How People Judge You

Does meeting new people gives you jitters? Is “how can I make a good first impression?” the question that does rounds in your head? Quit your worries because a Harvard Business School professor might have the answer to them.

In her book Presence, Amy Cuddy the Harvard professor, writes that when people meet you for the first time, they assess you on the basis of two questions:

How People Judge You

Can I trust this person?

Can I respect this person?

According to the book, psychologists call these as the dimensions of warmth and competence respectively. Ideally, one should be in possession of both the dimensions. But when it comes to choosing one over the other, many people mistakenly give more importance to competence.

Why mistakenly? Because if a person thinks of you as trustworthy, then you certainly have made a ‘good’ impression on him/her. Cuddy says: “It is more crucial for our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust or not. If someone you are trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you are not going very far.”

Cuddy doesn’t discourage displaying competence, especially at a work place. However, she writes that while putting all our energies in winning people’s respect we ignore the task of gaining their trust and this might result in you coming out as manipulative. And that is one impression you don’t want to make, especially if you are a fresher somewhere. “A warm, trustworthy person who is strong elicits admiration, but only after you have established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat,” writes Cuddy.

Thus, trustworthiness or warmth is the most vital factor on the basis of which people judge you to begin with. Respect and competence comes after that. And the less important one should not be abandoned for the sake of the crucial one. Rather, both should go hand in hand. But be mindful of the order and maintain an ethical balance between the two.