Editor’s note: Tim Sanders, former chief solutions officer for Yahoo!, will be speaking at two North Carolina Technology Association events on Thursday about “Harness the Power of Total Confidence.”

Sanders talks with NCTA about the thinking found in his new book, “The Likability Factor.”

How did you determine the four critical elements of personality (friendliness, relevance, empathy, realness) as described in your book The Likeability Factor? And why do you think these are the four most important elements for determining likability? 

For my second book, the Likeability Factor, my research team interviewed hundreds of people and used electronic surveys to measure why people were loyal and attentive to others. In short, we found a statistically significant correlation between these four attributes and engagement. We learned that the first thing people look for in others is Friendliness (Friend VS Foe). When it is established, value is questions (utility or ‘relevance’). Once value is established, true engagement requires a demonstration of Empathy (do you respect me and my feelings?) – researchers confirm that empathy delivers a powerful psychological benefit…validation. Finally, to sustain a relationship or engagement, one must be honest and authentic. This is especially true in our reality-based culture.

So many of us are taught early in life to have a positive attitude and “do unto others”, yet this seems to become more difficult for many people as we get older. Why do you think these basic concepts become harder to follow in life, and especially in business?

We likely feed our mind too much negative material – which pushes out the positive, given our limited cognitive capabilities. Also, the ‘Fear Of Poverty’ as Napoleon Hill called it in 1937, creates the Scarcity Mentality in people. This results in a ‘got to get mine’ response, especially among many business people. I don’t think that age makes it harder to have a positive outlook, it’s really a function of lifestyle design and influence. If we watch too much TV or read commercial media (instead of reading helpful books or listening/watching high-intention content) we fall into a trap.

What do you find to be the most difficult obstacle for people when putting your methods into place?

This requires a lot of time and effort. You can’t just flip a switch and start thinking positive, you have to make big changes in your life – starting with staying off the internet your first waking hour and if possible evenings and weekends. We should give, especially what we lack, which is counter-intuitive (but highly effective at generating the Abundance Mentality I talk about in Today We Are Rich). For many, the biggest barrier to generosity is the fear that we’ll be taken advantage of. The few times that really happens, our ego magnifies it out of proportion, causing us to retrench and become selfish or mine-focused.

Can anyone adopt your methods? Even if they have never considered themselves a leader, or even a very positive, confident person?
All human beings are loving, kind and want to have a positive outlook. When they suffer, have a negative lifestyle or are fearful, they struggle emotionally and spiritually. In my experience, anyone can change their life’s direction through conscious lifestyle design. I was a special education student that went on to become a senior class president and valedictorian. Later in life, after my father was murdered, I was a job-to-job person with low aspirations. But at the age 35, applying these same principles from my youth, I turned my life around and in five years went from sales rep to Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo!.

In today’s still uncertain economic climate, do you think these methods are more challenging than ever to embrace? If so, why? And do you feel it’s even more important to embrace them in times of economic uncertainty?

The fact that you write that times are uncertain is part of the problem. 2011 is more stable than 2004 or 2005. The Great Depression was twice as long as it needed to be, due to the constant beating of the drum (“in this economy”). My old boss, Mark Cuban, says that “everyone is a genius during a bull market – but few rise to become the Phoenix during a correction.” When times are tough, some find ways to cut off the negative-minded influences, focus on the technicals and find opportunity via innovation. Look at Apple, they released the iPod during the recession of 2001 (due to Job’s sense of confidence) while Sony froze.

When times go south, we need people that can still believe in themselves, the market and their people. Otherwise, how do we recover as a nation? If we wait for windfalls to give us confidence, we are no longer in control of our destiny. I’m an advocate of having a sense of balance in a panic-scarcity oriented media culture. For leaders, understand your role as described by Napoleon Bonaparte: “To define reality, then give hope.”

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