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Others Judge You Even Before You Meet Them, Here’s Why

Others Judge You Even Before You Meet Them, Here’s Why

We all have that friend that we need to warn others of before they meet them. Before you meet them, your friend tells you to brace yourself because they can be kind of rude. He tends to make fun of people, but she’s known him for years so she’s used to him. But now before you’ve even met him, you have a negative impression of him.

This inclination to judge before you’ve even met someone is natural. They say that the first impression is important, but sometimes you can make an impression before even meeting someone.

A judgement call is made at light speed

Impressions are instant. It only takes 100 milliseconds to make an impression. When forming a first impression, two areas of the brain are utilized: the amygdala and the posterior cingulated cortex (PCC).

The amygdala is more practical, translating the data received by your senses and linking them to social signals. While the PCC is related to emotion and memory, linking your life experiences to your emotions. These two responses help you to quickly decide whether or not you approve the person you are meeting and want to keep them around.[1]

It’s a survival instinct to quickly assess a person to determine if they are a threat. Things such as how they dress or their initial behavior help you to make a quick judgment upon meeting a person. But hearing about their behavior without ever having even met them can cause you to form an opinion as well.

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    When presented with this information, your brain will try to draw a connection to a related memory. But if you don’t have any relevant memories, your brain will try to compensate for the lack of information.

    The reason why our brains try to connect this new information with previous experiences is so that you can quickly assess the value of this new person and if they are worthy of meeting again. Just the same, if someone that you are close to expresses their opinion of someone you’ve never met, it will cause you to form an opinion as well.

      Now that you have a vague impression of this person, your brain may start making up stories about them. This will give yourself a better idea of who they are with what little information that you have.

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      The instant judgement could be false

      Without meaning to, you now have a set bias against this person even though you really don’t know them. When you’ve formed a  negative opinion of someone you haven’t met, it can be difficult to change the way you feel. Your bias may even be apparent to the person without you meaning to.

      When you do finally meet them, everything they do and say will confirm your opinion of them. Any behavior to the contrary will be written off as an exception, because you think that you already know who they really are. This preemptive bias can possibly sabotage what could have been a good relationship.

      Contrarily, if someone that you are close to compliments an individual before you meet them, this will cause you to form a positive opinion of them prior to meeting them. This opinion of them will be difficult to sway, cause although it is a positive opinion, it’s still a bias opinion.

        A toxic person who is described to you as a good friend has an advantage because you are already accepting them. This will give them more opportunity to prove themselves as a good person despite their numerous displays of toxic behavior. This bias could cause you to potentially build a relationship with someone you probably don’t need in your life.

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        Others judge you the same way

        Many people may already have opinions of you without ever having met you. If your peers are told good things about you before meeting you, it will probably make it easier for you to mingle with them because they already have a good impression of you.

        The opposite applies if your peers were told negative stories before meeting you. Even if they weren’t intentionally badmouthing you, it can still cause a rift between you and your new acquaintances.

          To prevent falling into this trap of forming any toxic relationship, or setting anyone up for a bad impression which you don’t intend to, start with correcting the way you think.

          Think for yourself

          Although it is natural to form impressions based on the opinions of others, don’t. Our brains are hardwired to make these assessments. But you can choose to question them. Hold off on solidifying them. Give this new person a chance to prove you wrong.

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          Keep an open mind. You don’t know what other variables may influence their opinion. Attempt to objectively observe the person and their behavior. Not specifically just how they interact with you, but how they interact with other people as well.

          When you don’t let other opinions effect your own, you are more open to developing strong relationships with people you may have not given a chance. You are capable of forming your own opinions and deciding who is worthy of staying in your life.

          Watch what you say

          Don’t badmouth people. Not only is it unbecoming, but you are causing other people to form negative opinions about someone that you do actually like.

          For instance, people tend to complain about their lovers when they aren’t getting along. It isn’t that they don’t actually want to be with them, but they need to vent. But now everyone who has heard them complain thinks that their partner is no good for them and should get kicked to the curb.

          Notice how your words can effect and shape how others view reality. You can use this trick to your advantage by putting those you care for in a positive light before introducing them to people who are important to you.

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          By helping to form a good impression of someone before introducing them, you are creating an opportunity for a postive bond between the two parties and you too.

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          More by this author

          Anna Chui

          Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

          The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You The Purpose Of Friendship: The Only 4 Types Of Friends You Need In Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) How to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives

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          Published on May 18, 2021

          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

          How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

          We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

          The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

          Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

          Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

          Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

          There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

          Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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          Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

          We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

          Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

          A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

          The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

          Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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          Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

          Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

          Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

          While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

          Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

          These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

          Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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          Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

          Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

          Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

          Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

          Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

          Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

          As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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          This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

          Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

          Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

          These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

          Actions Speak Louder Than Words

          Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

          Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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          Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

          More Tips Improving Listening Skills

          Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

          Reference

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