GEE, YOUR SOUL SMELLS TERRIFFIC!
We humans use many conscious and unconscious assessments to distance ourselves from those we don’t like. How nuanced is our perception? Just announced research from Northwestern University suggests that humans pick up infinitesimal scents that affect like/dislike radar. The carefully designed study demonstrated that each of us evaluates people in multiple ways, using criteria we’re just now beginning to understand. We once believed our judgment was based only on conscious bits of information but it now seems our senses also provide subliminal perceptual information that influences our behavior and resulting kinship with others. Minute amounts of odors elicited observable psychological and physiological changes that suggest humans get much more from barely perceptible stimuli, like scents, than previously realized.
These latest findings only add to a growing body of research confirming our reliance on sensory input like vision, hearing and scents. We understand ourselves far better when we acknowledge the various animal abilities and influences that operate under the radar; contributing to the formation of an opinion (i.e., I like her or I don’t like him) without our explicit control or direction. The human ears, eyes and nose — giving new meaning to “sniffing out a problem” and “seeing through someone” — all in service of “sound judgment.”
Most of us are not independently wealthy — most of us are part of personal, professional and family networks and so we rarely act honestly on feelings of dislike. We are forced to do business with disagreeable people and organizations and we resent it, encountering channels and distribution points, or even a mail carrier, ruled by a singular unlikeable person or entity. We swallow hard and make a go of it with the vast faceless firm that solely manufactures the latest hot surfacing material. We grit our teeth glad-handing the new beastly in-laws from which there’s no hiding. We smile and wave to the unfamiliar crazy neighbor with whom we share a fence. In these cases, our personal feelings of “like” and “dislike” become secondary to protecting a good revenue stream, keeping peace in the family and warding off flaming bags of dog doo on the front porch, but never do we forget the bitter taste of enriching those we dislike. Do you ever want anyone to feel handcuffed to you or your company?
DOPEY MCLIKEABLE VS. THE PERFECT ASS
As necessary as it is, likeability carries some unique baggage. Its presence can override many sins; translating into a life-saving, or job-saving, do-over. Regardless of our continued awakening to the unmatched value of our human resources within organizations, people will never fail to be human first, even if it hurts them. If you’re looking for the downside of likeability, check with HR first. There you’ll see how likeability can dull clarity and complicate making the right decision. Companies often fire massively talented but personality-challenged employees (i.e., The Perfect Ass) without ever attempting a personality overhaul.
Conversely, it’s rare to see a very well-liked, but barely mediocre employee (i.e. Dopey McLikeable), get the axe. Bosses use a death grip on the likeable staffers because they know it’s almost impossible to compensate for a great personality.
Have you known a Dopey McLikeable? Most can vouch for the fact that “Dopey McLikeable” is all too real — often receiving years and years of “passes”simply because he fit like a glove. Be careful that your payroll roster is free of nonperforming nice guys. As hard as it is (and it is truly awful) to hurt a nice person, you can’t endanger everyone’s job in order to pay a heavy good guy tariff.
ACTING NICE AND LIKEABLE MAY FEEL WEAK AND WEIRD
All big changes feel foreign at first — don’t give up. Conventional wisdom says it takes three weeks to establish a new routine in your life. Watch others that you respect. Do you think they look weak and wimpy? I bet not. If your style until now has been more tough than touchy, give it some time. Think of yourself as your company’s walking, talking brand. Think of everyone you encounter as a potential brand impression you’re about to make positively memorable.
Remember likeable in this context does not necessarily equal sunny, festive or peppy. Being likeable doesn’t require you to be a brown-noser or, worse, some kind of vacant yes-man/yes-woman on a mission to please at all costs. If the time for reinvention is right and you feel certain of your motivation to do so (example: we will make more sales if we are easier to like!), then just put your brand into strong memorable language and add some kindness to it. After a month, ask the following question: Could you crawl onto a tightly packed life raft that’s been bobbing and heaving in the rough seas of the North Atlantic and have every other clinging-for-life survivor enthusiastically scream “Welcome Aboard!” as they pull you into their little bubble of hope? This is the kind of genuine likeability that is worth the chase.