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How to Make Someone Like You Before They Even Meet You

How to Make Someone Like You Before They Even Meet You

As humans, first impressions are very important. While we’ve heard that someone makes their first assumptions of you in the first 60 seconds of meeting, latest research by psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov from Princeton University have found it’s much much quicker than that. In fact it’s thought to happen within a tenth of a second.

In other words, it’s our facial appearance that will make or break a first impression with our brains instinctively looking for likeability, competence, trustworthiness, and aggressiveness.[1]

So can a negative first impression in that valuable blink of an eye be reversed?

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We All Judge and Make Assumptions

We don’t make judgements out of spite. It’s the human instinct to survive that causes us to make a decision to judge in order to decide if a particular person is worth keeping around or not, as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of things going on in the brain here: our lack of relevant memories we hold with a new person causes the brain to compensate for the lack of information. It therefore tries to make connections through what we see and hear together with past experiences. This is the survival mode kicking in that helps us make that decision on whether it’s someone worth meeting again and weighs up the value of the person to us.

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    What Can Influence People’s Perception?

    You may think what you see is a big factor in first impressions and, of course, it is. But have you ever formed an opinion of someone you’ve never met just by listening to someone else’s opinions of them? This is because the brain tends to make up stories or imagine information strongly based on our deep-rooted thoughts and beliefs.

    As a result, when you do meet someone after hearing opinions about them, everything they do will tend to further reinforce that imagined impression. If they happen to act in a different way, the brain will assume it’s just an exception in the moment.

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      This is why, when you form an impression of someone you’re about to meet, it can be very difficult to change how you think about them. Most of the time we are unaware this first impression bias is going on. If you’ve heard Fred is a forward-thinking entrepreneur and you’re ideas of forward-thinking entrepreneurs tend to be aggressive, cut-throat, confident people, Fred will have a hard time convincing you differently even if he shows he’s none of those things. This isn’t because you’re a terrible person; it’s the first impression bias taking over.

      Override The First Impression Bias

      We all want to make a good first impression with anyone we meet and one of the most common ways to do this is to give a compliment. Compliments are little gifts you can give others especially when they’re meaningful and genuine. However, there is a danger to giving compliments to people you first meet. It’s nothing to do with you and everything to do with them; people tend to discount your efforts because they suspect you are intentionally trying to influence them through flattery even if this isn’t your intention. A way to get around this is to get someone else to pass on the compliment. This naturally reduces skepticism.

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        The third party route can work the other way; getting someone to say something good about you. This is because it psychologically shapes their idea of you in a positive light. This is a strategy that will instantly help you mingle with people who you haven’t met before as they’ll subconsciously like you from what they’ve heard. Of course, this can go against you if someone was to bad-mouth you (even unintentionally) and as a result people will naturally be more wary and closed off towards you.

        There are some things to keep in mind when doing this:

        • Never force anyone to speak about you. A compliment through a third party must always come from the heart. Asking a friend to do something they don’t want to do won’t come from a genuine energy. It could also backfire and cause that person to end up saying negative things about you. Just make sure you choose a person who knows you really well and would love to emphasise your positive attributes.
        • Choose the type of compliment wisely. Make sure the compliment isn’t aimed at anything superficial like looks. Whether it’s a romantic opportunity or just friendship, it’s our personality that forms deep connections. So make it more about how kind, helpful or fun you are. This will cause less judgement in advance than your outward appearance.
        • Don’t lie or exaggerate. It can be tempting to build yourself up to others in order to give a good impression but this only lasts in the short term. Getting someone to lie will never turn out well because people will always notice eventually if something doesn’t match up. Make sure the compliment is genuine and coming from a good place.

        So, while a tenth of a second is all it takes to make a judgement (and something we can’t really control) the best way to counteract any possible negative conclusions someone makes of you, is to use the third party tactic. Sowing the seed first will allow someone to form a more positive opinion of you and will help give you a head start by eliminating the brain’s tendency to judge on a first meeting.

        Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

        Reference

        [1] Association for Psychological Science: How Many Seconds to a First Impression?

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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