The better term would be likeable. Most "popular" people by our cultural definition are not necessarily likable.
Being "popular" in that sense is not desirable. But being likeable is an incredibly valuable skill that can serve you well in every aspect of your life - (e.g. social, academic, professional, and self-esteem).
So how do you be someone whom most people like? Someone who is popular on your campus amongst both students and professors. Someone people truly want to be around.
First of all you do not need your own reality TV show. Nor do you need to buy a designer purse.
Start by asking yourself these questions: Do people like to be around you? Would people cheer loudly and genuinely for you if you won an award? Do people root for you, wish for your success, invite you to things, recommend you to other people?
I started thinking a lot about this quality after a big awards ceremony at my work where many employees won a variety of awards. There was a lot of obligatory applause, but when one janitor won an award for his many years of service the place electrified with people’s hoots and hollers and genuine excitement for this employee.
He was the only one who got a standing ovation. My eyes watered a bit as I stood there and clapped voraciously as I thought about our interaction just the day before – an interaction that I realized he must have had with all 800 pairs of clapping hands.
It was a Monday and my week hadn’t gotten off to a good start. I was tired, feeling sick, stressed about some budget stuff, and was feeling a wave of negativity threaten to set the tone for my entire week.
And then this janitor popped his head into my office with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old in the middle of recess and the sincerity of a mother and said “hi how are you doing today?” And he actually wanted to know how I was doing. His smile and genuine inquiry was literally a ray of light that burst through the dark clouds over my head and I instantly felt better. He made my day.
He was the most popular person at that awards banquet because he had at some point made everyone’s day in that room.
Do you make other people’s days? Are you that likeable? If not – you can be.
Being likeable builds confidence, helps you build relationships, and build a large social network that can support you. I heard in a recent training that people with genuine friends and positive social groups live longer.
Below are the top 5 things you can start doing today to be a more popular/likeable person wherever you are.
No one likes to be around someone who is grumpy all the time. Think about how you feel when a baby smiles at you. And what do you typically have to do to get a baby to smile at you? Smile.
People are naturally attracted to a smile. And bonus: when you smile – even if inside you’re not having such a great day – the act of smiling will help you feel better too.
So wherever you go, take time to look people in the eye and smile – even strangers. You will brighten their day, exude positive energy, and they will naturally want to be around you.
(note: this can be very difficult to accomplish with the intense pull of the cell phone. How many times are you looking at your phone when walking down the hall. How many opportunities for smiling do you miss? How many times have you had a conversation with a friend while texting someone else at the same time? (guilty). Just because we can multi-task like this doesn’t mean it is healthy. As technology gets even more intense, it is the people who have the self-control to know when to put it away and create genuine connection with others who will be the most popular and successful).
2. Ask questions
How often do we ask people questions like “how are you doing?” but never really care about the response? Ask people questions about who they are, what’s going on in their life, and what interests they have. People love a great storyteller, but no one likes to be around people who constantly talking about themselves. People will love you if you’re the kind of person who is always curious about who they are – the kind of person who asks a question and truly wants to know the answer.
When people talk, too often we’re just thinking about what we’re going to say next. Instead, really listen to what others are saying and take mental notes (or even real notes sometimes) about what you learn about them. If you bring up some of those details next time you talk you will blow them away with your ability to remember what is important to them. People will love you for this.
4. Be positive
Life of course isn’t always wonderful, but you know those constant glass-half-empty people who always seem to have something to complain about? They can be exhausting to be around and people usually try to get away from them as often as possible. No need to be a Pollyanna, but people like people who are encouraging and positive. Take a look at your past 10 Facebook updates. How are you doing when it comes to projecting positivity and genuine connections with others? How many “likes” do you get on something positive versus something really negative?
5. Compliment people
The best way you can make someone’s day is to give a compliment. Genuinely notice the people around you – and not just what they’re wearing but also who they are. Compliment people on their character, the way they handled a situation, or something you appreciate/admire about their personality.
Think about compliments people have given you recently. How did they make you feel? How do you in turn feel about that person? You probably like them a lot.