Winning in Business, Why People Like Us

Everyone knows that we are judged in mere seconds by others. But wouldn’t it be nice to know the criteria others will use to evaluate you?

Consultants and professors have been studying first impressions for many years, but one group from Harvard says they have cracked the code and discovered two patterns that people utilize to assess who we are.

Amy Cuddy in her book, “Presence,” suggests that people when they first meet us, answer two questions, and often in a matter of seconds.

1- Do I trust you?
2- Do I respect you?

Psychologists reference the trust factor as being most similar to warmth, and competence closely tied to respect. Most people possess more of one than the other, though ideally, you want to be seen as having both (in equal measure).

Cuddy suggests that many professionals overcompensate in the competence area as they feel it’s most important for a new business contact to feel that you have the talent and smarts for the task, job or activity. This makes sense since the person is often attempting to prove that they are the best choice to handle the other parties business activity whether it be a consulting project, SEO¬†initiative, strategic planning or large scale M&A deal. The “stakes” are always high for the person needing to “win” the business, no matter how big the deal size.

It turns out that even when there is much on the line, trustworthiness or “warmth” could be the most important factor – even above professional respect or competence.

In the book Presence, Cuddy examines how to feel more confident, but cautions that emphasizing strength can be detrimental to the desired outcome of getting people to like us. As a case study, MBA interns competing for highly coveted jobs can be so concerned about being seen as the smartest or most competent, that they will not seek help, they skip social events and as a result, are perceived as not approachable.

Unfortunately, these overachievers who in every other way may have been the best candidates, are often in for a startling revelation when they don’t get the job due simply to a lack of trust.

If you are trying to influence a person who doesn’t trust you, not only will you be unsuccessful, but you may be viewed as manipulative. Meanwhile, a trustworthy (warm) person who is also strong, will almost always garner much admiration. But only after they’ve established trust by using their strength as a gift and not a threat.

It’s time to drop the cold, calculating manner in business and adopt a warm embracing demeanor. As Amy Cuddy writes, this is just good “science.”

Now watch seasoned entrepreneurs share what they didn’t learn at Stanford business school.