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Techniques General persuasion > Cialdini's Six Principles > Liking

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Be friendly. Show that you like them. Be interested in them and their world. Only when they respond in friendly ways should you then sell to them or otherwise seek to change their minds.

Two things that increase liking in particular are similarity and praise. If you show that you are like them in some way, they will like you. If you tell them they are wonderful, they will also like you.


A woman makes money by holding house parties to sell make-up to her friends. Many buy more because they like her as opposed to buying because they really need the goods she is selling.

A sales person develops an easy and friendly introduction conversation that gets customers to like them. They help this liking by ensuring they are clean and dress well.

A sales person asks happy customers for references to other potential sales.


When we meet people, one of the first things we do is greet them, smiling, shaking hands, hugging and so on. We may well also ask after their health, their families and their general situation.


Because this builds trust, which is a gateway to liking. In effect, we are saying 'I like you and will not harm you, so please trust me'. Knowledge of greeting rituals also shows knowledge of other cultures and shared values, and makes an implicit promise that you will follow their social rules.

We instinctively know that if people like us then they will be more likely to do as we ask. The famous Dale Carnegie book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People', first published in 1936, plus its many imitators, trade heavily on this principle.

Things that lead to liking include:

  • Similarity: We like people who are like us (including history, ethnicity, socio-economics).
  • Familiarity: We like those with whom we have had prior positive interaction.
  • Praise: We like people who tell us we are good.
  • Trust: We trust our friends and those we admire.
  • Halo Effect: We like tall, attractive, well-groomed people (who we would like to be like).
  • Giving: We give generously to our friends.
  • Helping: We help friends when they are in need.
  • Cooperation: We like those who work with us towards shared goals.
  • Attractiveness: We like those who we find physically attractive.
  • Apology: Admitting wrong rather than defending.
  • Exchange: Friends help one another.
  • Conversation: We chat more with friends.
  • Listening: We are interested in those we like.
  • Proximity: We move closer to people we like.
  • Forgiveness: We forgive and excuse the mistakes of people we like.
  • Reciprocation: We like those who like us.

Similarity is often very effective because we assume that people who are like us in a small way are like us in many more ways. This leads to a joining of identities, where the boundary between us merges. Helping the other person hence seems rather like helping ourselves.

Praise works again by boosting our sense of identity. When others praise our actions, words, appearance or innate traits, we feel better about ourselves. Many of us have self-doubts and praise helps assuage these discomforts.

Methods for increasing liking can be very short-term in effect. This both makes them useful for rapid persuasion and also lays them open to abuse. Similarity is the key principle for short-term trust, as opposed to longer-term evidence.

Liking is related to reciprocity when we help people we like. In effect, we are submitting to requests in return for social approval and affirming of our identities. Liking is itself reciprocal as when a person shows that they like us, we tend to like them in return. This sets up a persuasive sequence:

  1. You show that you like the person
  2. They like you in return
  3. You make requests
  4. They comply because they like you

The implication of this is that you should wait until they appear to like you before you make requests. This can be a very short period, such as when a sales person smiles at a customer and they smile back. It can also be longer in the development of friendship where greater requests may be made.

Liking may fail when attempts to be nice seem overly eager. Over-friendliness makes us uncomfortable as we may not want to be that friendly in return although we still feel the reciprocal pressure to do so. This method is used so often, we become suspicious of people who try to be friends.

See also

Opening the Conversation, Building Rapport, Relationships, Similarity principle, Trust, Listening, Praise


Cialdini, R. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, New York: Quill

Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People, Simon and Schuster


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