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Don’t be afraid to show warmth

Whether you have an important job interview or just want to be noticed in your current role – how can you make sure you stand out for all the right reasons? Suzy Greaves finds out and tells you how in seven short steps. Step five, and make the other person feel understood

by Psychologies

When you walk through the door, how do you think you come across? The real truth, says Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of No One Understands You And What To Do About It (Harvard Business Review, £14.99), is that most of us don’t come across the way we intend.

‘We can’t see ourselves objectively. Human beings have a tendency to distort other people’s feedback to fit their own views – which can be a huge problem at work and in your personal life. People may not trust you, may not like you, or may not even notice you as a result of these errors in perception,’ she says.

But there are some surprising counterintuitive secrets to making a powerful impression, by doing the opposite of what you think might impress.

Here, we look at how to make sure you rate well by making the other person feel they are understood

Let the other person speak first

A strong handshake and confident greeting may not be the best option after all. New research suggests people respond more positively to someone who comes across as trustworthy. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy is studying how we evaluate people we meet and we are mostly evaluated on two metrics, she says: trustworthiness and confidence.

‘When we form a first impression of another person it’s not a single impression – we’re really forming two,’ she says. ‘We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that’s by trying to answer the question, “What are this person’s intentions toward me?” And we’re also asking ourselves, “How strong and competent is this person?” That’s really about whether or not they’re capable of enacting their intentions. Research shows that these two things account for 80 to 90 per cent of a first impression.’   

So how do we make sure we rate well? One way is to let the other person speak first or have the floor first.

‘You can do this by simply asking them a question,’ says Cuddy. ‘People make the mistake, especially in business, of thinking that everything is negotiation. They think, “I better get the floor first so that I can be in charge of what happens.” The problem with this is that you don’t make the other person feel warmth toward you. Warmth is really about making the other person feel understood.’

Research proves that five minutes of chit-chat before a negotiation increases the amount of value that’s created in the negotiation.

Photograph: iStock

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