It’s a simple declarative sentence containing only seven words, but it reveals one of the most critically important secrets of business success: People like to do business with people they like.
Obvious perhaps, but ignored too often in today’s high-pressure business environment.
When it comes to a highly personal and sensitive service such as that provided by a veterinarian, likability can spell the difference between failure and success.
So how does a veterinarian build up the kind of likability score that will help to build a successful career? In her book “The 11 Laws of Likability,” Michele Tillis Lederman, an adjunct professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, provides step-by-step guidance for improving your likability quotient. Here’s a capsule review of her advice:
The Law of Authenticity
To be likable, you must learn to be your true self. “The real you is the best you,” says Lederman.
Lederman is not alone when she suggests that trying to be someone other than who you really are is a major hurdle on the road to likability. “Authenticity is who you are-–your honest reactions, your natural energy,” she says. “Sharing what is real about you is the key to building real relationship with others.”
It’s not difficult to see the relevance of this in a veterinary practice.
The Law of Self-Image
The importance of self-image in a veterinarian is obvious. Imparting to the client a feeling of confidence plays a key role in the client’s reaction to treatment; and a strong self-image is the foundation for self-confidence.
According to Lederman, before you can expect others to like you, you have to like you–that is the law of self-image. And remember, if you lack confidence in some areas, you have lots of company.
“Even the most self-assured among us have our moments of self-doubt,” she says. “The trick is learning how to work through them. One way to do that is to convert negative self-talk to a positive by reminding yourself regularly of your genuine accomplishments.”
The Law of Perception
It’s an old saying: Perception is reality. Arguably, there is no other profession where perception plays a bigger role in a relationship than veterinary medicine.
“How you perceive others is your reality about them,” says Lederman, “and the same is true for them of you.”
In order to generate positive perceptions about you in other people, you should keep yourself aware of the signals you are transmitting about yourself–and the ones other people are transmitting to you. Stay flexible, she says, and be prepared to modify your behavior to the best effect.
The Law of Energy
Lederman says that you must be true to yourself and to your energy in a given situation in order to be perceived as authentic and sincere.
“The key isn’t to artificially be the peppiest person in the room. It’s far more important to be sincere. But this doesn’t mean letting a bad day ride roughshod over you and the energy you are putting out to others.”
Lederman suggests that it’s possible for us to put out energy that is sincere even when faced with challenges, difficulties, or distractions, perhaps such as those that might be imposed by a difficult client.
“Learning how to put out the right energy at the right time in the right place is a fundamental part of effectively connecting with others. Authentic positive energy is likable.”
And, she points out, The Law of Energy is the only one that is contagious: “What we give off is what we get back.”
The Law of Curiosity
Curiosity may have “killed the cat,” but Lederman believes that it’s an important part of your likability quotient. If we remain curious in our conversations, we will remain comfortable and genuine even if we don’t know much about the person we’re speaking with.
“Curiosity brings out the best in us and prompts us to do naturally all those things that foster positive connections: maintain good eye contact, give appropriate head nods, ask interesting follow-up questions that show we’re engaged,” she says.
The Law of Listening
Most experts agree that good listeners are rare. Human nature being what it is, it’s often easier for us to think about what we want to say next rather than listen to what is being said by a client. But learning to be a good listener is an important part of being likable.
According to playwright Wilson Mizner, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”
“Regardless of where you are in your career,” she says, “Listening is a skill that you must work on. Listening is not a passive activity. It takes energy and concentration to focus on what people are saying and what they mean by it.”
In this light, the importance of a veterinarian listening skillfully to a client is quite obvious. Says Lederman, “You have to listen to understand.”
The Law of Similarity
“When we meet people with whom we have strong similarities, our comfort level quickly increases; the conversation flows and the likability is palpable. This is the law of similarity,” says Lederman. “People like people who are like them.
“When meeting new people, the law of similarity tells us that we should be looking for commonalities or similarities to build trust, whatever and wherever those similarities might be,” Lederman adds.
Lederman suggests looking for common interests and backgrounds, shared experiences and beliefs to find similarities that can help you build connections with others.
The Law of Mood Memory
Cartoonist Bill Watterson said it best: “Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.” He’s right, of course; bad moods are contagious. That’s probably why Lederman included mood memory in her 11 laws of likability.
“We often aren’t aware of the moods we create,” she says.
Just as it is important to understand how to create positive moods, it’s crucial to understand how to stop making bad ones.
“Creating negative mood memory reduces your chances that the other person will actively seek out interacting with you again,” she says–an obvious negative for a veterinarian.
The law of mood memory might be summed up by suggesting that it’s not a good idea to bring a bad mood to work.
The 11 Laws of Likability
By Michelle Tillis Lederman
American Management Association, 2011
The Law of Familiarity
Human nature is such that we tend to feel comfortable with who and what we know. Thus, building familiarity with clients is another way to make them feel comfortable with you. Lederman suggests that good ways to stay in someone’s mind are through social networking technology, notes of well wishing, perhaps in recognition of a special event, or perhaps an occasional note just to send regards.
“But remember to pursue these strategies in ways that feel true and authentic to you, and that aren’t obtrusive or pushy,” she says.
The Law of Giving
In her law of giving, Lederman observes that there is extraordinary value in doing things for others simply because you want to, not because you expect anything in return. The same philosophy is reflected in the biblical phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
“When you give to others, not only do you increase your likability and aid other people,” says Lederman, “you almost always get something unintended in return.”
Expressed in another way: What goes around, comes around.
Being patient is not always easy. As every veterinarian knows, some clients require a great deal more of it than others. But Lederman feels that developing the ability to be patient with others is necessary in order to embrace and benefit from the other laws of likability.
“We must have patience with ourselves and with others,” she says. “We must have patience to find the similarities, build the relationship, establish trust and create familiarity.”