People's first impression of you rests on these 2 questions

While we hope people will be more generous with their judgments than relying solely on a first impression, first meetings have a significant impact on people's opinion of you.

For those of us who may have a history of less than desirable first impressions, it may help to know that humans innately base these initial judgments on two primary questions, according to Amy Cuddy, PhD, a social psychologist and associate professor of business administration at Boston-based Harvard Business School.

1. Can I trust this person?

2. Can I respect this person?

According to Business Insider, psychologists boil these down further to warmth and competence, respectively. Ideally, you want to be perceived as having both.

In the professional setting, apparent level of competence has a bigger impact of first impressions, Dr. Cuddy says in her new book Presence. But warmth and trustworthiness are the more important factors as to how people evaluate you overall.

"From an evolutionary perspective," Dr. Cuddy says, "it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust."

Although competence is highly valued, it is assessed only after a person has established whether or not they can trust you. As a result, focusing too much on projecting strength can backfire, according to Dr. Cuddy.

For instance, Dr. Cuddy said MBA interns are often so preoccupied with displaying intelligence and competence that it can lead them to not ask for help, skip out on social events and seem generally unapproachable, according to Business Insider.

"If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you're not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative," Dr. Cuddy said, according to the report. "A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you've established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat."

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