Life as a parent is so different from life before you have children.
If you’re the first in your friendship group to have babies it can sometimes make things hard, and chances are you’ll want to branch out and meet some new mum friends. That can be easier said than done though and it can be quite scary approaching people and hoping they’ll be friendly and want to chat.
With that in mind, here are 5 psychology-backed things you can try to get people to like you more:
1. Be there
I don’t mean this in the deeper sense of being there for someone in their time of need. Although that will naturally help them like you more.
In this instance though, I mean literally be there. Show up and be a familiar face in their lives. Go along to baby group regularly or get to the school gates a bit early every afternoon.
Studies have found that, due to the mere exposure effect, people tend to like other people that they’ve seen before more than people who are completely new to them. This applies even if we don’t actually interact with these people. And the more we see people the more we end up liking them.
2. Act as if you already like people
Once you get chatting to people act as if you like them already.
There is an interesting psychological phenomenon called ‘reciprocity of liking’ which basically causes us to like someone if we think they like us.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo and the University of Manitoba found that we act more warmly toward people if we expect them to accept and like us. This then increases the chances that they will actually like us.
So basically, if you act as if you already like people when you first chat with them then chances are they’ll like you back.
3. Find a common enemy
One psychology-backed way to bring people closer together is to give them a common enemy.
A study by Weaver and Bosson, 2011 found that people who shared a dislike of the same person with a stranger stated that they felt closer to that stranger and felt that they knew them better.
So if you want the other parents at the school gate to feel closer to you then start up a conversation about how bad the communication is with the school, or how rammed the carpark is every afternoon. If you can find this kind of common enemy you’ll start to form a strong sense of shared identity with the other parents.
4. Show your imperfections
I think most of us like other people to think we have it all together, but don’t worry about trying to be too perfect all the time.
Research has found that we tend to like people more when they show that they’re human, that they’re not as perfect as they seem at first and that they make mistakes too. This is known as the pratfall effect.
So when you arrive at babygroup on time and looking relatively put together, make sure you then tell the other parents that you put the baby’s nappy on the wrong way round last night. Or that you put the keys in the fridge the other day. Revealing a mistake you’ve made or letting people know you have struggles too will make them feel warmer towards you than if they think you have it all perfectly together.
5. Ask them to do you a favour
This last one is possibly the most interesting.
It makes sense that we like people who do us favours and help us out, but it’s a bit more surprising to know that asking someone for a favour also makes them like you more.
For a long time psychologists believed that this was down to cognitive dissonance. They thought that it was mainly due to us thinking that we must like someone if we’re willing to do them a favour.
There might be more to it than that though.
A study carried out in 2016 found that when we’re asked to do a favour for someone by a third party, we don’t like the person as much as we do if they ask us for the favour themselves. So it’s the act of actually asking for the favour that makes us like someone. Them asking suggests that they have a desire to be closer to us, or that they feel close enough to us already to ask. We then pick up on this and want to be closer to them too.
So, ask someone to watch your baby for you at group while you go to the toilet. Or ask another parent at school to text you the words that the children need to learn for their spellings that week. The person you ask will be flattered that you’ve asked them and will warm to you more quickly.
Venturing out to new places and meeting new people can be really daunting.
But hopefully with these tips in mind getting people to warm to you and want to be friends should be that much easier.