How to make people like you

Do you anticipate a warm welcome?

Do you anticipate a warm welcome?

When you meet new people, do you tend to assume that they will like you or worry that they will reject you? Either way, you may be involved in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you anticipate acceptance or rejection, you are likely to get what you expected. People who expect a favourable reception are more likely to behave warmly to the people they meet. This warmth influences the other person’s initial impressions of them. Conversely, if you expect to be judged negatively, you are likely to behave more coldly leading to negative initial impressions. Those initial impressions are then likely to influence future perceptions and judgements through the halo effect or the affect heuristic.

This has obvious implications for recruitment interviews and for networking. We often talk about the importance of good first impressions in these settings.

Some recent research by Danu Stinson and colleagues has looked at the effect of preparing people for meeting a stranger. When a group of men were told that a woman they were about to meet was worried about how she would be perceived by them, they became less anxious and behaved more warmly than a control group. To find out more read this post on PsyBlog.

I think I’ll keep telling stories about how nervous I was as an interviewer when I’m doing interview skills workshops.

Another study about speed-dating has shown that when women mimic some of the verbal expressions and non-verbal behaviours of men, they are more likely to be rated as attractive (see this post on the BPS Research Digest blog). This seems to add some weight to the NLP concept of mirroring to establish rapport.

  • How else could we increase levels of social optimism in our clients?
  • How much do we advise clients on the nitty-gritty of building work relationships?
  • Does mirroring really work? Do you use it to establish rapport with clients?
  • Will this only work when you’re trying to impress a member of the opposite sex?

Related post: Constructing successful careers

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  1. #1 by Aminder K Nijjar on 5 November 2009 - 15:40

    I think being comfortable in one’s own skin is important and comes across to others. There is much research to show how our attitude influences the way others receive and interact with us, however, we need to be aware that there are times (perhaps many), when the other party may well react/interact in a less desired way than we had hoped for, due to a whole host of other factor/s. The reason for mentioning this is because clients have at times lamented over particular interaction/s and what they could/should have done differently – and sometimes the answer is nothing.
    We can encourage clients to be positive but not then become overly disappointed when others are not equally as positive in return.
    Skilled mirroring can work in numerous contexts, but as with some many things, when done badly…

  2. #2 by Vinny on 27 November 2009 - 11:19

    This made me reflect on an interview skills workshop I did last week. One of the students was extremely nervous in the role play when speaking to the interviewers.

    What worked for him was this:
    We discussed the fact that interviewers normally want candidates to do well. He accepted this fairly readily.
    We then discussed the fact that therefore, the interviewers are people who really want to give him a great job which would pay him loads of money.
    I asked him how he would speak to someone who wanted to give him a great job but was a little nervous.

    He then went into the next role play with a big smile on his face and introduced himself warmly and confidently.

    Helping people to change their mindset can really make a big difference to the way they will perform at interview/assessment centres etc.

    I personally feel that with the limited time available with most clients, promoting confidence and the right attitude is going to be more effective than mentioning specific techniques such as mirroring.

  3. #3 by David Winter on 27 November 2009 - 12:40

    Nice example, thanks.

    Interesting to see that you were moving him into the Meaning Zone. By giving him a conceptual framework to change his understanding of what interviewers are trying to achieve you changed his approach to the situation.

    As you say, changing an unhelpful mindset can make more of a difference than just teaching people how to prepare and answer questions.

  1. Go on! Impress me! « Careers – in Theory
  2. Overcoming the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection « Careers – in Theory

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