What’s the first thing people consider when deciding whether to conduct business with another person? Skill? Experience? Competence?
No, it’s something far more basic and primal: Trustworthiness.
We are wired by survival instincts to only connect with those we determine to be trustworthy, according to psychologist Amy Cuddy. That instinct has been honed by evolution and natural selection.
So, if you want to make any sort of meaningful connection with another human, you must first convey trustworthiness. This is best achieved by coming across as warm and likeable, says Cuddy in her book Presence.
Here are some of her tips for making this all-important first impression:
Value others. The best imaging/branding advice ever is, “Be the thing you say you are.” The key to connecting with others is to genuinely care about them. This is crucial not only to being a better professional, but also a better human being.
Pay full attention. Don’t even glance at your cell phone or watch. Let the desk phone go to voice mail. Make the person you are conversing with feel like the only person in the world while you are together. This is a rare gift that will leave a strong impression on your new friend.
Listen more, talk less. Active listening is a sign that you truly care about the other person and what they have to say. Ask questions as they talk. React to what they are saying. Don’t offer advice unless specifically asked. Giving unsolicited advice turns the conversation away from your new acquaintance and towards you.
Listen to everyone. Treat everyone with the same level of attention and respect as you give potential employers and prospective clients. Subordinates, administrative assistants, waiters – everyone you interact with on a daily basis deserves your best.
Focus on others. Offer praise. Ask about their day. Taking the time to know what’s happening in people’s lives, and acknowledging it, shows that you value them.
Give first. Ask how you can help the other person and focus on that dynamic before you even think about what they might do for you. Cuddy says this the only way to establish a true connection. Focus on yourself for even a moment and the other person will distrust you.
Don’t gossip. People like dirt, but don’t trust those who spread it.
Be humble. The most charismatic people are authentic and humble at their core. They admit their mistakes, share what they learned, and laugh at themselves. These traits earn them the admiration and affection of their colleagues and other connections.
Use positive precision language. Your attitudes are often conveyed in word choices. Share your upbeat outlook by telling people you “get to help select a great new team member,” not that you “have to go to all these candidate interviews.”
Don’t be self-important. People can sense if you think you’re “a pretty big deal around here,” and they hate it.
Keep this advice in mind this week as you make new contacts, and see if it doesn’t help make stronger connections with people. How could it not? It’s backed by a million years of evolution.