This month we've been looking at Perception Management and although the research quoted below isn't new, it's worth repeating. It's also a little depressing.
All of us make snap judgements about people and our desire to be consistent means that it can often take a lot to shift this.
Many experiments such as the ones by Todorov in the article below show that we make judgements in milliseconds and seconds rather than minutes or hours and much of this revolves around how we perceive their face. In another experiment, Ambady and Rosenthal got students to rate short video clips of teachers in action and in six seconds they were able to make an accurate assessment of their teaching ability.
So if your parents haven't left you with the genes to make the best first impression (or like me you've broken your nose several times) what can you do? Well barring plastic surgery, which we wouldn't recommend, there are other ways you can make a good first impression and adjust the snap judgment someone may have made.
Reciprocity is the act of unbidden giving. Giving something of value that you weren't asked to give, whether this is something physical or something less tangible like your time or some useful information. For me this is one of the most powerful ways to build stronger relationships and I wrote about how you can practice it here. If done well, we can have created a positive perception of us before we even meet.
We like people and view them in a good light if they have things in common with us. This could be a former school, liking the same sports team or past time or any other connection. Using a bit of simple research we can often identify these before we meet someone and if appropriate, raise them in conversation.
We like people who are interested in us. Spending time in a first meeting concentrating on listening to the other person rather than talking is a great way of understanding the other person and them perceiving you in a positive light.
Whether it's in our social media profile photo or the first time that we meet someone, smiling is important. Smiles are hard wired into us and blind people who have never seen a smile will still show the same emotional response. There is debate about why we smile but there are similarities with submissive expressions in animals and smiling shows that we are not a threat. Removing threat stimuli encourages perceptions of us being an ally and any move towards a sense of team leads to more positive viewpoints. We must be careful that the smiles are natural and not forced though, as there are different types of smiles and we are naturally good at identifying these.
Liking The Other Person
Liking someone is itself a reciprocal gesture. If someone likes us it's more difficult not to like them. We can reverse this and take steps to actively 'like' the other person to alter their perception of us. The easiest way to do this is to consciously find ways in which we like the other person. Identifying attributes we find positive in them, even if it is before we have met them will mean that when we meet, we approach the interaction in a positive way to the other person.
There is only so much we can do with the features that our parents have left us but there is much that we can do to improve the early pereceptions that someone has of us.
Willis, J, Todorov A. (2006). First impressions: making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science. 17(7):592-8.
Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(3),431-441.
“The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn’t stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance,” said Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology. “We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears that we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way.”