Anyone who has ever been unpopular, which we're thinking is approximately all of you, knows how unfair the system can seem -- it's all about looks and money and some indefinable coolness that some lucky bastards are just born with. Well, we have good news and bad news.
The good news is that there are some unexpected shortcuts that can make a person popular, which maybe isn't surprising, since the human brain works in some pretty freaky ways. The bad news is that they're just as stupid and arbitrary as the ones you already knew.
5Don't Do Favors for Others -- Make Them Do Favors for You (and Thank Them)
Quick! You have 24 hours to make an attractive guy or girl like you. Like maybe you're trapped in the plot of a romantic comedy or something. How do you go about it?
You and pretty much everyone else will immediately try the same tactic: Do something nice for them. That'll win their heart! Take care of some task you know they hate, bring them a cup of coffee they didn't ask for. There are millions of "nice guys" in the world who right now are doing little favors for pretty girls for this very reason -- if he does enough nice things for her, then she'll associate him with friendliness, trustworthiness, loyalty and pretty much everything a girl could ever want. And that may very well be true ... for a while, and provided she's looking for a dog.
"I have a better chance of humping her leg, and I'm neutered."
Studies show that if you really want people to like you as a person, you're actually better off ignoring their pleas of help and making them do favors for you instead ... and just remember to really go over the top in thanking them for it. It sounds crazy, but it has to do with how people don't like feeling that they owe you something, but like feeling that you owe them.
See, the problem with doing minor nice things for somebody is that they forget about it much faster than the person doing the favor. A few days later, the girl has long forgotten the coffee, and the guy quickly gets annoyed that she didn't appreciate it enough. A month later, he's all "BUT I GAVE YOU THAT COFFEE! You owe me at least a hug!" While the value of the gift decreases in the recipient's mind, it actually gets inflated in the giver's mind, until he's equating it with having fought a bear for her. Here it is in graph form:
So it actually drives a wedge between you; the innocent favor turns into kind of a power play. Which brings us to the weird, opposite corollary of this rule, and it comes courtesy of none other than Benjamin freakin' Franklin.
"Game recognizes game."
In fact, it's even called the Ben Franklin effect, after an offhanded quip he once made regarding the favorer/favoree relationship. It goes like this: If you can convince a person who doesn't really think much of you to do a favor for you -- even a small one -- this tricks him into suddenly believing that he now likes you. All you need to do is remember to thank him enough.
As we just established above, nobody likes feeling like they're indebted to somebody else, and this is the opposite -- it continually reminds the other person of how much you're in their debt. And science says that people love it. In one experiment, participants who were given money and then asked personally to give it back were more likely to like the researcher than those who got to keep the cash. Do you ever watch old episodes of Seinfeld and wonder how they put up with Kramer, who was always eating Jerry's food and borrowing stuff? This is why: The fact that he was always on the receiving end made him lovable.