Last summer while on a business trip to the US, I spent a few days with one of my closest childhood friends who now runs a VC firm in Washington D.C. Not wanting to impede I booked a hotel, however, as we wrapped up dinner on the first night my friend was insistent that my business partner and I canceled our reservation and stayed with him and his family as he could not wait to show me something.

As we entered the house I was expecting a grand tour, but instead he led my partner and I directly downstairs into his basement. In the far left-hand corner there were four big leather chairs arranged in a circle and he motioned towards them and said, “The rest of the house is for my wife and kids, but these four chairs were the only things that were non negotiable for me. When designing the house, all I wanted was a quite place where my best friends and I could sit around and spend time together. I am thrilled that after all of these years you and I can finally sit in them and talk.”

There are a million and one ways to describe my friend, but later that night my business partner summed it up best, “I have never met someone so damn likeable before. How can anyone not love the guy.”

Being likeable is often times the difference between good and great and after having the opportunity to observe my friend interact first hand with his clients, potential clients, friends, family and strangers over the next few days, he made me a believer. And the best part is that all of the little things that have made my friend extremely likeable, and as a result, very successful, all of us can begin to put into practice today.


I once read that the average person comes into contact with three new people each day. If you think this number seems high, it is because of people like my friend who easily double it. From servers, to doormen, to the parents of his children friends, my friend stands up straight, smiles, looks them in the eyes and says hello.


Astounded at my friends ability to remember the details of each person he comes into contact with, I asked him if this was a skill that he had worked at developing or a skill that he was born with, and he responded by pulling out a notebook.

“My mentor taught me first and foremost to always prioritise people and I have found that taking notes about everyone I come into contact with is the best way for me to do that. She told me that most people have it all wrong. They focus on treating people how they would like to be treated, instead of taking the time to recognise how the person standing in front of them wants to be treated. This little notebook helps me to do that.”


My standard greeting when meeting someone is something along the lines of “What’s up?.” However, I quickly noticed that the standard greeting that my friend uses is something along the lines of “What’s going well?.”

This may seem trivial, but what my friend taught me after observing him greet not only his clients this way, but also his children, was that I was leaving the door open to chance as to whether a meaningful conversation would take place.

By guiding conversations in a positive light, time and time again, when the time came to address their challenges, both his clients and his children went straight into the heart of the matter as to what was truly bothering them. “When it comes to people or building businesses, mindset is everything. General Grant had this wonderful line, `There is always more of them before they are counted.´ My job at home and in the office is to keep people moving forward in the present moment and negative thinking impedes that, so I try not to give people the chance.”


Success is often found by those who have the ability to identify and create as many win-win relationships as possible, and not only for themselves, but for the people in their circle. Likeable people know what they want, their goal is to help others to achieve what they want and they recognise that their own skill set is not always the best answer.

My friend learned early on in his career that the answer to most people’s problems is simply an introduction away. This lesson, combined with taking the time to acknowledge and learn about people from all walks of life, has resulted in a diverse rolodex for him to draw from in order to help others achieve their goals.


When my friend and I were discussing a book that we had both recently read and I began to give it a bad review, he said something that stopped my in my tracks: “I have a feeling that you read it at the wrong time. Wait a few years and pick it up again.”

It is so easy to dismiss things or people based off of hurried or shallow assessment and it dawned on me that my friend treats everyone and everything this way. Not everyone is going to get it right the first time, but likeable people give people room to grow.


What is more effective?: “Please, take a seat.” or “When I built this house, these four chairs were the only non-negotiable items because I wanted to have a place to spend time with my best friends.” Sure likeable people are attentive listeners, but part of being an attentive listener is recognising what is important to the person standing in front of you and sharing with them your personal stories to help them on their way.

After we parted ways, it dawned on me that I did not get through a third of the questions that I wanted to ask my friend, and the reason why I didn’t was simple, he was too busy asking me questions. And in lies the underlying theme to likeable people, their curiosity and eagerness to learn from everyone they meet.

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Linkedin: Michael Thompson


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