The Top 3 Qualities of Likable People

The Top 3 Qualities of Likable People


Everyone wants to work with people they enjoy being around. If you’re extremely likable, you’ll be able to attract new clients and retain long-standing relationships with minimal effort.

Clients evaluate who they want to hire and continue to work with based on what I call the BLT factor: believability, likability, and trustworthiness.

They ask themselves, “Does Pamela know what she’s doing and is she enjoyable to work with?” If you’re disliked, it may not matter how competent you are, people simply won’t want to work with you.

Likability is the culmination of three traits: empathy, reliability and integrity. Here’s why each characteristic is important and what you can do to cultivate it.

1. Empathy

Empathy is your ability to relate to and understand someone else’s situation and perspective.

Strong, enduring relationships are almost always built on empathy. It’s a life skill that requires self-awareness, practice and experience. The ups and downs of your personal and professional life will influence how you empathise, and with whom.

Common experience connects people through an instant bond and a shared level of trust. For example, I can easily empathise with others who have lost a job, started a business, had cancer, struggled with finances, or written a book because I too, have experienced those circumstances.

Just be aware, empathy does not mean you have to agree with others’ opinions or try to please everybody. Instead, consider the feelings of your employees, partners and colleagues when you make decisions.

To cultivate this skill, react less, listen more and try to put yourself in the other person’s position.

Next time a client or employee is struggling, take a few moments to listen and, if you can relate, share a personal story.

2. Reliability

Customers reasonably expect businesses to be reliable, responsible and dependable. When someone needs help, he calls whomever he knows he can count on. It’s more than delivering a service; it’s doing your job well while keeping the project on time and on budget.

Some of the most successful companies in the world have a reputation for consistency.

Customers are attracted to the sense of security that comes from being able to count on someone or something. Certainty provides peace of mind and most people are willing to pay more for reliable service.

Cultivate your reputation for reliability. Whenever you or your employees make a promise, deliver. If you can’t fulfill part of your responsibilities, let the client know as soon as possible. An unavoidable hiccup is forgivable; blatant misjudgment or deception is not.

3. Integrity

Lack of integrity has permeated our culture. It can be seen in politics, sports, business and entertainment. Integrity is the highest level of professionalism and behaviour.

It’s doing what you know is right, even if no one is looking; it’s standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to speak up, even if your opinion is unpopular.

Investor Warren Buffett said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

Many people are smart and capable, but very few take the time to cultivate integrity. Those who do make a personal investment of time, energy and self-enhancement are paid back in big dividends.

Whether professional or personal, relationships demand integrity and honesty. On some days, it may be difficult to always behave at your highest level, but it’s well worth the effort. Consistently apply your best judgment with your staff, colleagues, friends and family.


Jacqueline Whitmore
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette coach and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. She is also the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).
  • TuBob Shakur

    Those three traits are important, but I’m not sure that I’d include “reliability” as a distinct, top-3 trait of “likable” people. Rather, I’d say that reliability is a component of integrity, which I’d define to mean consistency or alignment of words, deeds, and acceptable ethics.

    If I had to name a third trait of likability, I’d probably say “respectfulness.” If you’re empathetic and act with integrity in a respectful way, I think you go a long way toward being likable. In fact, if you read Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, most of the traits that he discusses could arguably fall within those three categories.

    Thanks for the article. Nice read.