Salesmen. We might hate them for their persistence, especially when we end up caving and buying 100 Shamwows or whatever is being sold.
But, the truth is that we get suckered into buying things we don’t need because these people have learned how to make a great first impression because they’ve learned to develop two things quickly: how to gain your trust and earn your respect.
Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School Professor and author of the wildly popular book Presence, has discovered these thought patterns of first interactions during her studies along with fellow social psychologists Susan Fiske and Peter Glick.
They’ve found that from an evolutionary perspective, these thought patterns make total sense. When people first met a new person, their brain automatically goes into survival mode. In order to survive, people need to know two things about you quickly when first meeting you:
1. Can they respect you?
This dimension is referred to by social psychologists as competence. People need to know that you’re smart and talented. This stems from our days as cavemen when we needed to know that the people we surrounded ourselves also knew survival skills. The last person you want in your group is someone who doesn’t know how to build a fire but will eat up all your food.
When people first meet you, they will judge you based on your ability to command respect by proving your competence.
2. Can they trust you?
This trust dimension is referred to by social psychologists as warmth. This worked well during our days as cavemen too because people needed to quickly know if someone could be trusted or if the new person was going to kill them in their sleep and steal all their supplies.
The easiest way to convey trust to another human being is by projecting warmth.
Surprisingly enough, most people – especially in the world of business – assume that the most important dimension between the two is respect/competence, but they’re wrong. Trust/warmth are actually what people deem most valuable, and for that reason, many people don’t get the full benefits from their careers. Maybe they show amazing competence by putting in long hours and going above and beyond their job title, but they always skip work office happy hours and never socialize. This person likely won’t get as far ahead as the guy who attends social functions and shows people he’s worthy of trust.
Amy Cuddy sums it up simply, “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”
So, be sure to show people you’re smart, but more importantly, you’re a person worthy of trust.
- What do you find that you judge people on during first meetings?
- Do you believe that first impressions can be changed?