Once you understand the importance of trustworthiness over being competent, you can then take control of the first impressions you make when you meet someone.
A psychologist from Harvard Business School, Amy Cuddy together with her colleagues has been researching about “first impressions” for more than a decade now. According to their research, they discovered that humans make quick judgments about people, thereby answering these two basic questions:
i. Can I trust this person?
ii. Can I respect this person’s capabilities?
According to the research, 80 to 90 percent of a first impression is based on the above two traits. Subconsciously, the people you meet and even you are all asking yourselves the question -- “Is this person capable?” & “Can I in anyway trust that this person has good intentions toward me?” Often time we assume that competence is one of the most important factors, and people seem to have a tendency of playing this up when they come in contact with someone; however, Cuddy’s findings showed that trust is the most important factor. In order for your competence to matter, trust must first be built.
Cuddy said, “A warm, trustworthy person who is strong provokes admiration, but only after you have established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat”
Mastering the Art of the First Impression
Since it takes only a few seconds for someone to decide if you’re competent and trustworthy, and findings has shown that first impressions are hard to change, hence, the degree of pressure that comes with meeting someone for the first time is justifiably intense. If you haven’t first established trust and you try to project confidence, your efforts will surely backfire.
Once you understand the importance of trustworthiness over being competent, you can then take control of the first impressions you make.
Here are some tips to help you take control of your first impression next time you meet someone new.
Let the person you’re meeting speak first
Allow them to take the lead in your conversation, then you’ll be able to ask some good questions to help this along. Taking the lead in your conversation shows show dominance and that would not help you build trust. Warmth and trust can be created when someone feels understood.
Use positive body language
Becoming really conscious of your gestures, voice tones and expressions, and ensuring that they are positive will draw people to you like ants to sugar. Maintaining eye contact, using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, and leaning towards your speaker are several forms of positive body language, and this can make a whole lot of difference.
Make time for small talk
It might sound insignificant, but research has shown that meetings started with just about five minutes of small talk produces better results. Trust builders, such as small talks, may seem to be a waste of time to people who do not yet understand their purpose.
Practice active listening
The effect of active listening cannot be overemphasized, it has to do with concentrating on whatever the other person is saying, instead of planning on what next to say. Hijacking the conversation doesn’t only tell that you are not listening, it also means that you think the speaker is saying things that are of less or no importance and that yours is more important. When you jump into a conversation you’re shutting the other person up. Thereby destroying trust.
While listening, asking insightful questions. It's one great way to show that you’re actually paying attention. You should be asking either a probing question or questions to check for understanding.
Do your homework
People tend to love it when you know things about them before they even has to share. Although not creepy stuff, but simple facts that you have taken time to learn from their website or their LinkedIn page. While this may not be possible for chance encounters, it’s very crucial for a planned first meeting, especially when it concerns job or client, do your findings on as much as you can about, their company, the company’s current primary challenges, and the likes. This demonstrates a degree of competence and trustworthiness as you highlight your initiative and responsibility.