7 FBI Tips To Become More Likable

February 7th, 2016 by LaRae Quy

Not very many people are excited to get a phone call from an FBI Agent. They tend to be even less enthusiastic when the Agent tells them they need to speak with them about a pending investigation. As a result, I had to work—hard at times—to be likable if I wanted to get my job done.

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But it’s not only FBI Agents who need to be likable—as business owners, sales representatives, or leaders you need to impress new clients and competitors with your competence and capabilities. You can miss out on great opportunities to develop new relationships if you’re not able to establish a connection with other people.

The more likable you are, the better your chances of being successful.

Here are 7 FBI tips to become more likable:

1. Smile

This is the best way to become more likable instantly—and it doesn’t cost a thing. If you don’t believe me, just smile when you’re in a crowd of strangers and see what reaction you get.

I’m not a toothy person so I smile a lot with my mouth closed. The interesting thing is that a smile on my face changes the attitude in my heart, too.

TIP: Remember, a genuine smile requires your eyes so crinkle around the corners so lay off the botox if you’re serious about connecting with others.

2. Remember Names

Our name is an essential part of our identity, and people feel great when they hear it spoken by others. If their name is unusual, ask the origin. Become more likable by repeating their name in conversation—it will help you to remember it as well. And of course, get their business card!

TIP: Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation. But don’t overdo it—once or twice is enough. Otherwise you risk sounding too familiar or touchy-feely.

3. Leave a Strong First Impression

Research by Princeton psychologists reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second for most people decide whether or not you are likable. Longer exposure doesn’t significantly alter impressions made within 10 seconds of meeting you.

People will then spend the rest of the conversation justifying their initial reaction.

As an FBI agent, I knew I might not have more than a few seconds to persuade someone I was likable and to cooperate with me, so I made it count.

TIP: First impressions are the result of positive body language. Walk with purpose and confidence, maintain a strong posture, offer a firm handshake, smile, face the person to whom you are talking, and make eye contact. If their eyes start to wander, it’s a clue that they may be losing interest in you.

4. Listen

This is a difficult task for most people. When we’re listening to someone else talk, our mind is frequently 1) busy forming a question to ask, 2) trying to process the information that’s being spoken, or 3) splitting attention between the speaker and something else that’s going on.

TIP: To be likable, give the other person your 100% attention. It will make them feel important and your undivided attention tells them that you genuinely value them.

5. Show Politeness

Show appreciation and gratitude whenever and wherever you can. It’s a habit that can be learned. People really do pay attention to how well you treat strangers, so make it habit to treat everyone well.

TIP: Make it a habit to be polite to everyone. Start with shop clerks and work your way up to the airline ticket agents. Once there, you can take on state government employees!

6. Be Authentic

As an FBI undercover agent, I assumed the identify of a fictitious person. One of the first things I learned that  to be a likable and successful undercover agent, it took more than a fake name. I needed to be authentic and honest with people about who I really was as a person. I could slap on whatever name—or title—I wanted, but the only time I got into trouble was when I tried to be someone I wasn’t. That is when I came across like an empty government suit, and that held no interest for anyone.

TIP: People cannot genuinely find you likable unless they know who you are. Give up trying to impress new people you meet. Instead, share with them who you are—really, and not whom you think they want to meet.

7. Exude Confidence

If you come across as insecure, you also risk coming across as needy and/or incompetent. Start from a positive place and others will notice. If you’re not there yet, fake your confidence until you feel more secure and at ease.

Focus on what motivates you and makes you happy as an individual. Once you do, you will not only become a more interesting person, you will also exude the confidence of a likable person who knows who they are.

TIP: Go into every conversation thinking “I like this person and want to get to know them better.’

To become more likable, try this exercise sometime this week:

  • Notice how much time you spend just listening when you’re in a conversation with someone.
  • Notice how often your mind races ahead to a question you want to ask them.
  • Notice how often the next task of the day pops into your mind as you listen.
  • Notice how often you get lost in your own thoughts.

Now, do this:

  • Slow down your mind and focus on what the other person is saying.
  • Pay attention to their facial features as they speak.
  • Pay attention to what animates them when they speak.
  • Pay attention to how their voice changes when they speak about a specific topic.
  • Pay attention to how their words and body language change.

Then do this:

  • Share with them the most positive things you noticed about them.

How have you become more likable to people?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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4 Responses to “7 FBI Tips To Become More Likable”

  1. DaveForTexas™ says:

    Very helpful. Thank you, ma’am.

  2. Amazing piece of writing! Thanks!

  3. Terri Klass says:

    Excellent article LaRae! Being likable is important to being taken seriously and building relationships.

    I love the exercise you present. Definitely will give it a try and share with others. Your point about remembering names can be so powerful. I am coaching an emerging leader now who is having difficulty remembering the names of his team members. Even though he is in a new job, it is essential to learn names. We decided to put the names in his phone with associations next to each to help him learn the names. It seems to be working so well!

    Thanks for another inspiring FBI story and lesson!

  4. Alli Polin says:

    Years ago I started in a leadership position with a new company. Early on, I had to work closely with the lead Admin Assistant to get things done. Problem was from the moment she met me, she hated me. Turned out she was threatened by my relationship with our shared boss but that wasn’t something I could change. I stopped by her office to check in on her day and always made it a point never to whine about mine (she always could fill a good five mintues with complaints). Thing is, I also cared. I didn’t like the way some people treated her and knew the stress of trying to get too much done in one day. Slowly but surely I showed her that I was not her enemy or competitor but we were on the same side – it took a lot of persistence but was worth it in the end.

    Will share your tips here!

    ~ Alli

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