Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, has been studying first impressions for more than a decade. She and her colleagues found that we make snap judgments about other people that answer two primary questions:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person’s capabilities?
According to Cuddy’s research, 80-90% of a first impression is based on these two traits, according to an article by Travis Bradberry posted on Entrepreneur.com. People mistakenly think that competence is the driving factor behind a good first impression. However, in order for your competence to matter, people must trust you first. If there’s no trust, people actually perceive competence as a negative, according to the article.
Once you recognize the importance of trustworthiness over competence, you can take control of the first impressions you make. Here are some tips to help you make that happen the next time you meet someone new:
1. Let the person you’re meeting speak first.
Let them take the lead in the conversation. Taking the floor right away shows dominance, and that won’t help you build trust. Trust and warmth are created when people feel understood, and they need to be doing a lot of sharing for that to happen.
2. Use positive body language.
Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice and making certain they’re positive will draw people to you. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning toward the speaker are all forms of positive body language, which can make all the difference.
3. Put away your phone.
It’s impossible to build trust and monitor your phone at the same time. Nothing turns people off like a mid-conversation text message or even a quick glance at your phone. When you commit to a conversation, focus all your energy on the conversation. You will find that conversations are more enjoyable and effective when you immerse yourself in them.
4. Make time for small talk.
It might sound trivial, but research shows that starting meetings with just five minutes of small talk gets better results. Many trust builders, such as small talk, can seem a waste of time to people who don’t understand their purpose.
5. Practice active listening.
Active listening means concentrating on what the other person is saying, rather than planning what you’re going to say next. It’s human nature to want to help people, but what a lot of us don’t realize is that when we jump in with advice or a solution, we’re shutting the other person down and destroying trust.
6. Do your homework.
Find out as much as you can about all the people you’re meeting, their company, their company’s primary challenges, and so on. This demonstrates competence and trustworthiness by highlighting your initiative and responsibility.