People tend to like us more than we think they do, a new study finds. Plus, how to guarantee you’re making the best first impression possible.
You can make friends and influence people.
Indeed, you almost always make a better first impression than you think, according to new findings published in the Journal of Psychological Science. Based on a series of studies, researchers found that people tend to underestimate how much others like them during and after initial interactions, in what they referred to as a “liking gap.”
“After conversations with a new person, people report believing that they like the other person more than the other person liked them,” study co-author and professor of psychology at Yale University, Margaret S. Clark, told Moneyish. “Since all people involved made these judgments this can’t possibly be true. It holds for men and for women and it persists across time as more conversations take place.”
In one study, researchers asked participants to have a 5-minute conversation with someone they had never met before, and ask questions such as ‘where are you from?’ and ‘what are your hobbies?’ At the end of the conversation, participants’ ratings showed that they reported liking their partner more than they thought their partner liked them.
And in a following study, when participants were asked to reflect on the conversations they just had, they believed that crucial moments that shaped their partner’s thoughts about them were more negative than those that shaped their own thoughts about their partner.
This gap between how we think people view us and how they actually do might be explained by the fact that people often criticize themselves during and immediately after having new conversations, Clark explained. “When they don’t know another well and don’t know how much the other likes them, they closely monitor themselves,” she said. “They self-criticize what they did say and they think about what they could have said better.They can be so involved in this that they miss cues that the other really does like them.”
This isn’t the first study that has shown how off-base people can be when it comes to others’ perception of them. Psychologists have found that people aren’t paying nearly as much attention as we think they are to the things we’re self-conscious about. And those with social anxiety are often judged positively even when they think they aren’t, a 2014 study found.
Because it can be difficult to truly know how you’re being perceived, here are tips on how to be confident you’re making a good first impression, according to experts:
Project confidence. “You don’t want to ask for too many assurances,” Lynn Taylor, author and national workplace expert, told Moneyish. If you have questions or are confused by something someone says when speaking with them, Taylor suggests throwing in a few phrases that engages the other person such as, ‘would you agree?’ and ‘have you found that?’
And if you notice you’re second guessing yourself, taking a breath to refocus yourself can be very helpful, Greta Strief, positive psychology coach, told Moneyish. “Knowing we underestimate how much others like us helps keep us in the moment and stops our mind from spiraling down a path of self-doubt,” she said.
Avoid close ended questions. When you’re in a hot seat or meeting someone for the first time, the tendency is to sell sell sell, Taylor says. She advises asking open ended questions to avoid a ping-pong match, so you can listen more and have a better conversation.
“Closed ended questions are verbal ping-pong matches that end up in ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” she said. “So that its a conversation and not an interrogation, instead of saying: ‘how long have you been here?’ you can say: ‘can you tell me a little bit about your background?’”
Make it about them. To better ensure that you’re in good standing on the likability scale, Taylor suggests making the person you’re talking to at ease. To do this, she advises focusing the conversation on them. “This is a two way street,” she said. “…you want to make it more about the other person in order to open them up.”
Another way to do this is to use humor to make the person you’re talking to, smile, she said. “That can really open up how someone feels about you on a more emotional level,” she said. “This is a situation about chemistry, so what better way to break down the barriers?”
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