Why Trust Is Crucial to a Positive First Impression

It’s human nature to judge someone upon first meeting, but what is it that most people immediately evaluate? One Harvard Business School professor has spent more than 15 years researching the answer to this question. In her new book, Presence, Amy Cuddy shares her fascinating discoveries on first-impression patterns. Cuddy recently told Business Insider that people ask themselves two simple questions when they meet a new person: Can I trust this person? and Can I respect this person? What you are specifically evaluating is the person’s warmth (which translates to trust) and competence (which gains your respect). While both of these aspects are important, trustworthiness is the most significant factor in how people initially evaluate one another.

According to Cuddy, many young people make the mistake of being too concerned with coming across as smart and competent. They enter the workforce and skip social events, don’t ask for help, and are generally seen as unapproachable. Most of these people are overachievers and are shocked when they don’t get offered a job or promotion because they didn’t let anyone get to know and trust them as people. “If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative,” Cuddy explains. “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.” Moral of the story: When you’re meeting someone for the first time, be warm and inviting and demonstrate that you can be trusted.

To learn more about this topic, check out Cuddy’s book, Presence.

How do you evaluate someone you’re meeting for the first time?