The Secret to Being Popular

I have a confession to make.

I absolutely love exploiting human nature and using it to get more of what I want. And, showing people how to do the same.

So it’s no wonder why today we’re talking about popularity–the one thing nearly everyone vies for in one way or another from the time they’re even aware of what popularity is. And don’t think the concept is lost on people who have already achieved ‘success’–you’ll hear them say things like: “I just want to be cool” and “I just want people to like me”–all. the. time.

So let’s get into it.

But first–why do we care so much about being popular?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Or better yet, let’s bring my man Dale Carnegie into this.

On one of the very first pages of his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he talks about a study that was conducted to identify what it was that people really cared about and considered a priority.

Can you guess what they were?

Let me tell you what the #1 thing was, because that’s what’s going to stoke the fire:

“People want to be successful, acknowledged, praised, and appreciated.”

Hmm–sound like how you feel on a day-to-day basis? No? Even William James, the famous Harvard professor, knew this was true. Come on. You’re human. Admit it and move on.

But think about that for a second.

If that is the NUMBER ONE thing people care about–above money, health, and even finding love–can’t you see what drives nearly all of us? What makes us want to start companies, get raises, be CEOs, even just do something as simple as write blog posts? We so badly want to be recognized for what we do. And it’s why we spend so much time trying to get approval from others–our survival is based on it. Thousands of years ago if your tribe wasn’t feelin’ you, you were toast. Ostracized. Or killed.

And, Your Popularity Is Like A Children’s Cereal Box–There Are Many Prizes Inside

…People are much more likely to be influenced by you and take on your ideas.

…People are much more likely to listen to and respect what you say.

…People will have no problem moving mountains for you or completing seemingly impossible tasks.

Which means you are 10x or even 100x more likely to create change if you’re the leader of a company, out-sell your competitors if you run a business, and get more access, more opportunities, more resources and basically cherry-pick what you want–even people you choose to be friends with, or date.

And yet…why is this approval or popularity among people so hard to get?

People think it’s their clothes, or their hair, or how they talk, their personality–all of these things become what COULD be what’s making them ‘unpopular’.

And right there lies the problem.

It’s a Sad Irony, But How Can You Ever Be Popular If Your Life Hinges on People’s Approval?

Everyone is so focused on ‘getting’ or waiting for this mysterious envelope in the mail that says: “Yes, it’s true! You’re popular now!” that they keep trying to rack up points on the outside without ever seeing if the problem is with who they are on the inside.

And when I say ‘who you are inside’ I mean your confidence. Whether or not you’re proud to be who you are. If you believe in yourself. And before I start talking about unicorns and magic fairy dust, let me explain.

Back in 1962 there was an experiment done by Solomon Asch on conformity. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s the famous Elevator groupthink experiment which you can watch it here. (It’s fascinating).

What he found was that if you put people in an elevator facing the wrong way, the next person to come in the elevator would face that way, too–or do what the group was thinking–even though she would know on some level that something wasn’t right. But she’d do it anyway without saying anything.

But Here’s Where The Secret to Popularity Lies

Because (as you see in the article) while the experiment proved that sometimes people can be herded like mindless cattle, they can just as easily be snapped out of it. And this was proved with other experiments that showed when just one person was thrown into a group and doing something different (or in this case, behavior that ‘made sense’ or facing the front of the elevator) was enough to get people to wise up and stop doing what they were doing.

So let’s take this, and exploit it.

If you KNOW that people easily conform…and you KNOW that having your own opinion (or being confident enough to do something interesting or different that stands out from the crowd) is the first part of getting people to agree with you, accept you, and like you…

Then in order to be popular the answer is NOT waiting to see what people think of your opinion, it’s not blindly following others, or always looking over your shoulder to see if people still think you’re ‘cool’. No one likes being around people who are always approval-seeking because they hate that they’re like that themselves! People want to be around someone who knows what they’re doing (or at least looks like it) and inspires THEM to have confidence. There’s this fascinating This American Life episode about mean girls, and one of the interviewees said that the popular girl she was friends with–despite her cruel side–was full of life and was so much fun to be around. You may not want to believe it’s true, but that’s what people want.

And in order to do that, you have to be unapologetic about what you do, and what you say. So when you talk, you speak with conviction–so not ending your sentences with a high tone of voice or with a question mark. And when you do things, you’re not looking over your shoulder before you take another step–you just do it. Obviously, I’m not telling you to transform into a tyrant–you’ve got to come to terms with the fact that people won’t like what you say or do, and that you may have you admit when you’re wrong.

But Can You See Why People Don’t Do This in The First Place?

It’s RARE to come across people like this. Notice how the number of followers always outnumbers the number of leaders–that’s natural.

Because not only do people get flack for disrupting the status quo, they also have to believe so much in who they are and what they’re doing that people feel that they can believe that person can lead them.

It really isn’t easy.

But, it can be practiced.

So what I want you to think about was the last time you did something–and said ‘sorry’ for it. Something really harmless–like walking into your boss’s office, or making a request to change your drink order, or asking someone a question–and beginning it by saying ‘sorry’. If you’re stuck, here’s a Pantene commercial (get over it) that will give you some ideas. And this isn’t just something that women do–guys do it, too.

I want you to identify just 1 thing that you say ‘sorry’ for (that doesn’t actually require you to apologize) and for an entire week, practice doing that thing and not allowing yourself to say ‘sorry’ for it. Then, report in the comments what your activity was and the difference it made not apologizing for it.

So how is that going to help you be popular?

Well…look at it this way. If you’re apologizing for something as harmless as asking someone a question because you need their help, there is no way you’re going to feel confident about doing ‘bigger’ things and getting people to feel confidence in you and want to be led by you. So, for now, start small, and let me know in the comments what happens.


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