If the TV Mobster Tony Soprano was Likable, You Can be Likable Too

Many people are still grieving over the untimely death at age 51 of James Gandolfini, who played the mob boss Tony Soprano on the HBO hit series “The Sopranos.” His funeral will be held this week.

The show went off the air six years ago, but Mr. Gandolfini’s death made headlines around the world. Fans were devastated about the passing of a TV character that stole, killed and cheated on his wife. But he was still likable. How is this possible?

Lessons Learned From Tony Soprano

We can learn a lot about how to be likable from Tony Soprano, starting with his willingness to show his vulnerability. In spite of his crime-ridden life, he was a good father and loved his wife and children. Conflict pained him.

You’ll never get your messages across if you aren’t likable when you’re making a presentation or meeting with a reporter. So how do you become likable?

First, you need to show sincere interest in your audience. Note the word “sincere.” A reporter, or audience member, can sense when you’re not being authentic. It’s the “tells” like not making eye contact, lack of preparation, and not listening carefully to questions.

You can’t just “phone in your lines,” as they say in the theater about an actor who is simply reciting his lines while his mind is elsewhere. Use inclusive gestures like leaning in to listen to a question and nodding your head in agreement to show that you’re interested. Your audience will like you for doing that.

You need to strive for excellence every time you’re on stage, either presenting or in an interview with a reporter. Creating a consistent, authentic persona is essential. That doesn’t mean being perfect.

Building Realistic Expectations

Sometimes our expectations are too high for ourselves. No one is fool proof. We make mistakes. If you’ve made one, acknowledge it. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Your humility in acknowledging a mistake, or not being a know-it-all, will endear you to the audience. It will make you more likable.

That was apparent last past week by the reaction of fans to the firing of popular Food Network celebrity chef Paula Dean for admitting to using an ethnic slur, for which she apologized. Nonetheless, there are still long lines in front of her restaurant in Savanna and faithful fans are threatening to boycott the Food Network. They simply like her so much they’re willing to overlook her transgressions.

The key to likability is speaking from the heart and not fearing your vulnerability. It will get people on your side. They will like you and believe you.

Enjoy these tribute videos to the life and work of James Gandolfini who made us like him.

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