Why do you like someone?
Is it their overall charisma, their razor-sharp wit, or simply their ability to make anyone feel at ease?
While these answers might work for you, researchers everywhere are not easily convinced. They’ve spent several decades trying to pinpoint the exact reason why we like some people more than others.
By learning more about how minds actually function, you can stand out from the crowd. Especially when it comes to consistently excelling at your workplace and even at job interviews. Not to mention, mastering basic psychological tricks to impress gives you a leg up on most people who tend to “follow their heart over their head”.
Let’s discuss a few pointers to get you started:
Focus on being warm and competent
Widely-recognized for her research on the benefits of power-posing, American social psychologist Amy Cuddy emphasizes the importance of first impressions.
“When we form a first impression of another person, it’s not really a single impression. We’re really forming two,” she told Wired. “We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is. And that’s trying to answer the question — What are this person’s intentions toward me? We’re also asking ourselves — How strong and competent is this person?”
Cuddy believes that these two traits — trustworthiness and competence — account for 80-90% of what constitutes an effective first impression. “I think people make the mistake, especially in business settings, of thinking that everything is negotiation,” she says. “They think — I better get the floor first so that I can be in charge of what happens.”
While taking initiative is great, most people make the mistake of trying to “out alpha” the person they’re talking to. They focus solely on talking and not listening. Making them feel warm and understood should be your number one priority. So, let them have the spotlight and take the backseat every once in a while. This doesn’t mean that you cease active communication and refrain from contributing to the conversation entirely.
Remember, if you’re competent but stoic, you’d command a fair amount of “respect and admiration but also a lot of resentment and antipathy”. On the other hand, if you’re “warm and trustworthy but incompetent illicit pity, which is about both compassion and sadness”. The key is to strike the perfect balance between the two. Don’t be in a rush to establish an upper hand in the conversation. But, make a point to chime in whenever necessary.
During “mirroring”, you subtly copy another person’s body language, facial expressions, and gestures.
In 1999, NYU researchers documented the chameleon effect. According to that, people unintentionally mimic each other’s behaviour that facilitates the overall feeling of “comfort” and “liking”. In order to draw measurable conclusions, they assigned a task to a group of 72 participants (both men and women). Each person was paired with a partner — who ended up mirroring the behaviour of the other participant. The most interesting part of this phenomenon is that most of us unconsciously tend to copy the mannerisms of the people we talk. This means that most participants in the study weren’t even aware that they were being copied.
After videotaping their interactions, the researchers asked the participants to indicate how much they liked their respective partners. Sure enough, participants were more likely to like their partners when the latter had been mimicking their behaviour.
Also here’s an in-depth guide about the right body language to have during an interview.
Show your weak side every once in a while
People around you are more likely to be enamoured by you if you come across as ‘relatable’ and ‘vulnerable’. Elliot Aronson at the University of Texas, Austin found that making simple mistakes impacts the perceived attraction of people towards you.
He made the students from the University of Minnesota closely listen to tape recordings of several people taking a quiz. When somebody did great on their quiz but dropped coffee at the end, the students liked them more. As compared to people who did well on the quiz but didn’t drop coffee or did poorly on the quiz and dropped coffee.
“Emotional openness, of course, comes with risks that involve making yourself vulnerable. And not knowing whether this emotional exposure will be accepted and reciprocated or rejected and deflected,” notes Jim Taylor of the University of San Francisco. He studied how being vulnerable affects likability.
Overall, nobody’s perfect (including you!), and slipping up here and there will not land you in cold waters. And according to Aronson’s research, you can actually earn everyone’s approval by revealing your flaws.
Make it seem like you like them
According to the psychological phenomenon called ‘reciprocity of liking‘—when someone likes us, we exhibit a higher tendency to like them back. For example, in a 1959 study, researchers told participants that some members — who were chosen at random — of a group discussion would like them. Post the discussion, participants showed more interest towards members who supposedly liked them.
More recently, combined research by the University of Waterloo and the University of Manitoba also discovered that we act warmer towards people who we desire acceptance from, in order to increase our chances of making a good impression. So, even when you’re unsure about how someone feels about you, pretending that you already like them can actually help you knock your interaction with them out of the park.
We hope that the aforementioned psychological tricks to impress can help you evaluate your current work dynamics from and build better relationships at work in a short time.