From 1946 until the late 1980s, the Polk Brothers dominated the retail appliance business in Chicago, turning a single, family-owned store they built on Chicago’s Northwest side in 1935 into a multi-chain retail giant that grew into one of the biggest appliance sellers in the nation.

When asked about the key to their remarkable success, founder Sol Polk revealed a strikingly simple formula:

Customers should be treated like they are guests in my home.

Author David Schwartz aptly refers to this as “thinking right toward people,” one of the many habits of successful people he shares in The Magic of Thinking Big, one of the top-selling personal development books of all time.

The following are three best practices which, according to the author, will help you improve your “Likeability Factor”:

1. Make yourself lighter to lift. Be intentionally likeable. A person is not pulled up to a better career. Rather, a person is lifted up by those whom s/he influences by being intentionally likeable. When two candidates, for example, with equal credentials and technical capabilities are considered for the same position, the one who is more likeable will almost always come out on top.

2. Take the Initiative in building friendships—Big Thinkers always do. All too often, even people in leadership positions are reluctant to make the first move in approaching people. Although it’s not natural for many people to do so, those who “put themselves out there” in terms of initiating conversation, introducing themselves, and getting—and remembering—peoples’ names lead happier, more prosperous lives.

3. Practice “Conversation Generosity.” Encourage others to talk. As author and personal branding coach Nicholas Boothman says:

The most interesting and likeable person in the room is the one who makes you think you’re the most interesting and likeable person in the room.

To borrow a phrase from Dale Carnegie, conversation generosity—listening to others more than you speak—is the quickest way to win friends and influence people.

I once engaged in my own experiment to test Dr. Schwartz’s advice: Over the course of several weeks, each time I encountered someone who served me who had a name tag—a restaurant server, cashier, coffee barista, etc—I deliberately used their first name when I thanked them.

A simple gesture, but according to David Schwartz, using a person’s name has an added impact: It conveys a more deliberate initiative to make a connection and build trust. The reactions I received were so positive and reinforcing that I’ve made it a habit—a good example of what Schwartz calls, “thinking right towards people.”

47 years after the publication of The Magic of Thinking Big, former Yahoo executive and business consultant Tim Sanders wrote The Likeability Factor, which, backed by plenty of research, made the following two points:

  • Likeable people (those with a high “L-Factor”) earn more, achieve more, and live longer, healthier lives than their less likeable counterparts.
  • Unlike conventional thinking, likeability isn’t an accident of birth but a skill that can be learned.

Like The Magic of Thinking Big, The Likeability Factor contains proven strategies and practical insights (even exercises are included) to strengthen your personal brand by being intentionally likeable.

Based on your experiences, do you believe likeability is a learnable skill or, like many people, do you view it as a personality trait that is difficult, if not impossible, to change?

How would you rate your “L-Factor?”

I’d really like your feedback.