The ‘L Factor’ in Negotiations


The L Factor in Negotiations

In exercising influence, we ultimately want to get results through agreement. One key factor in persuading or negotiating with any stakeholder is your likeability because, in addition to being known and trusted, people prefer to work with people they like. This is the ‘L’, or likeability factor, in the negotiating process. Success in influencing behavior has as much to do with whether you are liked as with your level of expertise or experience.

Likeability is defined as the ability to create positive attitudes in other people through the delivery of emotional and physical benefits. Un-likeability, its opposite, doesn’t work for several reasons:


  1. Short-term thinking. The belief that the moment is all that matters, is dying. Like it or not, we are being forced to become long-term thinkers because it is necessary for survival.
  2. Individualism is waning. Today, the phrase “There is no I in team” is uttered not just in locker rooms, but also by psychologists and counselors to help professionals patch together broken professional lives and revive faltering relationships. As the rise of teams continues, unlikeable loners will have to join larger groups or face extinction.
  3. Boundaries are dissolving. At one time, we all maintained distinct boundaries between our personal and professional lives. Today, life cannot be compartmentalized between “professional” and “personal.”
  4. Success has been redefined. Today, success is as much about quality of life as it is about quantity of material objects. The grip of unlikeable people as our despotic bosses, controlling spouses, and mean-spirited clients is slipping, as our twenty-first century society reexamines its fundamental goals and priorities. The new success is about freedom, not simply security. Negative people will find it increasingly difficult to motivate workers and team members.


The Four Elements of Likeability

If you take the time to understand and learn likeability’s basics, you can move on to the specifics of increasing your L Factor.



Friendliness is the most fundamental element of likeability. If you are unfriendly, you will have to work exponentially harder to be likeable. Friendly means expressing a liking for another person, communicating a welcoming vibe, and expressing a generally positive feeling.

Friendliness is a communications process and can be improved by adopting  a friendly mindset and expressing friendliness. If other people don’t perceive you as friendly, then you aren’t friendly.



Relevance is the extent to which the other person connects to your life’s interests, wants, and needs. Relevance is strongest when a personal value proposition you offer connects with another person’s wants and needs. If you have a skill that will help someone complete a task, you are relevant to that person. When you connect with people’s needs and wants, your L Factor increases. Relevance is like the wind to a sailboat. When it is missing, the potential for the high L Factor disappears.

Relevance can be improved by identifying your frequent contact circle, connecting with others’ interests, and connecting with others’ wants and needs. Remember to serve others’ emotional needs, and don’t be afraid to try new roles in your personal and work lives.



Once you decide that another person is friendly and relevant, you begin to wonder, consciously or unconsciously, whether that person understands you. Empathy represents an identification with and understanding of another person’s situation, feelings, and motives. Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in the place of another, and from that vantage point, be able to understand his or her feelings, desires, ideas, and motives.

Empathy is different from sympathy. If you are sympathetic to others, your heart goes out to them, and you feel compassion, but these are your feelings. Empathy enhances likeability because it engenders a sense of personal worth, clarity, and relief. Sympathy can be faked, but empathy is almost impossible to fake.

We can improve empathy by showing an interest in how others feel, experiencing how others feel by seeing things from another viewpoint, and responding to others’ feelings. We respond to others’ feelings by remembering conversations and making ourselves available for follow-up conversations.



A ‘real’ person is genuine, true, and authentic. When you believe another person is real, you believe he or she is sincere. There are three different ways in which lack of realness can impact the L Factor: 1) Lying—when you discover that someone has lied to you, everything they have ever said to you is called into question, 2) Hypocrisy—when you discover that someone is living a double standard where actual behavior is out of step with projected behavior, and 3) Insecurity—when you discover you have been mistaken in assessing the motives of another, being fooled. Realness is the bedrock of culture as well as of personal and business life.

We improve our “realness” muscle by being true to ourselves and letting our values be our navigational compass. By practicing humility and admitting our mistakes, we are also true to others.


Tim Sanders, in his popular book The Likeability Factor, delves deeper into this concept and puts forth what he calls a Likeability Scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being very likeable. Tim promotes this scale as a means of self-assessment and basis for improvement in this critical success factor for both our personal and business lives. I recommend you use this scale before your next negotiation to ensure your L Factor is working in your favour, regardless whether you are trying to get to yes or get past no.

Like it or not… likeability counts!