― Margaret Thatcher, Former British Prime Minister
Lady Thatcher was generous to withhold judgment for a full 10 seconds. Research shows people form first impressions almost immediately. A 2006 Princeton University study found that it takes just one-tenth of a second to make judgments about a person based on their facial appearance alone. People consciously and unconsciously form knee-jerk opinions about others based on a long list of factors: posture, eye contact, facial expression, clothing, handshake, voice, etc.
While all of these factors can come into play, social psychologist and Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy says the intangible traits of trustworthiness and confidence account for 80 to 90 percent of an overall first impression.
Cuddy told Wired, “When we form a first impression of another person it’s not really a single impression. We’re really forming two. We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that’s trying to answer the question, ‘What are this person’s intentions toward me?’ And we’re also asking ourselves, ‘How strong and competent is this person?’ That’s really about whether or not they’re capable of enacting their intentions.”
So, by all means, stand straight, make eye contact, smile, dress well, shake with a firm hand, speak with a confident voice, but consider Cuddy’s tip to cultivate trust when you meet someone for the first time: give the other person the floor first. Let them speak first or ask them a question.
“Warmth is really about making the other person feel understood,” added Cuddy. “They want to know that you understand them. And doing that is incredibly disarming.”