The Power of Liking

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“Liking” is a strong motivator when it comes to conducting business—and life as well. In the simplest terms, people do business with people they like. It is one of six Principles of Influence, articulated by persuasion guru Dr. Robert Cialdini, that act as shortcuts to help us cut through the vast clutter of information and choices which confront us on a daily basis. “Liking” doesn’t just help us make up our minds, it facilitates decisions we can feel good about.

To illustrate the point, Cialdini cites a study conducted in two major business schools. The initial group was told “time is money” and that they ought to return to business straight away. Among this group, 55% came to a consensus. The next group was advised to discuss something about themselves with the individual they would be bargaining with, in an effort to find something which they had in common. Among this group, 90% of the participants were able to come to some type of agreement. This experiment shows how powerful social proof is.

The base of this “Liking” principle involves three key factors:

  • We gravitate toward individuals that are very similar to us, thus the old “birds of a feather flock together” idiom.
  • We love people who compliment us—flattery will get you everywhere.
  • We are attracted to people who cooperate together toward mutual goals—working together to achieve win-win outcomes.

Just how does this axiom function in the real world, especially one where so much interaction occurs online? For starters, it indicates that adopting the Stephen Covey principle, “seek first to understand, then to know,” should be the mantra on each business person’s lips. How many times have you sat through (or contributed) to a sales presentation that was all about YOU versus your viewers (and subsequently watched as their eyes rolled back into their heads)?

How often has somebody encouraged you to join their circle on LinkedIn, then immediately sent you a pitch email? Annoying, isn’t it? Why? Because they didn’t take the time and couldn’t be bothered to get to know you. It’s just like a tap on the shoulder from a Tinder date you didn’t swipe right on. And, in reality, rather than act as the basis for creating goodwill, it does the reverse—it places the offending party in a shortfall.

Despite this, social media is the perfect place to start to find common ground. A LinkedIn feed will tell you what you share in common in your sphere of influence, however beyond that, perhaps you will discover you have the exact same alma mater—or even are football rivals.

On Instagram and Pinterest, you might find what people are really enthusiastic about; and, needless to say, Facebook can act as the ultimate window into people’s lives and even provides you a tool to “Like” others’ personal expressions with just a click.

While some may call this social media stalking, or even creepy, I just regard it as homework for those that are interested in people and their behaviors; it is a route to uncovering our common humanity. However, this sort of thing doesn’t need to be conducted in a self-serving, Machiavellian way. In fact, quite often it occurs organically, especially when our professional and personal lives overlap, as they often do in the modern social networking age. Want evidence? A number of my loved ones are connections that started on Facebook, with folks I hadn’t previously met but were an extension of other people I understood. We’ve become friends first, then attempted to figure out the best way to do business. As Mark Zuckerberg himself has suggested, amid a social networking pervasive planet, there isn’t any longer a distinction between one’s private and professional personas; there’s one: the authentic you.

My social media community comprises individuals of all kinds of different backgrounds, from around the globe, with many, many gaps. We’ve discovered common cause around matters as disparate as our professions, art, upbringing, parenting, sports, family members, and, yes, politics. Pretty much the gamut and in each instance, such as a Venn diagram of the heart, I have found intersections of commonality; the raw materials such as unity.

These overlapping interests are what give me hope in the face of the violence and despair I see in the daily news cycle. They let me see past the shallow, beyond our sound bite, fire-aim-fire culture and realize that there is beauty and wonder around me, but especially among my circle of friends and business partners. As a society, we are not merely in the business of nurturing business; we’re also in the business of caring for ourselves—and one another. That is why the “Liking” principle, when applied ethically and with really good intent, isn’t only sound business advice that feeds the bottom line, in addition, it reinforces the spirit. “Liking” helps nurture confidence, the foundation of every relationship, whether it be in the aid of commerce or compassion. Best of all, it’s free of charge.