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8 Swift Judgements That Are Made When People Meet You Within Seconds

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8 Swift Judgements That Are Made When People Meet You Within Seconds

According to recent studies, people are inclined to form an impression of one another within just seven seconds of meeting them. So whether you are meeting a new boss, colleague or a potential buyer for your home, you have a limited amount of time in which to create a positive impression and influence favorable perceptions.

During this relatively brief period of time, people are likely to forge a number of important and specific judgements about your personality traits, values and level of success. Psychologists refer to this as “thin slicing,” and the impressions formed within nine to 10 seconds of meeting someone can be difficult to correct or override.

With this in mind, here are ten swift and initial judgements that individuals make when they first meet you.

1. If you’re trustworthy

Let’s start at the beginning, as research conducted at Princeton University has revealed that people determine the trustworthiness of others within a tenth of a second of meeting them.

This result was achieved by comparing two groups of students, one of which had 100 milliseconds to rate the competence, likeability, aggressiveness and trustworthiness of an actor based on their face. The second group had an open-ended amount of time to rate the same faces, and while the responses varied across three of these traits trustworthiness was ranked the same by both.

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These findings seem to confirm that the human brain automatically responds to visual stimulus when assessing trustworthiness, before an individual’s face has been consciously perceived.

2. If you’re confident

This is another of the eight unconscious impressions that are formed within seconds of meeting someone, and it is usually influenced by individual mannerisms and body language. Much of the data to support this was produced during a a famous communications study by UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian in 1971, with these findings remaining true to this day.

As human beings, we tend to evaluate confidence based on the way in which people walk and first initiate contact with others. Individuals who walk upright and with a purposeful gait give the impression of self-assuredness, for example, as do those who carry their head high and maintain eye contact.

Conversely, people who place their hands in their pockets or behind their back showcase a lack of confidence or certainty in their own ability.

3. If you’re high status

While it is well-known that the way we dress influences people’s perception of us, there has been less research into the precise impact that high-end, designer clothing has in the minds of others.

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This has been explored in a recent Dutch study, however, which found that people wearing brand name clothing were considered to be higher in status than those who wore non-designer attire. While this may not come as a huge surprise, it is interesting to note the difference in clothing did not impact the perceived attractiveness and kindness of the subjects.

This seems to suggest that the impression is formed simply from the visual impact of the clothing and the perceived link between wealth and social standing.

4. If you’re successful

On a similar note, the findings of a collaborative study between Britain and Turkey also draw a strong correlation between the clothes that we wear and our perceived success as individuals.

More specifically, it showed the participants images of men in tailored suits for just five seconds, before presenting the same individuals in off-the-peg garments. Despite the body shapes and faces of the individuals being the same, the group overwhelmingly rated those in tailored suits as being the more successful. These findings also seem to reaffirm the link between wealth, clothing, and our social standing.

For anyone with the financial means who is attending a job interview or an important business meeting, tailored suits therefore offer the most effective way of forging a positive impression.

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5. If you’re extroverted

While there are numerous physical factors that underpin body language, the handshake remains the most well-researched and discussed. Perhaps the most in-depth study was carried out at the University of Alabama, having been commissioned in 2000 and subsequently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

This study revealed that a confident and firm handshake correlated strongly with specific character traits, including “openness to new experiences” and, most tellingly, extroversion. So those with a strong and purposeful grip convey openness and an overt sense of confidence, whereas those who do not give off feelings such as anxiety, uncertainty, and in some extreme instances, neuroticism.

The importance of a firm handshake has also been discussed in research papers, with a study conducted at the University of Iowa revealing that this has a greater influence than dress or appearance when forging an impression.

6. If you’re smart

We have already referenced the importance of eye contact when giving the impression of strength and confidence, although this also influences the way in which your intelligence is perceived. According to a 2007 study conducted by Loyola Marymount University Professor Nora A. Murphy, the ability to look your conversation partner directly in the eye is a key indicator of mental aptitude and smartness.

In her research paper, she wrote, “Looking while speaking is a key behavior. It significantly correlated with IQ and contributed to higher perceived intelligence ratings.” Additional findings also revealed that the ability to speak clearly and expressively was also important, as was the use of grammatically sound language. It is also believed that it is easy to create a false impression of intelligence, simply by manipulating these proven metrics.

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7. If you’re dominant

Over time, popular culture has challenged the perception of baldness and afforded it a strong association with physical and mental fortitude. Bald Hollywood icons such as Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel have played a pivotal role in this transition, with their portrayal as tough, masculine, and physically dominant heroes extremely influential.

This is also supported by a number of modern day studies, which indicate that bald men (or more specifically those who have shaved their heads) are rated as more dominant than others with a full head of hair. These individuals are also seen as being taller and stronger than their authentic selves, enabling them to make a positive and potentially misleading first impression on others.

It is important to note that these findings highlighted a clear distinction between shaved heads and those who were naturally bald; however, anyone who is beginning to lose their hair may benefit from being proactive and removing it intentionally.

8. If you’re adventurous

There are a number of fascinating and unique travel experiences available in the modern age, from building igloos in the French Alps to Husky tours in Finland. These trips require a freedom of spirit and a keen sense of adventure, and according to research, it is possible to judge if others have these characteristics within seconds.

Thanks to the findings of a study conducted at Durham University, we can surmise that there is a strong link between the way in which people walk and their underlying sense of adventure. During the research, participants were shown brief video footage of 26 other students walking. Some of these had loose, fluid gaits, while other moved in tighter, less expressive movements.

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After just a few seconds of viewing, the former were categorized as being slightly extrovert and adventurous, while the latter were labelled as anxious and potentially neurotic.

Featured photo credit: Greyer Baby – Pixabay via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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