Nobody Likes A Know It All. The best advice I ever got on likeability

It’s the kind of summer work day where you feel compelled to go out for lunch. A friend of mine arranged the whole thing. Six of us met up at a local spot for a two-hour “lunch.” I knew three of the people there. Two of them I met for the first time.

We started with drinks. I settled for a coffee. The guy sitting next to me boasted about being a coffee expert.

I happen to know a thing or two about coffee. Him? Not so much. He knew nothing about bean quality, roasting or preparing coffee. He rattled off a few fancy terms but in a nonsensical way. Think of a musician combining random musical notes without any thought behind it.

“Okay. Maybe he’s nervous. He just wants to impress. Nothing unusual,” I thought.

The lunch comes to an end and I walk to the subway with a friend of mine. This friend is an active investor in distressed real estate. He buys run down properties, fixes them up and sells them.

On our way to the subway, he mentioned he had a conversation about this with the same guy who feigned expertise in coffee.

No surprise, he claimed expertise in distressed property investment too. My friend said he claimed to invest in several distressed properties that were all money makers. When he heard him describe how he made money he said it was obvious he’d never done anything like this before.

Now, it was obvious. He’s one of those guys. We all know someone like this.  He thinks he knows everything. You will never upstage him. He boasts about his successful exploits which turn out to be lies.

Superiority Gene

He feels the need to be superior to anyone on any subject. Fine. I can deal with that. They’re easy to spot. Once you figure them out, they’re somewhat amusing.

The truth is, we all crave a touch of superiority fever every now and then.

Here is the difference between us and this guy.

We like to feel superior in the skills and subjects where we know we possess expertise.

Superior Persuasion

Violation of that rule undermines many persuasive writing efforts – especially newbies. They position themselves as smarter than their audience in things their audience prides themselves. Sure, if you’re an expert, present yourself as one. Here’s the key. Leave something for your audience to hang their hat on.

Let’s suppose you’re an expert in social media marketing. You present yourself as an expert – and hopefully you are. Your audience respects the word of an expert but they also prefer their hero to show a modicum of humility. Be sure to reveal a struggle, something that still challenges you.

When I was in sales, a mentor gave me this advice time and again:

“People feel better about themselves when compared to someone who’s worse off. Show your expertise but make sure they get a moral victory too.”

It was timely inter-personal advice.  Let your reader, prospect or audience feel superior to you in some way. It goes a long way to making you likable.


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