When we meet new people, we form an opinion about them within seconds . And vice versa, we are assessed just as quickly. But what exactly decides whether a person likes us or not?

Amy Cuddy has been pondering this question for years. Together with her colleagues, the psychologists Susan Fiske and Peter Glick, the professor at Harvard Business School has been researching how the first impression we get of a person is created for more than 15 years.

She discovered an interesting pattern that she sums up in her book ” Your body speaks for you: work from the inside, convince, radiate” :

She has discovered that our counterpart answers the following two questions at lightning speed during a first meeting:

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can i respect this person

Psychologists also say that you are judged within seconds on your warmth (your social behavior) and your competence . Ideally, your counterpart will then come to the conclusion that you have both — and you get along wonderfully.

However, Harvard professor Cuddy has noticed that people believe that competence plays a more important role in the job. After all, they usually want to prove here that they are smart and talented enough to work with the other person.

But actually, warmth is key when it comes to judging you. As Cuddy explains, “From an evolutionary standpoint, knowing whether a person is worthy of your trust is essential to survival.” Because when we all lived in caves, it was much more important to find out whether the other caveman is going to kill you and steal your belongings or not. The ability to make a good fire was of secondary importance.

Although competence is highly valued in today’s society, according to the psychologist, it only comes into play when there is already a basis of trust. Therefore, focusing too much on your strengths can backfire.

The expert means, above all, young professionals who have just graduated from a renowned business school and then want to appear smart and professional. This can lead to them never asking for help, generally turning down invitations to after-work activities, and thus appearing aloof sooner or later. The rude awakening comes when they don’t get the job they want after an internship because nobody really knows them or trusts them.

“If you try to influence someone who doesn’t trust you, you won’t get very far. In fact, you’ll probably arouse their suspicions and be labeled as manipulative,” says Cuddy. “Only a warm, trustworthy person who is also strong and competent will be admired. However, the basis of trust must first be created for this. Because only then does the strength become something positive and not a threat.”

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