“How can any person, organization, or idea become more trusted and more believable?”
Likeonomics, page xxiii
You don’t need to be told there’s a believability crisis. Whether you’re stuck buying a used car or listening to political ads, you know you have a hard time believing what these folks are saying.
And you know why: for far too long, businesses of all kinds have focused on profit over good behavior.
Rohit Bhargava, author of Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action, would probably love it if everyone were altruistic enough to be likeable just because it’s the right thing to do. He’s sharp enough to know that we’ll take more notice if he points out one of the inevitable side-benefits of likeability: a more profitable, less stressful business.
Likeability has social, economic, and political value
“[M]ost people chose to work with the ‘Lovable Fool’ (low competence, high likeability) rather than the ‘Competent Jerk’ (high competence, low likeability.)”
Likeonomics, page xxxiii
Harvard Business School professor Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo, professor of decision sciences at Duke University, discovered something which will seem innately obvious, yet commercially nonsensical: most of us would rather work with someone who is less able, but more likeable.
In a survey involving a Silicon Valley tech company, a division of an IT corporation, a U.S. university, and the Spanish country office of a global luxury goods corporation, they plotted respondents and their coworkers against two characteristics: likeability and competence.
Two of the corners in this box were obvious: everyone wants to work with the Lovable Star, and no one wants to work with the Incompetent Jerk.
But what about the Competent Jerk and the Lovable Fool? Surely in a business setting folks would choose ability over likeability.
You know that’s not what happens. We’ll take someone likeable but less able any time.
In your own work, if you’re already capable, being likeable puts you squarely in the right corner: the Lovable Star everyone wants to work with.
But even if you’re less able, if you’re still likeable, you take the #2 spot.
Likeable beats capable.
Likeability determines whether someone wants to help us or has to help us
“The most popular sentiment toward anything isn’t love or hate — it is indifference.”
Likeonomics, page 29
When you have a choice whether to help someone or not, and how much to help them, what determines whether and how far you’ll go?
What makes you go online to give a good rating to one restaurant but not another?
What makes you work hard to help one acquaintance with their job search, and, well, put in less effort for another?
There are things in life we have to do. It’s easy to put in the minimum effort and get on with what’s really important to us.
Other things we want to do. We care. We go the extra mile.
Whether or not we like someone plays a critical role in whether we help them because we have to or because we want to; whether we give it our all or just get it done.
It also determines whether others go out of their way for us or not.
The 5 Principles of Likeonomics: Truth, Relevance, Unselfishness, Simplicity, Timing (TRUST)
“Instead of thinking of ways to create a smarter spreadsheet, let’s imagine how we might build a more useful framework to understand if the things we are doing are actually worth the effort.”
Likeonomics, page 55
Sometimes, just having a lexicon and a framework makes an idea easier to implement. When we know what to call things, how the parts fit together, they make more sense. Bhargava admits that when his research led to the 5 principles and he realized the acronym which naturally arose, he spent a good bit of time trying to debunk it, thinking it was too obvious. In each chapter it’s clear how these principles are connected. The acronym, it turns out, is just good common sense rearing its lovely head.
For each principle Bhargava includes a section on what makes these obviously positive characteristics uncommon, even difficult, and lists three vital elements for them to contribute to practical likeability.
Why Being Truthful is So Hard: The truth is ugly, and inconvenient, the truth makes you vulnerable, the truth is hard to see, the truth can depend on you.
The Three Elements of Truth: Unexpected honesty, unbiased fact, proactive integrity
Why Is Relevance So Hard? Relevance is easy to assume, relevance requires you to know your audience, relevance can be tough to scale.
The Three Elements of Relevance: Active listening, meaningful point of view, surrounding context
Why We Are Selfish: Assuming a zero-sum game, wanting to get without giving, “Short-Termism”.
The Three Elements of Unselfishness: Human empathy, giving freely, offering value
Why Simplicity Gets So Complicated: Beware the curse of knowledge; simplifying requires focus, not a specific skill; saying less can take more time.
The Three Elements of Simplicity: Core concept, highly shareable, natural language
Why Timing is So Tough: Audiences can require different timing, timing is hard to estimate in the moment, sometimes timing can change instantly, obvious timing creates more competition.
The Three Elements of Timing: Necessary urgency, habitual connection, current events
Where do you measure on each of these five criterion? Which area could you stand to improve the most, and how could you start improving today?
While the details in the book make these points clearer, general awareness of the principles of Likeonomics can help you today.
We all want to be the good guy, but we’d sorta like the good guy to win.
With likeonomics, we do.