Episode 147 |

The Secret to Success Is Likeability Rather Than High Status with Mitch Prinstein

Did you learn your social reactions as an adolescent? Find out what the author of Popular @mitchprinstein has to say about that on the next @OptimizedGeek. Click To Tweet



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This Week’s Guest:

If you think that high status is the key to professional success, a longer life, better health, and better personal and professional relationships, think again. It’s not actually high status that’s the key, but rather likability. Unlike high-status people, likable people aren’t aggressive. Instead, they’re focused on making everyone feel heard, important, included, and valued. One way to do this is to pay attention to the amount of time you spend focused on others rather than yourself.


Mitch Prinstein joins me in this episode to explore why it’s so important to be likable instead of high status. Mitch is the author of Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World That Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships. He’s also board-certified in clinical child and adolescent psychology. Mitch serves as the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Find Out More About Mitch Here:

Mitch Prinstein
Mitch Prinstein at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
@mitchprinstein on Twitter
Mitch Prinstein on Wikipedia
Mitch Prinstein on LinkedIn
Mitch Prinstein on Facebook

In This Episode:

  • [01:29] – Mitch talks about his book, and what inspired him to write it.
  • [03:45] – We hear more about the distinguishment between likeability versus status, and where that leads.
  • [06:15] – How do we take specific practical application of this likeability factor of popularity and improve our likeability and influence in our social spheres, and make a bigger impact?
  • [08:39] – Mitch discusses how we can assess whether we’re going down the wrong track, and points out the importance of looking at our relationships to assess our likeability.
  • [12:26] – We go through a few different use cases where likeability trumps status in terms of impact for the person and the community.
  • [16:17] – Stephan talks about an epiphany he had related to his kids. Mitch then responds and elaborates on Stephan’s point.
  • [19:03] – We hear about a powerful framework that Stephan learned from Pia Mellody.
  • [23:25] – Isn’t it important to see that we live in a friendly universe, instead of one that’s cold and dark and desolate?
  • [28:16] – Mitch shares his thoughts about what age he would want his child to start using social media and a smartphone.
  • [31:10] – Stephan points out that whether we like it or not, kids will have access to porn and disturbing images.
  • [34:14] – Mitch explains one of the reasons why he’s been talking to many kids around the country.
  • [37:47] – What does a dysfunctional marital relationship look like for someone who spent way too much time on social media and digital device?
  • [39:47] – Mitch explores one of the limitations of our electronic and media-related communications.
  • [42:47] – One of the problems with the way that popularity is being cultivated today through social media is that it’s about being popular with a group of people you have no intention of ever meeting.
  • [45:24] – Mitch shares his thoughts on online romantic or sexual relationships where there’s no intention of meeting in person.
  • [46:44] – What should we be doing to increase our likeability?
  • [49:00] – We learn about some empathy-building exercises that we can do.
  • [54:51] – Stephan shares some similar approaches to what Mitch has been describing.
  • [57:42] – What next steps would Mitch recommend for listeners?

Links and Resources:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take:

☑ Aim to build valuable connections and relationships instead of flaunting my status and achievements to become popular.

☑ Be empathic and kind rather than dominant and aggressive. Always make decisions that benefit the entire team.

☑ Work on becoming likeable to create stronger relationships with my employees, colleagues, family and friends.

☑ Make the people I am with feel heard, important and valued. Internalize the saying “you get what you give.”

☑ Do what it takes to reach my goals and dreams but make sure that I don’t hurt, belittle or offend others along the way. Investing in good relationships will help me become more successful in life.

☑ Enhance my leadership skills to build a strong community where everyone respects each other.

☑ Start teaching my kids about kindness, humility, empathy and true value. Make them realize the importance of respecting hard work and others.

☑ Don’t be envious of what I see on social media. Social media isn’t a reflection of reality but rather what people want you to see.

☑ Reach out to people outside of my community. It’s beneficial to have an understanding of how other people live and think.

☑ Grab a copy of Mitch Prinstein’s book, Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World.


S: The secret to success is not high status. It’s like ability. This is based on research yet we get caught up in the status game especially on social media. I had such a powerful conversation with today’s guest, Mitch Prinstein. He’s the author of Popular: Finding Happiness and Success in a World that Cares Too Much About the Wrong Kinds of Relationships. Mitch is board certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. He serves as the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mitch, it’s great to have you on the show.


M: Thanks so much for having me.


S: Let’s talk about the book, Popular, what was it that inspired you to write this book? There must be some sort of compelling story behind this?


M: I’ve been interested in this topic since I was a kid myself, really, wondering why some people seem so much more popular than others. But I think my main reason is because it feels like our society has become one that is emphasizing exactly the wrong type of popularity. There are different versions of this and I think we’re headed for a bit of a disaster.


S: Okay. Tell me more about this disaster. This is very good bait so I’m taking it.


M: There are two different kinds of popularity. One is the type of popularity that reflects how much we’re liked by others. We can be more liked among others if we do things to help them feel happy, included, and valued. But that’s not what we think about when we think about the word popular, we usually think about those high school days and we think about the people who were influential, visible, powerful, dominant. These days, we’re kind of living in a world where that type of visibility and dominance is much more of what’s emphasized, not only for adolescents but really in the rest of our lives—if we think about the corporate world, if we think about politics, if we think about reality TV and social media—we’re getting the message at every turn that we should really be focusing on how much we are visible rather than really connecting with other human beings and how much we’re powerful, dominant, and aggressive rather than being empathic and kind.


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