It's easy to say you don't care about being "likable" in the office. You go to the office to do your job, and maybe you don't concern yourself with whether or not your colleagues like you or not. But time and time again science suggests that being unlikable at work can penalize you.
It really comes down to being a good person. And a Harvard psychiatrist just coined an acronym that'll make you instantly more likable, and it has everything to do with empathy. The Empathy Effect: Seven Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work and Connect Across Differences explores how to learn and develop empathy in order to be a more effective entrepreneur and leader.
Here's the acronym Harvard psychiatrist and author of the research Helen Reiss suggests you learn: EMPATHY.
E: Eye Contact
It's no secret that eye contact is important for making connections with others. Scientists have studied the affects of eye contact for as long as time, and it always comes down to the same result: Eye contact really does help to establish rapport with others.
M: Muscles for Facial Expression
We automatically mimic facial expressions — it's human nature. For example, when someone smiles at you, you tend to smile back. But our brains are also wired to decipher the difference between fake/forced smiles and genuine ones. Paying close attention to genuine facial expressions and mimicking those helps establish connections with others.
Your posture says a lot about you, according to years and years of research. Sitting up tall, leaning inward toward the person with whom you're conversing, conveys both confidence and respect.
Affect refers to emotion, and Reiss suggests that you play close attention to others' emotional states. Understanding the emotional state that another person is in (happy, sad, frustrated, confused, etc.) will help you to communicate more effectively with them.
Your tone of voice — your vocal pace, rhythm and pitch, all of which linguists refer to as "prosody" — also plays a role in how others will perceive you. Your prosody "infuses a layer of emotion to the spoken word that goes above and beyond the singular meaning of each word," Reiss writes. So keeping mindful of not only what you say to others, but also how you say it will help you to become more likable.
H: Hearing the Whole Person
Communication is a two-way street, and active listening is just as important as being able to articulate yourself effectively. "Empathetic listening means paying attention to another person, identifying her emotions and responding with compassion and without judgment," Riess writes.
Y: Your Response
"Through shared neural networks, your feelings about others may transmit very important information about how they are experiencing what you say and do," Riess writes. In other words, if you're feeling unsure of yourself, that'll leave an impression on others around you, and it'll actually impact how you communicate with them and how they'll feel around you, too.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.