking at their watch or phone or fidgeting as you speak?

Sorry to say, but these all can be subtle signs that a person has tuned you out mentally and may be just pretending to like you to be polite.

But don’t wallow in thoughts about whether people like you, really like you. You can start winning over more people and become more likable. It boils down to charisma, says Kurt W. Mortensen, author of the book The Laws of Charisma (AMACOM, 2010) and frequent speaker and trainer on the topics of persuasion, motivation, and influence.

Charisma, according to Mortensen, is “the ability to easily build rapport, effectively influence others to your way of thinking, inspire them to achieve more, and in the process make an ally for life.

“People are so skeptical, especially of real estate professionals,” says Mortensen, who has studied the tools of influence for 20 years. “If they sense that you are trying to persuade them, they’ll resist you. When you have charisma, they’ll want to be around you and want to be influenced by you. They will be more willing to let their guard down and not resist you.”

Here’s more info on how to charm and captivate consumers.

5 Ways to Be More Likable

For some, charisma comes naturally. But those who aren’t similarly gifted can learn how to ooze charisma too, says Mortensen, whose book outlines 30 attributes of charismatic people, based on scientific research. Here are five ways to increase your charisma.

1. Pay attention to the nonverbal cues you are sending.

Charismatic people are masters at communicating nonverbally and know how to use gestures and facial expressions to their benefit. Here are a few things to pay attention to:

  • One handshake doesn’t fit all. A handshake is critical. In fact, studies show that one bad handshake can set you back one hour in building rapport. A good handshake makes people feel appreciated and more connected to you. Qualities of a good handshake include mirroring the other person’s handshake in strength, aligning shoulders, standing up (if seated), and offering a sincere smile with eye contact, Mortensen says.
  • Eye contact says a lot. Too much or too little may send the wrong message. Staring at people 100 percent of the time makes them nervous — or even could send the message that you are either falling in love with them or very angry. Instead, maintaining eye contact about 70 percent of the time is comfortable for most people, Mortensen says. Look for signs that others may be getting uncomfortable. For example, if they avoid eye contact, they may be disengaged in the conversation. A quick rapport-building test: Make eye contact and start nodding “yes.” If the person reciprocates, you’ve likely established a connection, Mortensen says.
  • Don’t forget to smile. Never underestimate the power of a genuine smile. Smiling at the right times can provide a big boost in building connections.

2. Prove your credibility — and ‘show’ a weakness.

Nearly all buyers — 98 percent — say a quality they consider “very important” in real estate professionals is honesty and integrity, according to the 2009 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Saying you have such traits isn’t enough, though. Trust has to be earned.

To increase your credibility, have someone else who already has established credibility with that person introduce you or give you all the kudos instead of you bragging about your own accomplishments, which can come across as arrogant.

You can actually turn off others by coming across as too good to be true. While it may seem counterintuitive, revealing a small weakness can actually make others view you as more honest and credible.

It’s human nature that “they are going to look for a weakness or something wrong with you anyway,” Mortensen says. “If you don’t give them a weakness, they’ll assign one to you.”

The key, however, is to turn a weakness into a strength — e.g., you may have the most expensive services, but it’s because you offer more than your competitors.

Here’s another tip to show credibility: Watch your voice tone and avoid using filler words. A deeper voice tends to be viewed as more credible, and using lots of vocal fillers, such as “um” and “uh,” can decrease your credibility.

3. Offer some empathy.

In today’s complex real estate market, buyers and sellers want understand and be understood. Empathy involves feeling and understanding their situation by listening with your “ears, mind, and heart,” Mortensen says. Charismatic people know how to display empathy at the right times.

“When people know that you can see what they see, feel what they feel, and hurt the way they hurt, then they will be willing to let you influence them,” Mortensen says.

How can you show empathy? Stop talking! Listen three times more than you talk. Acknowledge the feelings and emotions displayed, Mortensen says.

“Listening and asking questions is very influential and charismatic,” Mortensen says. “You want to come across as consultants.”

4. Become a good storyteller.

Charismatic people are great storytellers. Storytelling is a tool they often turn to in order to connect with others and subtly persuade them.

Stories can help you establish rapport, build common ground, and generate more acceptance to an idea, Mortensen says. If you feel a client is on the wrong path or you want them to reach a different solution, the storytelling approach can be a nonconfrontational way to help them see the light.

“People value their own conclusions more highly than yours,” Mortensen says.

Therefore, use stories to influence clients and customers without making them feel like you are critiquing them or making demands. Share a story that relates to their situation. Good storytellers often keep the story simple (no more than four points), tell a story in an animated, energetic way, and appeal to emotions for lasting impact, Mortensen says.

5. Use your wit and optimism to win them over.

Channel your inner comedian. “Humor disarms people and opens them up, making them more likely to connect with you,” Mortensen says. “When you leverage humor, your message receives more weight and consideration than one that comes from someone who has not created the rapport or charisma you have.” Plus, it’ll make you more memorable.

Self-deprecating humor — learning to laugh at yourself — can be one way to connect with others, he says.

But if being funny isn’t your shtick, try to win over others with your contagious optimism. Optimists tend to radiate charisma, too.

“When you’re really charismatic, people want to be around you and do business with you,” Mortensen adds. “The goal is to really learn to understand people and learn how you can motivate and inspire them.”


Stay Tuned! Relationship Management is a new column at Realtor Magazine Online that focuses on how you can improve your customer and business relationships. Real estate is a relationship business, and the quality of your relationships often determines how successful you will be. Have a business relationship gripe or a recent “a ha!” moment in improving your business relationships? E-mail your story ideas to Relationship Management columnist Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.

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