Popularity is a concept all individuals are familiar with from early childhood, from those first days in kindergarten, through schooling years, and into adulthood and work life.
It is something that most people would prefer more of, and while some seem to be naturally immensely popular, it doesn't come so easily to others.
Yet when you break it down, popularity is attributed to those with a selection of positive and desirable traits - all of which can be practiced and improved in order to grow popularity over time.
Here is what it means to popular, and 21 effective ways to improve your own popularity.
What Does It Mean To Be Popular?
Popularity is what it means to be well liked, and generally admired by many.
When you are popular, it means those around you enjoy spending time in your company, feel positively towards you, and trust you. Usually, this also means they will forgive you more quickly when you make a faux pas, and that they will also support you.
For example, James Corden is a popular talk show host. His shows regularly feature A-list celebrities, who genuinely enjoy their time chatting to him, filming his famous segment Carpool Karaoke, and taking part in ridiculous games with him. While going on his show is clearly a bonus for any celebrity wanting to build their brand or promote their music or films, part of the allure is to spend time with Corden himself.
Being popular comes with many perks:
- A constant circle of friends to spend time with
- More positive connections for work and life
- A support system when you need it
- People may trust your more easily
- A greater feeling of belonging (socially and in work environments)
There is an important distinction between two major types of popularity; likeability and status. Status is generally described as something enjoyed by those who are well known but not necessarily always well liked (think of the Kardashian family), whereas likeability is usually attributed to those who are admired by many.
That's not to say there isn't a crossover between the two types of popularity - Keanu Reeves is immensely well-known and loved, for example - but it is an important distinction.
These 21 tips can help you to become more likeable, which is to say, more popular.
1. Never Judge
Comments that seem judgemental, whether they are against the person you are talking to or others outside of the conversation, will people people off you. You also never know when you might be saying something judgemental against your conversation partner's close friend or loved one.
For example, perhaps in the workplace you are chatting to a new hire and mention that someone only got a promotion because their father works in management. This comment belittles the person who got the promotion, and only results in you looking petty and jealous.
It's also best to be very wary of teasing, as this can appear as judgemental. You never know what others are insecure about, or whether or not they will take your comments as light-hearted fun or cruel bullying.
2. Remember Names
Have you ever been in a group situation and someone you just met addressed you by your name?
This small but powerful trick is a simple tool for making others feel important and memorable, and it shows that you care enough to pay attention and remember them specifically.
You don't have to be a natural name savant to use this tool, as there are tricks to help secure a name in your mind.
The name association trick is one of the best. For example, if someone introduces themselves as ‘Elizabeth', you could associate her mentally with Queen Elizabeth and picture a crown on her head. This bizarre association will help you to recall her name later on.
Plus, as few people are ‘good' at name recollection, this skill will make you stand out in a positive way.
3. Be Patient
Popularity won't happen overnight, and giving up on becoming popular after making an effort for only a few weeks won't help you.
You will need to be patient, keep applying yourself, and continue finding new ways to work on your popularity.
The kind of popularity that happens overnight is also the kind that disappears overnight, but if you slowly work on yourself, your popularity will be the type that lasts.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions about someone is a fast way to make them feel special, like you are genuinely interested in them, and like they have interesting things to share. So be curious, and show your interest through questions.
Keep in mind that everyone has stories and information to share - you just have to bring it out of them.
That said, it's best to keep these questions light when you first meet people. Getting too personal too quickly may make them feel uncomfortable. The best way to gauge this level of depth is to follow their lead - if they bring up a particular subject, you can continue asking about it. If they seem shy about a subject or don't give a clear answer, steer the conversation elsewhere.
With time, you will learn the knack of finding good questions that get people chatting. The more you practice the more you will find which ones garner the best results.
If you are nervous, prepare a few questions in advance. These could be specific to the person you know you'll be meeting, or generic and suited for any conversation.
- How did you get into your line of work?
- Do you have any upcoming vacation plans?
- I'm struggling to find a good book. Do you have any recommendations?
- That's a cool necklace/hat/watch (etc). Where did you get it?
- I'm trying new ideas in the kitchen. What's your favorite recipe?
5. Be Open
While it is good to ask about others and be curious, don't be afraid to also talk about yourself.
Sharing things about your own life will help to build a rapport between you, let them know you trust them with personal information, and open the door for them to share things with you as well.
You don't need to be overly personal, but you can share personal details such as where you grew up, whether you are in a relationship (how you met is always a good story), whether you have pets, or current goals.
A self-deprecating joke or two is always a fun way to show yourself as open and easygoing as well, although don't overdo these as it can make others feel like you are fishing for compliments.
During conversation, it's a common and easy mistake to simply wait for the other person to finish speaking so you can take a turn. This is not actively listening, and a conversation partner can usually tell that this is what's happening.
Instead, actively listen. Prompt them to speak rather than focusing on taking your turn. This will make them feel heard and good about themselves, which in turn means they will enjoy your company more, and boost your popularity.
For example, if someone is telling you about a time when they were in a minor car accident, listen, ask pertinent questions, and find out more before you turn the conversation to your experience with a fender bender.
7. Never Put Down Others
Putting down others is the perfect example of the Mean Girls style of popularity, which is actually status. This common cliche of high school films shows the ‘popular' kids controlling their dominance by putting down others and bullying, however this tactic does not work as well in real life, and especially not with mature adults who see straight through it.
Even though it may work well with some people in the short term, putting others down will only reflect poorly on you in the long term.
8. Speak Highly Of Others
When you speak highly of others regularly, it reflects extremely well on you, as well.
Your positivity will show how friendly, approachable, and kind you are, and it can also demonstrate how you notice the little things. It will also signal to people that you will say nice things behind their back when they step away.
It could be a comment be as little as "he makes the absolute best pumpkin pie", or as meaningful as "she has always been a source of inspiration in my work".
No matter the comment itself, this positivity will draw people to you and further increase your popularity.
9. Share The Praise
Whether in your work or private life, you will receive the occasional compliment. When you do, say thank you, but be quick to share the praise by citing help from others who played a role.
For a work project, this could be through support from your team, leadership from management, or advice from someone in another department. If the compliment is for something uniquely you such as your character, you could mention how your parents raised you, or other role models played a part.
Praise sharing will show you to be humble, which will further endear you to others.
10. Speak Clearly And Confidently
Good communication plays a large role in popularity. After all, you won't often find that the shy, fast-talking, mumbling people to be the most popular in the room.
Instead, speak clearly, slowly, and well to ensure that others can easily understand you. You don't have to be the most intelligent person in the room, but these clear communication skills will make you easier to talk to.
11. Ask For Feedback
In any endeavor, feedback is a useful strategy for making improvements. Look to a trusted friend, colleague, or family member who can offer constructive criticism on your behavior.
Start by sharing specific goals with them, so instead of simply saying you want to be more popular, you could say you want to be a better listener, or to be more friendly through body language, for example. Then ask for feedback and advice as to whether you are hitting those goals, and as to how you can improve.
You can also ask general questions such as:
- "Do I do anything during conversations that puts people off?"
- "Do you think I am a generally positive person?"
- "Am I too open, or not open enough with my own details?"
- "Do you ever think that I am being unintentionally rude?"
- "Do I make enough eye contact during conversations?"
12. Perfect The Art Of Small Talk
As a child, small talk seems like one of the mundane trappings of adulthood. When you grow up, it becomes a vital tool for social interactions, and a key stepping stone from moving from the introductory stage into more in-depth conversations.
Great small talk is a case of practice makes perfect, so even if you have very little in common with your conversation partner, the trick is to find a topic or two you can both discuss with ease.
Memorize a few reliable questions that always work, such as asking about work, family, whether they follow the current sports seasons, or popular television shows and films.
13. Make Eye Contact
Next time you hold a conversation with someone unequivocally popular, pay attention to their eye contact. They will probably hold your eyes a little longer than you are used to, but instead of feeling awkward or uncomfortable, this should make you feel like they are completely in the moment and focused on you.
Try to emulate this level of eye contact. It can feel strange at first, but it will have the same effect on others - that you are interested in what they have to say and not distracted by phones or others nearby.
By ensuring others feel good in your company, you will further increase your popularity.
14. Put The Phone Away
At a party, work event, family function, or other group gathering, being glued to a cell phone the entire time is a stereotypical teenage behavior, and purely antisocial amongst adults.
Put the phone away, and only check it briefly during bathroom breaks. Instead, spend the time socializing and making conversation.
Should you open your phone for any reason other than to show them photos or add them as a contact, it can make them feel like you don't care for the conversation or don't want to be there at all.
For the inevitable call or text that demands a response, apologize and ask for a quick moment away from the group.
15. Make Genuine Compliments
If you genuinely admire something about someone, from their fashion sense to their humor to their work ethic, let them know.
A genuine compliment can make someone's day, and will demonstrate that you are comfortable enough in yourself to share that small kindness without feeling self-conscious.
Be sure to avoid giving an accidental backhanded compliment, and don't give a fake or forced compliment, as these are easily spotted and will reflect poorly on you, and make others question your motives.
16. Bring Energy To Every Situation
Negative, low-energy people naturally turn others away, while positive, energetic people are usually the life of the party, the center of attention, and the very definition of popularity.
Up your energy to draw people to you. You can do this by smiling more, adding flair and variation to your tone of voice, not being afraid to use hand gestures, and generally being more positive.
This will show that you are happy to be there and interact with others, and others will be naturally drawn to you in response.
17. Include Everyone
There will always be those in social situations who hover on the edge of conversations, or clearly are left out. Be that person who includes everyone and doesn't let anyone feel like the odd one out.
Engage them in conversation to verbally pull them into the group, or tell others about one of their accomplishments to kickstart a conversation that brings them into the fold. If you don't know much about them, ask for their opinion or if they have experienced whatever the group is talking about.
Don't push it too much and put them on the spot if they are clearly uncomfortable, but a mention or a question will let them know you see them and care about them.
18. Forgive And Forget
Did someone slight you in some way, or throw you under the bus?
If they apologize, let them know you accept their apology. If they are unaware of the slight, let it go and don't hold a grudge.
This will show you to be easy going and uninterested in negativity or drama, and letting things go will place you as the ‘bigger person' in any situation.
19. Don't Interrupt
Not interrupting is a simple tip, but one that's hard to remember, especially when in a great conversation where you both have a lot to say.
For example, if someone starts talking about the time they went skiing in Colorado, and you also had a great time in the mountains there, it's hard to hold back and not pipe in with your own experience.
It will likely take practice and mindfulness to wait until you conversation partner has finished, but your efforts will be noticed.
Additionally, if you spot someone else being interrupted, make a point of circling back to them and asking them to finish their story. Again, this simply makes them feel valued, and like you were paying attention to their comments.
20. Introduce People
Be that person who introduces others at meetings and parties. This person is the social glue at any event, and will subtly place you in the center of things and further boost your popularity amongst the group.
When making an introduction, include their name, and at minimum, and interesting fact about each person (such as what they do for a living, or a hobby), and perhaps something they both have in common.
For example, "Rick, I'd like you to meet Anne. Anne is new in the accounts department and recently got a new puppy. Didn't you say you had two dogs at home?"
21. Observe And Assess
Finally, keep your eye on others who are popular to see which of the above points they naturally follow.
Can you add any observations that you think you should start doing as well? Can you adjust your behavior (without losing your sense of self!) to mimic theirs?
You can learn a lot from those around you, and becoming more popular will be an ongoing education that you will constantly find ways to improve.
Popularity might seem like it is something you are either born with or not, yet it is much less something you are simply lucky enough to have naturally, and much more something you can work on and improve.
With time and practice, everyone can become more popular, and enjoy the perks of being admired and respected by many.