In looking at how to make a good first impression last time, we explored a little about verbal and non-verbal communication and how that may be received by others. This time I shall be looking at how our verbal and non-verbal communication makes us feel and how to best present yourself.
Whenever we meet someone new we are forming two impressions of that person: we are judging how warm and trustworthy that person is in order to work out what the other person’s intentions are towards us; and how strong and competent they are, according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She suggests letting the other person speak first, perhaps by asking them a question. This enables the other person to feel warmth towards you and understood. So 5 minutes of chit-chat before negotiation, research suggests, increases the amount of value that is created negotiation.
A positive communication style also facilitates greater collaboration and trust. Demonstrating curiosity, concern and good listening skills when communicating with others has the effect of producing the feel-good hormone oxytocin which is involved in bonding with others. Furthermore, being humble helps to neutralise the threat of comparison with respect to skills and abilities in the workplace or elsewhere. When we meet someone new we will be unconsciously comparing and trying to establish if the other person poses a threat. If you come across as being arrogant people will reduce an estimate of your competence by 20% to 30%; coming across as humble however and modest people add 20% to 30% to their estimate your competence.
And it’s not just what we say that makes a difference-it’s also about what we do. Our body positions can affect how powerful we feel and in a recent study from Harvard business School the technology format we use can impact this. Research participants had to complete tasks on either a handheld device, a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. The researcher was testing subjects willingness to interrupt another person which is a power-related behaviour. Those using a handheld device were less likely to interrupt than those using a desktop computer. The researchers suggest that those working on a handheld device had a low-power posture sparked by feelings of powerlessness which therefore explains their lack of willingness interrupt. If you are going into an important interview meeting therefore, don’t hunch over your smart phone as you will feel powerless.
Amy Cuddy has explored how body postures can make us feel more powerful and confident, and as a result better in demanding situations. It is thought that two minutes of “power-posing” prepares the brain to function well in high-stakes challenges leading to an increase in testosterone, a hormone linked to assertiveness, and decreases in cortisol, linked with stress. Try this out for yourself: the Wonder Woman pose-stand with your feet apart and your hands on your hips. Alternatively, sit with your legs in front, feet propped up on a desk, leaning back your hands on the back of your head fingers interlaced and elbows out. Make like Madonna and vogue!