Snap judgments about other people are formed in milliseconds but are often wrong: here is what to do about it

From WSJ:

Snap judgments people make about others’ trustworthiness are wrong more often than most people think. These first impressions are formed in milliseconds, based on instinctive responses in the brain’s emotion-processing center, the amygdala.

Some people conclude a stranger is reliable because he or she looks like someone trustworthy the person already knows. Or they make judgments based on stereotypes, such as an unconscious belief that older or more feminine-looking people are more trustworthy.

This poses a challenge to anyone who must gain others’ trust to perform well in meetings, interviews or other gatherings.

There are ways to head off other people’s shaky snap judgments, try this:

- a happy expression, with the corners of the mouth turned upward and eyebrows relaxed, is likely to inspire trust. Facial expressions are important even when you think no one is looking. People tend to distrust others whose “dominant face,” or habitual expression, is grumpy, disapproving or angry.

- prepare mentally to impress new acquaintances by pausing for a few moments beforehand to think about what you want to accomplish with the other person.

- use breathing techniques to foster relaxed, confident movement, and striving for “symmetry in your stance, with your shoulders straight and even. That first entrance in the room is the same as that first entrance of your character on stage.

- adjust your stance and posture, leaning or turning toward the other person to show you’re focused intently on what he or she is thinking and feeling. Rather than extending your arm stiffly to shake hands at a distance, relax your arm and lower your elbow to your side, drawing the other person closer to you. “This shows you’ve made a subconscious decision to trust the person, without having spoken a word”. Never reach across a table to shake hands - walk around it to greet them face-to-face and offer a relaxed handshake, elbow at your side. In summary:

-- Keep your elbow at your side when shaking hands, drawing the other person closer than arm’s length.
-- Lean forward and focus intently on the other person when he or she is speaking.
-- Stand erect with shoulders squared, balancing your weight evenly.
-- Smile in response to what others say or do, rather than grinning nonstop.
-- Remain mindful of what others are thinking and feeling.

The WSJ article was based on part on an interview with Dr. Alexander Todorov. Here is Google talk: Dr. Alexander Todorov, head of the Social Perception Lab at Princeton University, discusses his new book, “Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions”:

The Mistakes You Make in a Meeting’s First Milliseconds - WSJ

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