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What makes an individual popular? Is it the Lexus s/he pulls up in? Is it the 7-seven figure banking account? Or how about the hair: Does hair make the social guru?

While all of the former certainly may aid your endeavors in becoming a people magnet, there’s no substitute for character. Below are 10 personal development concepts that virtually anyone can master with enough due diligence.

I fall asleep with my friends around me, the only place I know. I’m going to call this home.”
— Jimmy Eat World

1. The Cardinal Rule: Be No One But Yourself

“Be yourself”: It’s one of the most tossed-about, even cliched, catchphrases, but it’s seemingly one of the least heeded. Don’t try to be someone else, or at the very least—do not appear desperate to be someone you’re simply not.  People are surprisingly keen at picking up the scent of other superfluous, attention-seeking individuals.  Find a network of friends that share common interests; then, it’ll prove far easier to sharpen your social savvy and build rapport amongst liked-minded people.

2. Quality Over Quantity

Popularity, in a sense, isn’t about numbers. Sure, who wouldn’t enjoy an endless roster of dependable, loyal, true friends? But this is reality and no such thing exists, regardless of how influential, rich, or powerful you might be. Most friends, in the long term, are merely acquaintances: Some are here one day and disappear quicker than they were found. Others will exchange pleasantries and make small talk, but would never consider waking at 3 a.m. to assist you with a flat tire. Generally disregard such people.

Connect with people of good character, that have the ability to be faithful and loyal, folks that [you feel] would go out of their way any day to help you. Those are the ones to become “tight” with.

3. Abandon Your Comfort Zone

Burn that damn bridge and watch it burn baby, burn—never retreating. This is especially critical for shy, even totally introverted people. Practice stepping out of your personal norms: engage others, highlight their interests frequently and make them feel important, tell a good joke, inspire others to join you and commit something totally random and outrageous (considering the legality of whatever it is probably important too…but I digress) and so forth. Influence those around you to feel naturally connected to you, so as long as they WANT to connect. However, stay clear of manipulating people—those who’d use exclusively for their own interests.

4. Be Friendly, Display Empathy, and Wear Confidence

Some people have the notion (i.e. middle and high schoolers) that you’ve got to be the football quarterback, date a cheerleader, and boast a cocky attitude to be popular. In one’s formative years, as disappointing as it is, maybe that’s true. In the long term, however, nothing could be farther from the truth.

In the ‘real’ world, socialites treat all others as they’d want to be treated. They’re confident and walk with an undeniable swagger, but they also show genuine interest and benevolence towards anyone who crosses their path. The socialite acts more interested in those around him more than he appears to others to merely be trying to call attention upon himself.

Establishing some kind of rapport with individuals is paramount. Connect to each person on a personal level while simultaneously garnering a loyal following.

5. Dress the Part

Be fashionable while maintaining your own individuality. Rarely is it acceptable to dress like a slob, but don’t throw on your most expensive clothes (unless that’s just your thing, of course) thinking that will ‘buy’ you friends and acquaintances. Make an effort to blend with the people most associated with, but always keep something about your appearance totally unique.

6. Hold Your Head Just High Enough

Being popular is being charismatic, charming, confident and abnormally likeable all-in-one and wrapped in a pretty bow. It’s sporting confidence in one’s strut and wearing the best, most authentic smile in the room. It’s making and maintaining direct eye contact with those who matter, and it’s taking undesirable circumstances and turning them into opportunities.

Learn to exude confidence and charisma/charm while remaining humble, empathetic, and genuine. It’s an art that sometimes requires decades to perfect, though when you finally learn to walk this ever-so-narrow tightrope, it becomes like second nature.

7. Show Pessimism the Door: Become an Optimist

Pessimism, tiny as it usually starts, is that dark little cloud over peoples’ heads that gradually manifests itself into something much more menacing—turning otherwise normal people into bitchy, arrogant, self-interested, miserable creatures. Avoid pessimism at ALL costs. As previously indicated, in every single difficulty there lies opportunity. Awe those around you with your God-like (ok, maybe that’s going a bit far) powers to create good from evil.

8. Conformity is Highly Overrated

Though being popular sometimes entails thinking, speaking, and acting in accord with your clique, don’t attempt conformity with everyone, all the time. It will not work. Learn when to ride with the tide and when to fight it—as people are always looking for leaders, per say, to look up to and follow. And those in the single-file line, unwavering, will never achieve the qualities of a leader (basically synonymous with ‘popular’).

9. Be Charitable Towards Others, But Be Careful

There’s an extremely fine line between giving others a helping hand and becoming others’ virtual slaves. Yes, there’s plenty a dick out there ready at a moment’s notice to take your generosity for a ride. Make certain that everything you do for others is, in some fashion or the other, usually reciprocated. Don’t let certain people manipulate your emotions by making you feel popular, when in reality, they’d vanish into thin air should the ‘favors’ stop. Weed out and avoid—using that God-given brain and common sense of yours—these ‘faux friends’ and acquaintances.

10. Shut Up and listen

Contrary to what logic may dictate, listening to other peoples’ ideas, issues, problems, musings on life, feelings, and so forth is critical if winning over the hearts of many is your pursuit. People love talking about themselves and what goes on in their minds. Listen. Try, try, try to resonate with them and try your best to keep the most of the attention off yourself (which may sound a little counter-intuitive given the topic at hand, but nonetheless) and on the other person. In the long run, it will pay off almost without fail.

Don’t try to tackle all of these qualities head-first and all at once. Instead, master each one of them and treat them like stepping stones.


Michael BockMore from this Author

Reserved, introverted, studious, sometimes-cynical-ass, sometimes-friendly-as-hell hopeless romantic from Memphis, TN in the good ole’ Bible Belt.

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