How To Be Popular (If You’re Not One of “The Cool Ones”)

“Why are some people so popular? What’s the secret to making people like you?”

In this guide, I’ll share what you can do to become a more popular person in life in general, at work, or in school.

What does it mean to be popular?

A popular person is someone who is admired, appreciated, or loved by their peers. Others want to be associated with them, and they have plenty of friends. A popular person usually has a high social status in their peer group.

Why are some people so popular?

Some are popular because they are likable. People enjoy being around them due to personality traits such as positivity, trustworthiness, friendliness, or attentiveness. Others are popular because they have a high social status. This can be because of looks, success, or wealth.

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How to be more popular

Here’s how to be a more popular person in life in general.

1. Help while maintaining a high social value

Popular people offer their help because they are good at what they do and can do things that others can’t.

However, there’s a risk involved in being helpful. It has to be done in the right way.

People notice when someone is being helpful just to make others like them. That person needs something in return (for example, friendship), and this is where the term “needy” comes from.

Make sure to distinguish between different forms of helpfulness. What are you offering and why? Is your offer conveying that your time is more or less important than the other person’s time? Let’s consider two scenarios:

  1. You are great at computers and help someone out with a technical problem they can’t solve on their own.
  2. You help someone out with writing a report even though they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves in the hope that they will ask you to hang out with them.

In the first scenario, you are showing that you value the other person’s time by offering help with something they can’t do by themselves or that you can do more easily than they can. This is high-value help.

In the second scenario, however, you are offering to do something the other person could have done with the same effort as you– not because you believe they have a genuine need for your help, but because you want something in return (friendship). The intention behind your offer is what makes this an example of low-value help. This type of offer can result in three potential negative outcomes:

  1. The person assumes you think you are more capable than they are of writing the report and may be offended.
  2. The person assumes your time must not be very valuable (i.e., you don’t have anything better to do) and may try to take advantage of you in the future.
  3. The person assumes you are desperate for friendship by offering to do something for them that they don’t need help with (i.e., you’re needy) and is uninterested in spending time with you as a result.

It is not necessarily what you are offering, but the intention behind your offer that determines whether it is of high or low social value.

Read more: How to increase your social value.

2. Be the glue in your social circle

The most popular people are often the glue that holds their friends together.

When you have plans to meet a group of friends for a social outing, make a habit of inviting someone who hasn’t met everyone in the group yet (but be sure to check with the host of the event first!).

Arrange frequent parties and get-togethers for all of your friends. If you encounter someone you know while spending time with another friend, remember to introduce them to each other. Otherwise, your friend will stay quiet, and you will come off as socially unskilled.

Not only will your friends appreciate the opportunity to meet new people, but you will also be perceived as a more social person.

3. Be genuinely nice (but don’t be a pushover)

“Niceness” is a tricky subject, as “nice” people often seem to lack friends, while the “cool” people or “bad guys” become popular. How does that happen?

The answer is that we often describe people who are afraid of conflict as “nice.”

For example, imagine someone who notices his friend drinking too much but doesn’t want to bring up the subject. So, he lets the drinking continue, thereby risking his friend’s health. This is not an act of kindness, but one of harmful passivity that comes from a fear of conflict.

What you should do is become genuinely nice. Your life decisions should be based on your moral code and an understanding of what will do the most good for the most people. A legitimately nice person would try to talk to his friend about the problem.

Nice people don’t do everything people ask them to do just because they are “nice”. There’s a fine line between “nice” and “pushover,” and it’s important to make sure that agreeing to do things for people won’t be a detriment to you or your other obligations before consenting to do them.

Nice people don’t avoid tough conversations. Like in the example above, turning a blind eye to a serious problem that could end up bringing harm to someone is not nice. It’s cowardly. But you don’t have to be rude or insensitive to have a tough conversation with someone; click here to learn how to navigate a difficult conversation.

Nice people aren’t afraid to disagree with others. There’s nothing wrong with having and sharing your own opinions. There are certainly rude ways to disagree, but disagreement in and of itself is not innately rude.

Genuinely nice people listen. People want to spend time with people who care about them, and this empathy and concern are key to be a popular person. Listening to the things people share with you and paying attention to them are critical components of being genuinely nice.

Ultimately, the biggest difference between a genuinely nice person and a fake nice person is the motivation behind their niceness. If you are nice to someone because you truly care about them, then you are genuinely nice. However, if you constantly try to act nice because you want people to like you, it may be time to reevaluate your intentions.

4. Be easygoing

One way to make sure your friends enjoy spending time with you (thereby increasing your popularity) is to be easygoing. It’s important to have a positive attitude and avoid constant complaining.

Sharing your problems with others is a good thing– it’s actually a key step in making close friends. But there is a time and place to have these serious discussions. While repeatedly talking about problems people already know about might have a therapeutic effect on you, constant negativity will make it difficult for your friends to enjoy spending time with you.

Other characteristics of an easygoing person include:

  • Having a good sense of humor; not becoming easily offended at jokes
  • Willingness to try new things; not insisting on following the same routines every single time
  • Flexibility in making plans (and changing plans!)
  • The ability to have fun even it means looking silly; not refusing to have fun because you might embarrass yourself

5. Learn how to be a good listener

Many of us think that we are far better listeners than we really are.

Why?

Most of us are so busy thinking about how we’re going to respond that we don’t actually pay attention to everything that’s being said. In short, we behave selfishly, focusing more on ourselves than the other person.

When your mind is somewhere else, you don’t hear what you don’t hear, and you won’t know what you missed. Hence, it feels like you are a better listener than you really are.

Even worse, some people interrupt their friends while they are talking just because they have to tell them something they relate to. This causes people to feel ignored and can be damaging to a friendship.

If this is something you find yourself doing, it’s okay; this doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad friend. It simply means you need to improve your social listening skills.

Paying attention when other people are speaking (and making an effort to really be present in the conversation instead of in your head planning your response) is the first step. When you are listening, show them that you are listening by nodding and making affirmatory comments such as “Yeah,” “Mhmm,” “Oh wow,” etc.

Use your facial expressions to show your reactions when someone is speaking. For example, frown if they tell you something bad, smile if they tell you something good, laugh if something is funny, etc. This will convey to the other person that you are truly listening to them and will make them more inclined to share things with you in the future.

Another way to show that you pay attention when people are speaking is to follow up on things people have told you in previous conversations. This requires remembering what people have shared with you so that you can ask about it again in the future.

For example, let’s say your friend Lisa told you last week that her nephew has broken his leg. The next time you see her, it would be a good idea to ask, “And how is your nephew doing?” Not only will this show her you were paying attention during your last conversation, but it will also convey that you genuinely care about her.

6. Become good at something

Although having a special talent doesn’t automatically make you popular, very skilled people tend to attract positive attention.

In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that there is no such thing as “being born without a skill.” However, it requires thousands of hours of practice to become a highly-skilled expert in your chosen field. Once you have identified something you like doing and think you can be good at, take time to get better at it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify your strengths. Ask people you are close to for their opinion. This can give you a better idea of your gifts and talents.

Once you have decided which skill you would like to improve, the following resources can be very helpful:

  • Personal development/self-help books relating to the area you are seeking to improve
  • Working with a mentor who is an expert in your area of interest
  • Free local or online classes, such as those at Coursera.org
  • Paid local tutoring or classes
  • Joining a local Facebook group pertaining to your skill/interest
  • Set goals using these goal-setting sheets from Develop Good Habits

Not only will your skills, talents, and hobbies increase your popularity in your social sphere, improving your career-related abilities will improve your popularity in your workplace as well.

According to one study, employees’ work-related knowledge, skills, and abilities are directly related to their popularity in the workplace, which is directly related to their career satisfaction.[1]

7. Practice positivity

Popular people are seldom needy; they don’t require anything from others to be happy.

Those who complain about life and are more pessimistic have fewer friends. Even worse, since people tend to spend time with others who are similar to them, the friends they do have are typically also pessimistic.

As a rule of thumb, make an effort not to say anything negative until you have first said at least five positive things. This can help you prevent others from viewing you as pessimistic and make you a more uplifting person to spend time with.

8. Stop talking about people behind their backs

Popular people understand that talking behind people’s backs will cause them to quickly lose friends. When you speak negatively about other people, the person you’re talking to can reasonably assume you would speak negatively about them when they’re not around as well.

Because relationships grow deeper the more we reveal to each other, it’s important for your friends to be comfortable confiding in you without worrying that you will talk about them to others.

Many people attempt to justify their gossipy behavior by saying, “I’m not talking behind anyone’s back. I’m just telling the truth.” While this may be the case, it is still not an acceptable excuse. Some issues need to be addressed with the person in question and that person only.

9. Think twice before making deprecating remarks

Negative people who dismiss and criticize everything aren’t usually popular. It’s tiring to talk to someone who writes everyone and everything off.

This does not mean you can’t disagree with someone, but it does mean that your disagreement should be respectful. For example, saying, “I’m not a big fan of that show” is a respectful way to disagree, while saying “That show is so stupid. I don’t see how anyone can watch it” is unnecessary deprecation.

As a rule of thumb, avoid expressing negative opinions around people you’ve just met. You’ll offend fewer people and find it easier to build rapport.

There’s one exception: it’s easier to build rapport with someone if you mirror their communication style and demeanor, so if you want to build rapport with a negative person, acting in a similar way may work.[2]

When you are around your closest friends, you should express yourself whenever you feel the need to. However, if you overdo it, you risk tiring even your best friends.

A common fear is that if you don’t express negative opinions, you will be considered to be an opinion-less zombie. However, the reality is quite different. People who are successful at influencing others tend to tell stories about experiences without adding their own opinion. They let people make up their own minds.

You can never force anyone to agree with you. All you can do is give them information that will help them reach their own conclusions.

10. Build relationships at work and school

Many people make the mistake of avoiding social relationships at their school or workplace. They think these places are for work, not socializing.

However, this mindset can be detrimental. People now spend more time than ever at their places of work and education. Refusing to build relationships with people you see for forty or more hours per week will rob you of beneficial social experiences.

Research shows that the more popular you are at school or work, the happier you will be when you’re there.[1]

Additionally, people with healthy social relationships at school and work are more likely to perform better and be more successful. (See How Much Co-worker Socializing is Good for Your Career? by Jacquelyn Smith for more on this topic.)

11. Deal with conflicts instead of avoiding them

Popular people deal with conflicts instead of letting everything slide because they’re afraid of confrontation.

(Is someone making fun of you? Click here to learn how to deal with dominating people.)

Although confrontation is often associated with aggression and bullying, when done the right way, it is a crucial part of forming and maintaining healthy, lasting friendships.

You need to be a peacemaker, not a peacekeeper. It’s important to know the difference.

Peacekeeping means ignoring every issue that arises so as to avoid conflict. But the problem with peacekeeping is that it can never be a long-term strategy. Often what you consider to be “peace” is actually turmoil hidden underneath a blanket of passivity.

Eventually, all of the little (and big) things that you let slide in the past will add up, and one or both of the people involved will explode. Things will get far messier than they would have if you had decided to be a peacemaker instead.

To be a peacemaker requires taking action. It involves making peace, which implies that it was not there before, and changes must be made for it to occur. Unlike peacekeeping, peacemaking does not result in an explosion. It is the catalyst for a controlled change rather than a cataclysmic one.

Popular people know how important it is to work on their friendships, and they understand that confrontation and conflict resolution is necessary. Read How to Navigate Difficult Conversations to find out how popular people address problems they’re having with their friends.

12. Own your flaws

People who accept themselves tend to be more positive and self-confident, which makes them more pleasant to be around. As a result, others want to spend time with them.

It can help to remember that lots of people feel insecure, even if they hide it well. For example, most adults — of both sexes — are unhappy about their weight or body shape.[3]

Try using positive self-talk. Attempting to reason your way out of negative thoughts doesn’t work, but redirecting your attention and taking a more balanced approach can help. For example, you could tell yourself, “OK, so I wish I had clearer skin, but I can choose to focus on what I like about myself, including my height and how I care about my friends.”

13. Practice small talk as often as you can

You can learn to be friendly and likable by practicing your social skills. One key skill to learn is small talk because it’s the first step to interesting conversations, rapport, and friendship.

If you are shy, set very small goals to start with. For example, try saying “Hi” to the barista in your local coffee shop or asking a colleague whether they had a good weekend.

For more help, check out these 22 tips for making small talk.

How to be popular in college or in school

Here are a few tips on how to make friends and be well-liked:

1. Find your people

Instead of trying to make friends with anyone and everyone, join groups that interest you. Take advantage of the first few weeks when everyone’s nervous and looking to make friends because they will probably be more open to meeting new people. Make small talk with people in your classes; you already have something in common: an interest in the same subject.

2. Take the initiative

Dare to ask people to hang out, and say “Yes” to invitations. Ask casually as though it’s no big deal, even if you’re nervous. For example:

[To a classmate straight after class] “Wow, that was a tough class! I could use a coffee. Would you like to come with me?”

[To someone in your dorm, after some small talk about your studies] “Actually, I’m going to the library this afternoon to study for my test. Do you want to come?”

3. Put healthy friendships ahead of status

Some students have a reputation for being “cool,” but they aren’t necessarily considered the most likable. In other words, they have high social status but are not truly liked or regarded as good people.

Research shows you’ll be happier in the long run and enjoy closer friendships if you are genuinely nice to everyone. Young adults who have a small number of good friends are happier and have better mental health later in life than those who are obsessed with being popular in their class or year group.[4]

4. Make good decisions

Surround yourself with people who make good choices. If you repeatedly get into trouble, you’ll be well known, but not necessarily well-liked or respected. People who pressure you to behave against your best interests don’t make good friends.

5. Work hard and get great grades

Some people think pretending to be “too cool to care” will make you popular. This isn’t necessarily true. It’s true that dangerous or aggressive behavior can earn you social status. However, research shows that friendly, high-achieving students are often well-liked and socially accepted.[5]

If you’re starting at a new school or college

Take advantage of the fact that other students will find you interesting just because you are new. They will probably be intrigued to learn where you are from and why you are starting at a new school.

Start by chatting to people you are sitting next to in class. Try to keep the conversation light and positive. Ask them about their favorite classes and teachers, and talk about what you like about the school so far.

Take cooperative classes like art, music, and PE. Pick classes that let you talk to other students instead of sitting and working in silence.

Speak up in class. Let your teachers and classmates get to know you. Set yourself a goal of asking or answering one question every period.

Show references +

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. The way the world has changed is far beyond my understanding. The people of tomorrow have become the people of today and the the of today have become the people of yesterday. I don’t know why I came onto this site because I am the most acarbating girl/boy/dog(thing/item) in this PROVINCE. We are one.

    Reply
  2. I make a lot of friends and relationships, but none of them seem to stick around and they don’t reciprocate with me. I feel like If reaching out happens, it is always me that does it. Makes me think that I am an inherently undesirable person, to be honest..😔

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  3. I am not populare and I just really want to be. But my brother might be bullyed on the bus. Dose that mean I will be bullyed even if he is younger? Will I ever be poulare? Will I not be populare because of him? PLease people help me!

    Reply
    • Hi Steve, I saw you comment and think this is very thoughtful of you, my advice for you is to give it a shot, just be yourself and you’ll soon find that you’re popular because you’re being yourself, I realize now that I can do the same. By clicking on this article, it’s helped me understand that I need to stop being someone who I’m not and start being me. And that is how I will become popular, and you will too! Just try.

      Reply
  4. I am popular but if I were to classify the type of popularity it will be the type of by being nice. One of my friends is very popular in my school, she got her popularity by her singing voice and I won’t lie she has a good voice even i too have a good singing voice but i have a low self esteem, but the one thing is that she can snob someone she’s talking to, what I mean is that when she’s talking to me someone and another person interrupted rudely instead of her to kindly tell the person to pls excuse us she would just snob me and talk to the other person. Also when I sometimes call her she would hear me but not answer, she traets me like dirt and I don’t like it. She doesn’t just do this to me but she does this also to others as I’ve noticed. The point of what am saying is that even though she snobs people she’s still popular….. She isn’t the only one who does that to me but also few others. That’s why sometimes I feel blue when she does that to me. Makes me feel less important which I don’t really like.

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    • Just because you want to help people doesn’t mean you need to be popular! I’m basically the hated one but I still help a lot of people whom are grateful. If you are the nerd, dork, geek or freak just be yourself! Trust me!

      Reply
  5. Hi I had a question, so one of my friends had a concern with another friend, she is friendly and outgoing and sometimes screams or talks loud and stuff, the other friends personality is more quiet and refined, so she thinks that friend one is such a drama queen and tells her that. So friend one wanted to talk to me about it and we talked about it and she said stuff like it’s ok to have her own personality, but she shouldn’t be able to dictate mine, is this thing ok? It says not to talk about othersbehind their backs but my friend is also expressing a concern to me. So I don’t know if this is gossip or not. Please help

    Reply
    • It’s not gossip to express your problems to others. In fact, many people need this kind of meeting. As long as that friend didn’t have any bad intention then for you to help them, it is not gossip. There’s a very fine line between expressing problems for help and gossip.

      Reply
    • If you feel your doing the right thing then do it but make sure to tell your friend if she asks about it don’t lie to her that will just lose your friendship. I hope this is helpful

      Reply
  6. That means a lot to people who don’t have as much self-esteem as other people. It’s very nice thoughtful of you do to do this for everyone who needs some tips on being popular! You must’ve felt hurt and upset when you didn’t have the popularity you had wanted before until you took a day to relax. I’m proud of you, nivya. 🙂

    Reply
    • Make a good first impression, try to be outgoing and unique. If you can, be chatty and funny! Meet a lot of new people on your first day and follow all of the tips oh here. Best wishes to you! -Ava

      Reply
  7. Can confess to being one of those who talk down on things, it’s like a bonding process for me. Can’t there be benefits with talking down on someone to bond with someone else?

    Reply
  8. my biggest problem is probably with conflicts, i just get terrified when someone yells at me. does anyone have any tips when you are afraid of conflicts like me? because i never yell at anyone really. thanks!

    Reply
    • It’s ok that your afraid but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Don’t let them put you down. Personally I don’t like yelling either but when it comes down to it don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. I used to hate to be in fights but now that I’ve learned how to stand up for myself I am very confident now and I am a negotiater in fights. I hope this helps you.

      Reply

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