How Your Looks Affect Your Social Life

I often see statements like

“Looks don’t matter”

“It’s the inside that counts”

This frustrates me because it’s not true.

In reality, looks do matter (and everyone knows it). The first moment, the first second when we meet someone, our looks are all that matters. After all, that’s the only way people can perceive someone they just met.

But already seconds into a meeting with a new person other things start to matter. How’s our body language? Do we act in a way that’s warm or hostile?

Still, at this moment, the good-looking person might win over the not-so-good-looking one.

But as we start talking, our personality becomes more and more important. It soon comes to the point where it’s even more important than our looks.

A quick check among our own friends can confirm this:

In fact, our personality gets more and more important in a relationship as the years pass by. A person who’s just slightly annoying after a few weeks of hanging out can be unbearable after a few years.

If you meet a person who is a bad listener or talks too much, you might barely think about it the first day you hang out. Then, after a few weeks of hanging out, it occasionally makes you annoyed. After a few months, maybe you’re so annoyed that you rather hang out with other friends.

Appearance vs personality

This diagram is based on three studies where students rated the likability of their classmates both at the beginning and at the end of the semester. In the beginning, looks and social status won. At the end of the semester, the ratings were drastically different: Those who were the most skilled had become the most popular.

What we can learn from this is that no matter our looks, it always pays off to improve our personality.

Don’t get me wrong. Looks aren’t irrelevant.

You want to look your best if you want to create a good first impression. (Some well-fitting clothes and a haircut will take you far).

But personality soon becomes more important than looks. That’s something we tend to forget.

A friend of mine works at one of the larger consultancy firms. He told me about an unofficial strategy that they use when they hire. It’s called the Airport Test.

They asked themselves one question before hiring someone.

“Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person?”

The point of the test is that you don’t want to work with someone that would annoy you.

This shows how important it is to be socially adept, not just in private, but also in your career. Sure, the qualifications need to be there, but after that, social skills can be a deal-breaker.

So in summary

  1. Looks are important (and can be improved dramatically quite easily: Tips for women here and tips for men here)
  2. Your social skills and ability to bond with people when you make conversation is way more important than your looks

And that’s great news.

No matter your starting point, you’ll be able to make dramatic improvements in conversations in the coming weeks.

Share your comments below!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (19)


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  1. I think from observing pretty boys and pretty girls this is how it works: It feeds into itself like a chain reaction that has gone critical. You are good looking. People give you positive social reinforcement. They want to talk to you. Hang with you. That in turn causes your personality to be more happy and outgoing. This in turn draws even more people to you. Its like a snowball picking up steam and mass as it rolls downhill. Suddenly you are one of the most popular guys in the class, which even makes you MORE popular. If you are geeky or weird looking, you are broadcasting, literally visually broadcasting your lack of testosterone and social status. So you are not going to therefore develop a set of positive social characteristics because you are not getting any positive feedback as people either ignore you or shove you in lockers. I have known VERY FEW guys that have overcome this and have become popular anyway. It requires EXTREME personality and vigilance and willingness to put oneself out there talking to the popular guys when at first they are not getting any feedback, or even negative feedback.

  2. Looks play a role, and like you, I disagree with people who say that looks don’t matter.

    But think about it – I’m sure you prefer a less good looking, less rich friend with a great personality than a great looking rich friend with an unattractive personality.

    When I was younger and in a Swedish entrepreneurial network I met loads of wealthy, good-looking people. Some of them had selfish, arrogant personalities and they weren’t popular. (Or rather, they started off popular, and then people tired of them.)

    You can not do vile things and still be liked no matter your looks.

    The only ones I’m still in touch with from that time are the ones that I liked personality-wise.

    Looks matter, especially in the very beginning of the interaction. On Tinder, for example, it’s 100% about looks. As you interact with people and they get to know you, personality becomes more and more important.

    • the keyword there is FRIEND.
      in terms of MORE than friends, LMS (looks/money/status) almost always matter more than personality. and a good personality is SUBJECTIVE unlike being high in LMS.

      you even kinda admit this by saying looks matter at FIRST. saying that in time personality matters more, doesn’t change the fact that your LMS has to be high enough for the target girl to CONSIDER you!

  3. I find these tips pretty useful and easily applicable, in just about any social situation. Yet I can’t help but think of those few individuals who will look at certain others and try to hunt them down out of jealousy. What I’m mainly concerned about, at this point, is being able to deal with the increasing amount of envy that could arise from improving one’s overall status, including both their looks and their social skills.

    • Interesting thought. I think you’ll discover that 90-99%+ of the reactions you get will be neutral or positive. The only problem is if your family or social circle is toxic and negative, then I can see that it will be considerably harder to make positive changes. Social skills generally make you more pleasant and interesting to talk with, regardless of who you talk with, so that’s why there will be very few negative reactions from improved social skills. Looks and status are not as clearcut, but generally positive there too.

  4. I really enjoy these emails, thanks so much for them! With that being said I agree with the things said in this email, looks don’t matter but I feel like in the grand scheme of things I would rather have a friendship built on someone who has substance and a personality, than someone who just looks good and is bland!

  5. I agree, however, if you are good looking your bad behavior seems to be tolerated a lot longer then if you are not good looking. Personality does take you further in the end.

  6. I love these emails. Thank you! Hopefully I could employ all of these ideas and become the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

  7. Hi David thank you for your mails I’m trying to improve myself but I want to ask you one thing I don’t know why I get nervous around the people I know from a very long time like my heart started beating faster and my voice changes

    • Hi Mia! We’ve worked on our material for over 5 years now and we try to pick the best pieces for you. Initially we find most of our ideas by scouring scientific databases for studies in social psychology. Then we combine what we learn there with our own experience. So glad you like it!

  8. Thanks David, this makes me feel a bit better about my looks. I’ve always been self conscious about my nose, it’s kind of big. But as you say, it doesn’t really matter that much once you get to know someone.

  9. Hey David, pretty clear graph! Makes sense, though the timescale is a bit unconventional. Can agree that personality is the long term success factor. If only by looking at what kind of people I keep in my life. What other factors would you say are important?


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