I’ve spent most of the past week flat on my back fighting a vicious sinus infection. Unable to string together a single coherent sentence in written or spoken word, I settled for laying on the couch watching lousy television and feeling sorry for myself.
Much of that layabout time was spent watching old episodes of the BBC Dragons’ Den. I love that program in all its iterations – the BBC version, the American version (called Shark Tank), and my personal favourite, the Canadian version. Taken with the usual heavy grain of reality TV salt, the programs are a great little lab to study human posturing. It is equally interesting seeing the potential investors’ responses to the business pitches or the individuals themselves. I’ve often heard the investors say that while they are interested in the business, they have no faith in the person presenting the pitch and don’t want to invest in them. On the other hand, I’ve also seen them take risks on early-model or only partially formed businesses because the individual pitching it was so compelling.
So say it with me together, boys and girls: likability matters!
It matters so, so much. You know those people who for some reason can say the most outrageous and insulting things, and people continue to delight in their company? They’re likable. What about those people who, no matter how intelligent or correct their statement may be, will still raise the ire of everyone in the room? They probably aren’t likable, and probably couldn’t say anything that would please their present company.
A big factor for likability is openness and candor. Often a lack of likability is due more to a chilly or withdrawn manner than actual social awkwardness. There was an especially good example of the impact of likability from the series’ third episode. Despite the stuffy, angry, uncomfortable, exhausted haze through I was viewing the program, I became very excited about this particular clip. It is a case study in why a chilly demeanor will get you nowhere when trying to persuade others, and why it is rarely – if ever – a good thing to hide information.
I have to link to the entire episode, but the bit to watch is the disposable outdoor furniture pitch, which runs from 30:30 to 41:08:
What a frosty presentation! I’ve seen people get away with making far ruder retorts than that woman and yet who don’t put off the investors as much as she did. Dragon Rachel actually tells the woman flat out that a big portion of her refusal to invest in the idea is down to the woman’s behaviour: “You don’t come across as very likable…”
Developing your likability is a big, involved topic, but if you are looking for a place to start, start with warmth. Invite and welcome people into your speech and your ideas. Err on the side of too much openness rather than taking the cagey, secretive route. The difference in reception can be astounding!