Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Ever notice how some people walk into a room and everybody just gravitates to them? What is it about some people? Is it that you’ve either got it or you don’t?

Actually, Patrick King, the author of The Science of Likability, argues that it’s not magic at all. It’s not even an art. In fact, it’s a science – and we can all use the science of likability to master charisma, attract friends, and cultivate people. King begins his book with a simple definition of psychology:


The study of psychology isn’t about reading minds or interpreting dreams, though I had a fair number of people asking about that. It’s simply the study of why people do the things they do.

There were the obvious applications, such as discovering exactly what works in advertisements and why, how to effectively use reverse psychology, and why we get lazier when we’re surrounded by more people. These were things I could immediately see and feel in my daily life.

But the biggest takeaway from my degree was that so many of our decisions are made subconsciously and without any awareness on our part. There might be clear reasons to act logically in a given circumstance – and we just might ignore all of them for no apparent reason. Our conscious thought follows our subconscious will, and it often isn’t until far after we act that we figure out what actually happened.

King goes on to explain two important psychological studies that helped us understand how the subconscious and the conscious interact. The first involved a young child called Little Albert who was presented with a white rat. He did not have any associations with rats yet, so he simply looked at the rat and did not respond. This was a neutral object. Then, every time the rat was brought into the room, the researchers made a loud sound that disturbed him. After several times, even when the researchers only brought the rat in without the sound, Little Albert responded with tears. He had learned to associate the originally neutral rat with something negative.

The second study involved Ivan Pavlov’s famous study with dogs and dinner bells. Pavlov would ring a bell before serving his dogs dinner. His dogs would salivate when dinner was brought out. Over time, even if it was not dinner time and Pavlov did not bring out food, if he rang the bell, the dog would salivate. They had come to associate a neutral thing (the bell) with something positive (the food).

Rats, noises, dogs, and dinner. What does this all have to do with likability? Quite a lot actually! What these studies show is that we respond to memories from our subconscious in conscious ways. Therefore, if we utilize the subconscious, we can ensure that people like us without even knowing why!

What are some ways that you can improve your likability? Among the different suggestions King makes is to help improve the mood of those around you. The ways to do that are to bring up positive memories such as common interests, foods that they like, or even a smell that might be reminiscent of a positive memory. This will cause the mood of those around you to life, causing them to see you in a more positive light. The more time they spend with you while they are feeling positive, the more they will gravitate to you in the future.

Likewise, I have written in the past about former FBI agent Jack Schafer’s book The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People. In the book, he explains that there is a friendship formula that people can use to make friends, assume leadership positions at work, and even get the job in a high pressure interview.

He details what he calls the friendship formula, and I’ve summarized it below.


The Friendship Formula

Friendship = Proximity + Frequency + Duration + Intensity

Let me explain what Schafer means by each of the different friendship factors:

            Proximity is the distance between you and another individual, and your exposure to that individual over time. The more you see the person in a non-threatening environment, the more likely that person will be to consider you a friend – or in essence – start liking you. It’s an interesting facet of human nature, but just being with a person a lot is critical to the development of a relationship. Therefore, if there is someone you would really like to befriend, spending more time with that person (at shul, at the gym, in the supermarket, or at work) is the first step toward completing the friendship formula.

            Frequency is the number of contacts you have with another individual over time. It goes hand in hand with proximity. The less distance and the more frequent that those meetings, chance encounters, or quick conversations are, the stronger the friendship.

            Duration is the length of time you spend with another individual over time. If you spend more extended time with the person, your relationship has the opportunity to blossom and grow.

            Intensity is how strongly you are able to satisfy another person’s psychological and/or physical needs through the use of verbal or nonverbal behaviors. If you run into the same person every other day at your local market and spend an hour shopping together (proximity, frequency, and duration), but you never have any meaningful conversations, your friendship will not necessarily develop. Intensity is the final element of the friendship formula.

Therefore, you need proximity, frequency, duration, and intensity to make a friendship work. Incidentally, Schafer also points out that you can also extricate yourself from unwanted friendships by slowly decreasing the elements of the friendship formula. This way, it will not feel like an extreme break, but will be a gradual growing apart.

If you can master the science of likeability and the friendship formula, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to be successful in all of your social interactions!


Register now for a mindsets and ADHD workshop by Dr. Robert Brooks on November 13, 2018. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at