Hilary Blair has acted professionally and served as chief executive of her own communications-coaching company for the past seven years. She oversees a staff of 13 and counts Staples and Boeing among her clients. She says her success comes despite the first impression she makes on some people, not because of it.
“I remind everyone of their second-grade teacher,” says Ms. Blair, chief executive of Articulate Real & Clear in Denver. “And if they didn’t like their second-grade teacher, I’m in trouble.”
A growing body of research shows the snap judgments people make about others’ trustworthiness are wrong more often than most people think. These first impressions are formed in milliseconds, based on instinctive responses in the brain’s emotion-processing center, the amygdala.
Some people conclude a stranger is reliable because he or she looks like someone trustworthy the person already knows, says Alexander Todorov, a leading researcher and author of a 2017 book on the topic, “Face Value: The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions.” Or they make judgments based on stereotypes, such as an unconscious belief that older or more feminine-looking people are more trustworthy, he says.
This poses a challenge to anyone who must gain others’ trust to perform well in meetings, interviews or other gatherings.
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