People are more prone to be influenced by things or people that they like. Liking is a tool social engineers use because of it’s fundamental impact on interpersonal relationships.


The concept of being likable is very difficult to answer directly. This fundamental problem is an issue for many. Whether it’s a student starting a new school, or a politician running for office, to a salesperson trying to sell his wares. There is no single answer for this question, and each target will respond differently. However, there are a few traits that are nearly universal.

Visual Liking

People like what is aesthetically pleasing. This ranges from physical attractiveness to product design. For instance, the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” rings true here. However, understanding what your target finds physically appealing can be a challenge. For the most part, visually pleasing items are items that people don’t dismiss out of hand, and normally want to interact with more than they otherwise would need to.

The changes in user interface design on personal computers illustrates the desire to produce visually pleasing products. Indeed, producing a pleasing experience will increase the amount of time a user spends with the product. Web design, industrial engineering, and logo design are all examples of how much capital industry will invest in producing aesthetically pleasing products, as it affects the number of sales.


For example, use this Google search  and see how many sites there are to describe how to make your home, your hair, your website visually appealing. A social engineer can use this knowledge to conduct an attack. For instance,  by using information gathered on the target to create aesthetically pleasing material for the target.

Liking What is Familiar

People like what is familiar to them. New things make the majority of people feel uncomfortable, which leads to the target wanting to withdraw from the situation. To illustrate, think of the phrase “just like mother used to make.” A person associates quality food with food that was consumed early in life, and thus familiar to them. Social engineers take advantage of “liking what is familiar.” For example, they’ll use concepts, languages, and appearances  familiar to the target. (See Pretexting)

Just like mother used to make!

Liking Positive Reinforcement

People like positive reinforcement. When one receives compliments from another, they tend to stay engaged in order to receive more positive reinforcement. These compliments reinforce their self image, making the target feel as if you have a greater than normal understanding of them.

When engaging without a target, when appropriate it is useful for a social engineer to start the conversation with a simple compliment and a question (i.e. those are nice shoes, where did you buy them?) as a way to starting a conversation. Studies have been conducted and opinions expressed that too much positive reinforcement can have a negative effect. To combat this, use good questions, positive reinforcement backed up by a question. This method will reinforce positive behavior or attitudes but will also make the person happy as they are asked about themselves.

A clip from an interview with Nicholas Boothman. Original source: YouTube.


In his book “How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less”, author Nicholas Boothman outlines 4 steps showing how to make people appreciate and like you.

  1. Attitude
  2. Synchronize your body language and voice tone
  3. Conversation skills
  4. Discover which sense the other person relies on most; auditory, visual or kinesthetic.

As you become adept in these 4 areas, you will find that you can quickly establish rapport with anyone.