In her new book, "Presence," Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy says people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:
Cuddy has been studying first impressions for more than 15 years, and has discovered patterns in these interactions.
Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.
Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.
But in fact warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. "From an evolutionary perspective," Cuddy says, "it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust."
While competence is highly valued, Cuddy says it is evaluated only after trust is established. And focusing too much on displaying your strength can backfire.
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