First impressions count. Research by Associate Professor Amy Cuddy, and her pals from Harvard Business School, tells us that people judge us based on our warmth before our competency. This means that if your first impression is not warm or likeable then you have a much harder task gaining people's trust in your competence than if they warmed to you right off the bat.
Case in point:
Recently I accompanied my friend in her search for a wedding dress. We visited a few shops and most shop attendants were very warm and very friendly, as you would expect. In this one shop however, was a young, diligent and perfunctory woman who seemed very serious. She didn't smile at us warmly when we entered, and even though she said all the 'right words' we just didn’t feel her interest in our business. As you can imagine it took us all awhile to warm to her. In fact it wasn't until she made some very good suggestions and seemed genuinely helpful and knowledgeable through her ACTIONS that we really started feeling like she cared about our custom. One of the other bridesmaids commented on the way out, "Well that was surprising. I didn’t really like her to begin with. I thought she was quite cold and aloof, but then she did such a good job, I warmed to her in the end."
Can we afford to put people off side in the very first meeting like this? We could have easily walked out, feeling unloved and uncared for! She may never have had the opportunity to prove her skills and how genuine she was if we hadn't stayed due to one particularly nice dress we wanted to see. At work we don't always get a second chance to prove who we are underneath and how capable we might actually be with new clients if we don't get the first impression right.
It seems unfair to judge people based on how friendly they are to us or not, rather than on whether they can actually do the job, but we are humans. We are wired to connect with others, as Neuroscientist Matt Lieberman is fond of saying. And so it goes that if you want people to value your competence they must feel like you value them first. They must feel important and visible to you. Connected. This means smiles, eye contact and welcoming non-verbal gestures.
*As an aside, we can actually measure the extent to which people are likely to perceive you as warm or not, based on where you place your focus in the communication exchange. If you focus on the WAY someone speaks (their body language and facial expressions) more than the actual WORDS they use, then at a below conscious level you are more likely to also exhibit these non verbal cues which increases the potential to appear warm. If you focus on the WORDS over the WAY they are delivered, then chances are you also exhibit less non-verbal cues when communicating and others may find it tough to read you and build rapport with you, thus feel that sense of warmth.
If this is something you yourself experience and you would like to work on changing it, then why not get in touch with me. I can assist you in exploring strategies to increase your likeability, or 'warmth factor'. It does make a difference.
If you’d like to improve your interpersonal effectiveness and influence, or decode the behaviours’ of others, contact Anneli today.
w: www.anneliblundell.com t: @AnneliBlundell
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