Reciprocal Liking: People Like You More When You Like Them

This post covers some of the material in my new online course on the Psychology of Attraction, which covers 7 major principles of rapport. This post originally appeared as a guest post on The Self-Improvement Blog.


The Power of “I Like You”

Although it seems too simple to be true, research in psychology has shown time and again that we like people who like us. In a series of clever studies, the power of what’s called “reciprocal liking” has proven itself.

Imagine you meet someone totally new, you have a brief conversation, and you both part ways. At this point, you may not have strong feelings about this person. The next day, you’re talking to a co-worker who says, “Oh, that person who came by yesterday was really impressed with you.” With that simple piece of information, your opinion of that person radically changes. You’re probably ready to call that person a friend!

The idea is as simple as that. When our liking for others becomes clear, people are prone to return the liking.

How Do We Know?

It’s one thing to claim that something is a reliable influence on attraction and social connections. It’s another to offer concrete evidence.

Consider an early study in psychology that very subtly let people know that a stranger liked them. Elliot Aronson and Phillip Worchel conducted a study in which pairs of research participants simply had a conversation with one another. After the conversation, they privately rated how much they liked their partners.

blonde-826027_640This is psychology research, though, so it couldn’t be that simple! One of the participants in each pair wasn’t an actual participant at all. Instead, it was someone working with the researchers, posing as a normal participant. So each conversation in the study occurred between a real participant and a trained actor.

After their conversation, the participants were instructed to write a brief statement about their reactions to the experiment and their conversation partner. After they had written these statements, the experimenter allowed them to read what their partners wrote.

Recall, though, that one of the partners is in on the experiment, and he was instructed to write one of two statements. For half of the conversations, that actor would write a statement that said, “I enjoyed working with [my partner]; he seems like a really profound and interesting person.” For the other half of conversations, the actor would write, “I did not enjoy working with him in the experiment; he seems like a really shallow and uninteresting person.”

Whether the actor wrote one statement or the other was decided completely at random. This is important because it means that the actor saying that he liked or disliked the participant didn’t even have anything to do with the conversation they actually had!

At this point, they separated the partners and gave them a final set of survey questions. In this survey, the real participants rated how much they liked their partners. Could a simple statement of liking create liking toward the liker?

The results were clear, and they’ve been replicated in many subsequent studies. When participants had read that their partners liked them, they then reported liking their partners much more than when they had read that their partners didn’t like them.

The Take-Away Psychology Lesson

The point? Liking breed liking. By making it known that you like someone, that person instantly becomes fonder of you!

So don’t be afraid to let people know that you’re fond of them. This simple act of expressing your thoughts about another person may prove advantageous for you in the future. Just be careful not to overstate your liking! You don’t want to insist that you like another person. A simple one-time statement should do it. Or better yet—letting the other person know of your liking indirectly through another person or subtle compliments.

Other Strategies for Boosting Likability and Making Social Connections

likingIf you’re interested in knowing more about the psychology of liking and attraction, I’ve actually put an online course together, and it covers the science of interpersonal relationships. The course covers reciprocal liking and six other principles of liking.

The course includes almost three hours of videos, and I cover a ton of scientific studies on the topic. I also talk about how you can apply these findings to get results in your own life.

11 thoughts on “Reciprocal Liking: People Like You More When You Like Them

    • If you find such peopl e who like you less when you like them, they are not worthy. They lack gratitude. It’s best to stay away from them.

  1. For the ones who have said that people tend to dislike the ones who like them, I believe you are referring to the situation when there already is a medium or high level of acquaintance with each other, so they are able to see if the person is right for them or not in that case. The article is talking about when you meet someone, or the initial phases of interaction. You are attracted to the ones who are attracted to you. Think eye contact, smiles, compliments… 🙂

  2. The study seemed to show difference between people who dislike you versus someone who likes you. It could be that people who tell you that they dislike you, makes you dislike them. It could be that people who tell you that they like you is a neutral factor in the experiment. The study should have been of someone saying a neutral comment versus someone saying that they liked the person and comparing the two.

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