First impressions are formed in the blink of an eye. Research has shown that people can make up their minds about you in as little as 7 seconds. While it may seem like there’s no way to control how people perceive you, you can do a few things to make a good first impression.

One of the most important things you can do is to focus on building trust. People are more likely to trust someone warm, friendly, and approachable. They’re also more likely to trust someone who is seen as competent and capable.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy has studied first impressions for more than 15 years and has discovered patterns in these interactions. She says the key to success in any situation is to be present, which means being authentic, confident, and comfortable in your skin.

In her book, “Presence,” Cuddy says that people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

  • Can I trust this person? 

  • Can I respect this person?

These are the dimensions of warmth and competence, respectively, and they determine how we perceive and respond to others. While most people think competence is more important, especially in a professional context, Cuddy shows that warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most crucial factor. People only evaluate your competence after they have established trust with you. And if you try too hard to show your strength or intelligence, you may come across as arrogant or manipulative.

Cuddy shares many examples of how people sabotage their presence by focusing too much on proving themselves and not enough on connecting with others. For instance, she describes how MBA interns often fail to get job offers because they skip social events, avoid asking for help, and act aloof. They think that they need to demonstrate their skills and knowledge, but they end up alienating their potential employers who don’t get to know them as human beings.

Cuddy also explains how we can enhance our presence using simple tools like body language and mindset. She reveals the science behind “power poses,” which are postures that make us feel more confident and powerful. We can change our hormones, emotions, and behavior by standing or sitting more expansively and openly. Cuddy suggests that we practice power posing before a stressful situation, such as a job interview, a presentation, or a difficult conversation. This will help us reduce our anxiety and increase our performance.

Another way to boost our presence is to align our actions with our values. Cuddy advises us to identify our core values and write about them regularly. This will help us reinforce our sense of self and cope with stress better. When we act in accordance with our values, we feel more authentic and courageous.

So how do you build trust and competence? Here are a few tips:

  • Be yourself. People can spot a fake a mile away. Be yourself and let your personality shine through.

  • Be confident. Confidence is attractive. When you believe in yourself, others will too.

  • Be positive. People are drawn to positive people. Smile, laugh, and be upbeat.

  • Be helpful. Offer to help others when you can. This shows that you’re a team player and care about others.

  • Be knowledgeable. Research and learn as much as possible about the person or group you’re meeting with. This shows that you’re interested in them and taking the time to get to know them.

By following these tips, you can make an excellent first impression and build trust and competence. This will help you achieve your goals with confidence and grace.

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