Time to Stop Confusing NICE with LIKABLE

likable personEvery motivational speaker on the planet who talks about leadership has cited studies that confirm that we do business with people we like. So when I was reading this fascinating article on Why Leaders Need to Be Likeable Rather Than Dominating, I was tripped up by a reference to the fact that being nice has nothing really to do with being likable.  

I actually heard some distant voice in the back of my brain that warned, "Yes, but little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice."  And while I know that isn't applicable in today's world, make no mistake, as a woman, I find myself striving to be nice a LOT.  So I'd love to share with you a distinction that works for me to help me understand the difference between being nice – and being likable.

As a nice person, I want to say yes. I want to give people what they are asking for. I tend to compromise my own needs for what they need. And the result? I'm not really likable. I'm a bit more of an unselfconfident wimp. And believe me, "unselfconfident wimp" comes screaming through my pores.  People get it. They may SAY they like me – but they really like what they can GET from me.

A likable person is one who can say no – with kindness and respect. Someone who, with a greater good in mind, can decline requests and still leave the other person feeling validated. A likable person holds themself in just as high regard as they do others.  

I know we are thin-slicing word definitions – but what do you think? I'd love to hear from you.




Motivational Speaker Linda Larsen, CSP has been described by meeting planners and audiences as "hysterically funny," and "riveting." Known for her ability to connect on an authentic and emotional level with audiences, her spontaneous sense of humor, and her engaging and powerful stories, Linda is passionate about sharing ideas to help people live their finest, best, and most productive lives. Her riveting and true story of being kidnapped and held hostage at gunpoint by an escaped convict, and the strategies she used to escape, will give people the tools THEY need to rise above any of life's toughest challenges, to communicate more effectively with THEIR difficult person, and to find creative solutions to THEIR problems. To book motivational speaker, Linda Larsen: 941-927-4700

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  1. As someone who shares your passion on this subject, I dig your thin-slicing word definition between nice and likeable. Your examples rock and are SOOOOOOOOOOO relatable. In those moments, you may call yourself an unselfconfident wimp, I called myself an emotional coward back when I tried to be "nice" at a personal cost. Completely connect with your definition of being likeable, as it's in the same camp as speaking your truth. You respect yourself enough to say what needs to be said, but you deliver the message in a graceful, respectful manner.

  2. "Screaming through my pores"???  Oh, now, THAT is poetry!!  Hahaha!  Fantastic distinctions between nice and likeable!  I have found that being nice is emotionally depleting after a while where being likeable keeps my tank full.  Love this post!

  3. I think many people define "nice" as polite, smiling, pleasant, agreeable, etc.  But just because you are nice, doesn't make you walk away saying, "You know, I really like that guy."  Likeability is about making a connection. Going past pleasantries to something deeper. At least that's just my opinion.

  4. You.  Preacher.

    Me.  Choir.

    Yes yes yes – this rings so true for me also.  And I know there is a difference, but you so clearly articulated it, that I feel I can move more confidently toward the likeable camp and leave "nice" for the sugar and spice I put into the next batch of muffins I bake!


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