Telegraph.co.uk, 19-1-2016 by Adam Boult — When you meet someone for the first time, do you put across a good impression? And what do we mean by ‘good’ in this context?
According to Presence, a new book by Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, people assess you on two main criteria when they first meet you:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
You level of trustworthiness, or warmth, is the most important factor in how people initially perceive you, Cuddy says – yet many mistakenly believe that the second factor, characterised as competence, is more important.
“From an evolutionary perspective,” Cuddy writes, “it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”
While displaying competence is certainly beneficial, particularly in a work setting, Cuddy warns that focusing on winning people’s respect, while failing to win their trust, can backfire – a common problem for young professionals attempting to make a good impression early on in their careers.
“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,” Cuddy says.
“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.”
In Cuddy’s book she also explains some of the science that can help you spot a liar, writes Mark Molloy.
When a person is lying there is likely to be discrepancies between what they are saying and what they are doing, she suggests.
“Lying is hard work,” she writes. “We’re telling one story while suppressing another, and if that’s not complicated enough, most of us are experiencing psychological guilt about doing this, which we’re also trying suppress. We just don’t have the brainpower to manage it all without letting something go – without ‘leaking’.”
The author adds that these ‘leaks’ can be seen in a person displaying conflicting emotions, like a happy tone of voice paired with an angry facial expression.
“It’s about how well or poorly our multiple channels of communication — facial expressions, posture, movement, vocal qualities, speech – co-operate,” she adds.
Professor Cuddy argues that most of us are not very good at spotting a liar as we are distracted by the words coming out of their mouth.
“When we’re consciously looking for signs of deception or truth, we pay too much attention to words and not enough to the nonverbal gestalt of what’s going on,” the professor adds. “Truth reveals itself more clearly through actions than it does through our words.