• On Good Things Utah this morning – If you want to make a great first impression, there are basic steps you can take. Make eye contact. Smile. Listen more than you talk. Ask smart questions, and follow-up questions, about the other person. Simple stuff. In fact, research shows that if you think the other person is going to like you, they usually will. Study participants who expected to be accepted were perceived as more likable. Assume other people will like you and you act more naturally, come across as friendlier, which, since we tend to like warm, friendly people, makes us like you more.
    • But actually believing someone you’re about to meet will like you? Or, after the fact, feeling like you made a great first impression? If you’re relatively shy or in an unfamiliar setting, it’s a lot easier to assume people will not or did not like you, which research shows creates its own self-fulfilling prophecy. If that sounds like you (because it definitely sounds like me), you’re not alone. A series of studies show many people feel they make relatively poor social impressions, even though that’s generally not the case. Psychologists call the disconnect between the impression we thought we made and the impression we actually made the “liking gap,” a type of cognitive bias that can make it harder to make new connections, engage in new collaborations, and form lasting professional and personal relationships. Partly that’s due to the natural insecurity we feel when we first meet someone, but it’s also because one of the studies shows that the liking gap — an inaccurate judgment of how another person feels about you — can sometimes last for months. The phenomenon also extends to teams. A study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that participants regularly underestimated how much people on their teams liked them, which made them less likely to provide honest feedback, ask for help or advice, and work together in the future — even though those behaviors would have been welcomed by people on their teams. So, yeah: For many of us, the liking gap is clearly a problem.
  • How to Overcome the Liking Gap
    • How can you convince yourself that people will like you? Positive self-talk (“They’re going to love me!”) probably won’t cut it. But preparation will. The next time you’re about to meet someone new, take a deep breath and commit to taking a few steps almost guaranteed to make most people like you:
      • Give a genuine compliment.
        Everyone loves to be praised, especially since no one gets enough praise. So be prepared to tell people what they did, or do, well. Whenever possible, find out whom you will meet and then do a little research. If coming prepared isn’t possible, no problem. Show interest by asking questions. But go past, “What do you do?” Ask how it feels to do what they do. Ask the toughest part about what they do. (That’s my favorite question, since everyone’s job is hard. Once you learn how they deal with difficult situations, plenty of compliments will be there for the picking.) Not only will the people you meet appreciate the praise, they’ll feel more accomplished and more important, and they’ll like you for making them feel that way. And you’ll know a lot more than you otherwise would about them.
      • Help people talk about themselves.
        Most people love to talk about themselves. And even if they don’t, they still can’t help it. Research shows approximately 40 percent of everyday speech is spent telling other people what we think or feel — basically, talking about our subjective experiences. (Not just that you worked out last night, but whether you liked the workout. And whether you liked the gym. And the equipment. And some of the other people there. And … ) In fact, we almost can’t help sharing our thoughts and feelings: Research also shows talking about ourselves, whether in person or on social media, triggers the same pleasure sensation in the brain as does money or food. Self-disclosure causes increased activity in brain regions associated with the sense of reward and satisfaction from money, food, and even sex. If you want more tips to having a great first impression, tune in with our hosts this morning for a fun Monday edition of GTU.