For most people, happiness depends on their relationships with other human beings. The wider, deeper, and more intimate your connections to others, the happier you will be. Of course, when therapists give this advice, they are often met with the angry response: “It’s easy for you to sit there and say that, but people don’t like me and that’s just the way it is”. In fact, that needn’t be “just the way it is”; anyone can make themselves more likeable.
To improve your popularity, try the following:
1) Calm down. Look around you at those who long to be popular. The harder they try, the worse they do. And even when they are not making fools of themselves, their neediness turns people off. Their motives also become suspect. Go to any office and you will find the colleague who is too attentive, too keen to comfort those in tears, and too enthusiastic about other’s success. Such people seem inauthentic and unreal. Soon, no one takes them seriously. Learn to walk the tightrope between excessive effort and arrogant detachment.
2) Work on your conversation skills. Conversation was once an art form. Guests at the literary salons of 18th century London and Paris perfected their conversation as a modern guitarist or football player perfects his skills. First, do not talk about yourself. No one cares that you broke your personal best on your Sunday run, neither do they care that you had an early night because you were so tired. Bores talk about themselves, but uber-bores talk about themselves and boast at the same time. And never steer the conversation around to your favorite topics. You should also be careful never to monopolise the conversation or correct the other person. Finally, a conversation should not be a battle. Some people approach every discussion as a contest to be won; try seeing it as an opportunity to exchange ideas instead.
3) Be cheerful. You are not the only one who finds life difficult, who watches the news, who fears old age, cancer, loneliness, and death. No one wishes to be reminded of life’s miseries. Neither do they wish to spend their time with someone who creates a gloomy atmosphere. Do not confuse cheerfulness with boasting however. Telling other people how awesome your life is may cheer you up, but how will it make them feel?
4) Make people feel better about themselves. Never underestimate how insecure many people are. Poor self-esteem is often hidden beneath bravado and fake smiles. Again, you must walk a tightrope. Do not become a sycophant. No one likes a creep who constantly praises others in the hope that they will praise him back. You don’t even need to speak: smiling when you meet and listening attentively to what they have to say is praise enough. But do not confuse interest with nosiness. Being interested in people should not include looking for gossip or taking pleasure in their failures.
5) Show your vulnerabilities. If you wish to make a deep connection with someone, you must first allow them to get close. Too many people hide behind a prickly defense. They either boast, or become aggressive, or simply make out that their life is better than it really is (as a quick glance at social media will confirm!). Of course, this does not mean heading to the other extreme and forever bursting into tears or whining and complaining. But be open about your fears, regrets, and failures in a humorous, self-mocking way and you will be astonished at how people warm to you.
6) If you find life boring, it is because you are boring. Enthusiasm is very attractive, so be a “yes-sayer”, interested in the world, eager to try something new, and open to anything. Sneering cynicism may have seemed cool in adolescence, but in a 25-year-old it is tedious. Try not to devote yourself to any one thing, though. You may have a passion for baseball, but what if you wish to befriend someone who hates sport? There is nothing wrong with loving baseball by the way, or French cinema, or tennis, or Astronomy, or anything else. The problems come when you focus exclusively on one interest and can talk of nothing else.
As you can see, much can be done to improve your popularity. Be cheerful and enthusiastic, make people feel better about themselves, show your vulnerabilities, and do these things without trying too hard. Above all, do not approach others as objects to be used. They will quickly sense it if you do. Be curious, sympathetic, and open-hearted, expecting nothing in return; the less you expect, the more you will receive.