Being Decisive Makes You More Likable

People prefer being around those who confidently share their preferences.



(Fizkes /

Are you looking to stand out on your resume, during college applications, and in interviews? Consider including not just your education and leadership experiences, but also discussing your personal interests, hobbies, and preferences.

When you plan a night on the town with your fam, share your preferences as well. Let your friends know where you prefer to go. For the best night-out experience, take a lead in making the decision.

Emerging research from Harvard Business Review demonstrates that sharing preferences with others, and being decisive, makes us not just more assertive, but also more likable. Sharing something as simple as your favorite color or food humanizes you, making others more likely to want to spend time with you, hire you for work, or rate your work as positive. 

Sharing the burden of decision making
Insead’s Knowledge reports that Harvard Business Review conducted a series of studies and arrived at the conclusion that sharing preferences can make you stand out and be more likable.

The first study looked at pairs of friends making plans for a night out. Researchers asked participants to text a friend and ask them to choose a place to go. Among the 2,000 requesters who participated in the study, the majority of them told researchers that they preferred their friend to make the decision about where to go. More often than not, however, respondents replied that they didn’t care where they went and indicated that the requester should choose.

According to the study, the respondents were telling white lies. They actually had preferences, but were uncomfortable asserting them, because they wanted to be seen as easy-going and likable. This strategy backfired, as requesters were much less likely to ask their indecisive friends out to future nights out. It turns out that being decisive was a much more likable strategy, and spared the requester from having to make a decision unilaterally.

It can be frustrating when the burden of decision falls on you, when planning activities with friends. If you are making plans to go out and want your reticent friend’s input, here’s a simple hack. Tell your bestie that you dislike making the decision. Research shows that respondents are much more likely to share their preferences when the person making the request asserts their discomfort with choosing.

Guessing wrong?
The researchers at Harvard Business Review theorized that those without preferences were more unlikeable, because their “lie” was a transparent one. Those dealing with indecisive people assume (often correctly) that their peer does actually have a preference, and is just uncomfortable indicating it. 

The one who makes the decision ends up having to “guess” what others want, leading to decision stress, but also to “wrong” decisions where they choose something that neither party actually prefers. 

To back up this theory, researchers asked participants to describe how they feel when they text a friend asking them to choose a place to go out to, and their friend offers no preferences. Participants reported that making the decision in lieu of their friend was difficult, and they believed that their friend actually did have a preference.

Participants in another study, with reticent and non-decisive friends, naturally assumed that their companions liked the opposite of what they themselves liked. The decision makers thus ended up choosing an option that neither they, nor their associates preferred – a situation that could have been easily avoided by a little self-confidence. And, on top of that, they rated their indecisive partners as less likable. 

Why were reticent participants seen as less likable? It’s not just that they “forced” their partner to make all the choices unilaterally, not indicating preferences is also dehumanizing in some ways.

Your likes, interests, hobbies, favorite foods, favorite restaurants, and individual preferences are part of what makes you a unique person with a unique identity. We naturally consider those who are open about their preferences as more of an individual, and more “human.” 

Stand out by sharing preferences
Fortunately, if being indecisive can have a negative affect on business, the converse also applies. Including some “fun facts” about employees on a company website, or sharing your hobbies on your resume or college application could make you that much more likable. It could make you stand out in a competitive environment. 

For example, the career guide Indeed suggests that a “Hobbies and Interests” section can be a value add to a job application in the following circumstances: where the interests align with the job (for example if you enjoy travel, and are applying for a program or job that requires travel), your skills and experiences in the field are limited, or the job is looking for personality or specifically requests your preferences. 

According to Forbes, many great leaders display the quality of decisiveness, and are able to make clear calls to take tasks to executation and get the desired results.  

It’s great to know that doing things that come naturally to you- like being decisive or sharing your preferences- can make you more likable. The next time you’re at a party or networking event, remember these research findings and try letting your true self shine through. Who knows, you might just make a new friend or valuable connection.

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