Two Ways to Make a Great First Impression

Why do you like some people and not others? Why are you attracted to some people and not others? Where do your first impressions come from, apart from how people look?

Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, already the rage from her famous TED Talk on body language, explains this in her new book, Presence.

According to a Business Insider article about it, Cuddy says people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

Can I trust this person?
Can I respect this person?

Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.

If you’re not naturally warm, you shouldn’t be too surprised if making connections is a little bit difficult for you.

Kind of makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? However, as Cuddy points out, achievers tend to overestimate the value of their competence. They think that because they’re competent and garner respect that this should equate to being well-liked. In fact, it doesn’t.

Warmth – that highly underrated trait – is what make people instinctively trust you – both in your professional and personal life. And if you’re not naturally warm, you shouldn’t be too surprised if making connections is a little bit difficult for you.

As always, I feel like I’m just the messenger of something that we all routinely see in day-to-day life. Which woman are men going to gravitate towards? The one who gives him a welcoming hug on the first date, or the one who stands with her arms crossed, wary and suspicious? That’s just one single example, applied to women, but you can see how this applies across the board.

I come from a very warm and extroverted family, so I think it’s a trait I’ve always taken for granted – until I meet people who seem to lack it. So what do you think? Is there a better way to make a first impression than being warm? Or are Amy Cuddy (and Dale Carnegie) pretty spot on?

Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Rachel

    Warm people–and people who show an interest in learning about others over self-promotion–seem to be the most immediately likeable. In non-romantic relationships, that is. In dating, it’s a whole other thing.

    Men seem to want to feel like the attention and affection they get from women is special and that they’ve earned it by being such excellent dudes. I’ve seen too many awesome men (friends, brothers, men I dated or wanted to date) fall all over themselves trying to warm up the cold bitches: women who were demanding and demeaning, constantly dissatisfied and hyper-critical of them. They must have been craving validation. If I give you a hug and a compliment the first time I meet you and some other girl crosses her arms defiantly and says, “I can’t believe you wore that atrocity of a shirt,” you’re going to be driven to redeem yourself with the ice princess and you’ll figure I’m not enough of  a challenge to be a rewarding conquest.

    I’ve recently adopted a more middle-of-the-road approach. Not cold or unkind or disapproving, just a little aloof. Behavior that says, “I like you” throws a wet blanket over a man’s attraction to me, but mannerisms that say, “I don’t find your presence entirely objectionable” throws lighter fluid on it. Men are so weird.

    1. 1.1
      KK

      Interesting perspective, Rachel. I just hope you’re wrong. Lol.                  I’m one of those naturally warm and outgoing people who are easy to read. I couldn’t fake aloofness if I tried. Nor could I fake interest; not that I’d want to. I don’t think those qualities have ever hurt me romantically, though. I guess I’ll never know. The only issue that I’ve had from time to time is someone mistaking my friendliness for romantic interest.

    2. 1.2
      Katie

      I disagree completely! Guys aren’t that complicated! They like people that like them!

      I think what you’re describing only applies if the girl is super duper attractive. Being INSANELY gorgeous can make up for a slightly detached personality. And honestly, I think a LOT of really gorgeous women develop a kinda detached meeting body language because they are so used to guys losing their minds in their presence. Once gorgeous women trust guys a bit more, they open up and show their real personality, but initially they’ve developed a kinda defense mechanism. At least that’s what I’ve inferred from my most gorgeous friends. Initially, “cold bitch” and detached, but warm up 🙂

      1. 1.2.1
        Rachel

        I really hope to meet one of these guys some day. My most recent ex is a guy that I thought the world of. I admired his intelligence, sense of humor, integrity, and even his looks and I wasn’t shy about letting him know that. His ex loathed everything about him and she has since the day they met. While we were dating, it was common for him to cancel plans with me at the last minute because she wanted to come over to his place and yell at him about something or the other that he did to annoy her while they were together. One day I laid out his options for him and reminded him that he was presented with (1) a home-cooked meal, fun conversation and company, and sex or (2) yelling, obscenities, crying, accusations, and broken plates and that it was kind of insane for him to go with door #2. He agreed that it didn’t make rational sense but he kept making that choice over and over until I dumped him. I hate using numbers to objectify people, but they illustrate the fact that it wasn’t a hotness thing. There was no hotness in this sordid love triangle. She’s about a 6. I’m a 7.5/8. He’s a 6.5.

        My last 2 relationships were basically like this too–a great guy who couldn’t enjoy me because he was looking over his shoulder at some other woman who never really liked him and he just couldn’t get over it. The new guy I’ve most recently started seeing is having to work a bit for affection. And he treats me better than anyone ever has.

        I’ll always be a kind person, but never warm again. Warm, affectionate girls get stood up and forgotten.

        1. Christine

          Rachel, I’m sorry you went through that.  I can relate because I went through that same thing before, with some men rejecting me as being really “sweet” and “nice” but having “no chemistry” with them. At which point I thought, well, then what do I want with them?  Those guys can find coldhearted women and terrorize each other all they want–while I’ll find a sane man who will appreciate what I have to offer.

          Then sure enough, I did find one.  My guy had exes like that too (hyper-critical, demanding, etc.)–and wouldn’t go back to any of them.  He really seems to mean it when he appreciates how “easy” it’s been with me, and said he didn’t know it could be this good.  Or look at Evan, who dated “challenging” women before–but ultimately married a warm and easygoing one.  Rest assured that there are men out there who will choose warm and affectionate over dramatic and difficult.  You just have to find one!

        2. Stacy2

          Your issue is not that you’re warm, it’s that you are too available and give men too much validation when its not due.

          This man was canceling plans with you to hang out with his ex, and you told him that he was awesome? Sorry, he wasn’t awesome at all, he sounds like an asshole who had to be dumped upon first infraction. You may consider reading a book on luxury goods marketing and applying it to dating, because IMO the mentality of the two is exactly the same. You want to be viewed as a desirable luxury item, something scarce, only attainable to privileged few, something that’s hard to find, expensive and requires extensive care. Right now it seems that these men view you more like a comfortable pair of jeans from walmart – cheap, easily available, not needing care and discarded when they’re bored with it.

    3. 1.3
      Marie

      1) I don’t think being warm, approachable and empathetic necessarily means you are signaling you a falling for a guy. It’s an opening gambit. Being warm is different from telegraphing desperate liking. 2) I would not touch the kind of men who fall all over themselves for the aloof and cold hearted.  People who tend to go for emotionally unavailable partners have serious issues. You get what you put out their. My relationship with my husband is based on a solid foundation of openness and trust.  If I had gone for the kind of men who like to do the hot cold game I would never have been happy.

    4. 1.4
      Noemi

      From my experience, men date these women in spite of, not because of, the qualities you mention.

    5. 1.5
      Bridget

      Totally agree Rachel. I’m naturally extrovert, hug people I like and smile alot.  Yet the Ice queen seems to win! Middle ground until you get to know someone seems to be way to go.

    6. 1.6
      Rachel Horne

      This. I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  2. 2
    Adrian

    Rachel,

     

    Two quick questions:

    1. Do you believe it is possible that only those two past boyfriends had issues and NOT all men?

     

    2. If by the smallest chance that is possible, do you believe that this new guy could just be a good guy doing the right things and it is NOT because of the fact that you are making him work hard for your affection?

     

    3. If the new guy get frustrated with how hard you were to get affection from (since men naturally love affection), and decided to stop pursuing you since you are so difficult, and instead started to court an easier women… Would you place all the blame solely on him?

    Or do you think it is possible (though unlikely) that your lack of affection could have caused a good man to leave in in search of a woman more giving?

    1. 2.1
      Adrian

      Oops, I meant three quick questions (^_^)

    2. 2.2
      Rachel

      I suppose anything is possible. But men have to make a certain number of mistakes, endure a few years of torment, before they appreciate good women. Even Evan preferred difficult, toxic, hateful women until he hit 35 and became the kind of guy who likes to be in enjoyable company. I think he has even said before something to the effect that he wasnt ready for his wife at 32, but he was at 35. I think (younger) guys like the thrill of the chase and I’ve noticed that the women who are successful at relationships (who get treated with respect) are the ones who stay one step ahead, never giving the guy their approval but always hinting that it might be attainable if they just keep trying. The chase never ends that way. I’m not yet to the age where guys are so exhausted by the bitches of their past, so I am going to take this keep-it-cool approach for a while and be nice but not overtly complimentary or lovey. Maybe when I hit my mid-thirties, I’ll meet an Evan of my own, a good guy who’s as sick of the bullshit as I am.

      1. 2.2.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        Thanks for participating in the dialogue, Rachel. There’s a slight correction I have to make to your perception of my story. It’s subtle, but it matters:

        1. I NEVER preferred difficult, toxic, hateful women, no more than any woman PREFERS selfish, arrogant, narcissistic men. I PUT UP with a few of them out of attraction when dating in my 20’s.
        2. By my 30’s, I was making choices not based on looks but on similarities. My girlfriends from 31-34 weren’t toxic. They were decent people. They were just a little too much like me – a little too opinionated, stubborn, selfish and cold at times. Others were just really sweet, but didn’t have the intelligence, humor and sexiness that I needed. My last ex was JUST like my wife – just 13 years younger than her. I didn’t think she was “ready” but she was warm, playful, feminine and kind.

        This is why I really resent the hyperbole of the internet – its ability to create straw men monsters out of men and women. Be warm. Be lovey. Be vulnerable. Make him feel appreciated and accepted. Don’t give in to the idea that men are still enamored with bitches. It’s not true. Be a fucking AWESOME girlfriend and the right guy won’t want to let you go. Don’t ruin it by holding back.

        1. Rachel

          Thanks for clarifying, Evan. It’s not a subtle difference at all, the one between tolerating and preferring character flaws. I just happen to think that you’re probably a different–and highly unusual–breed. Make no mistake; men love me. They appreciate me. None of them have ever let me go. But none have ever committed to me either. It wears on a girl to be constantly told that I’m the one woman who has made him feel at home and completely comfortable in his own skin and that I’m his best friend, the love of his life, the woman he should have found years ago, that he feels so safe and secure with me. And I bring up that fact that, given that we’ve been going strong for 2 or 3 years, I would love to talk about getting married and starting a family. He says that he would love to get married if he meets the right person. So, what the actual fuck? If the person you feel safest with, your partner in the best and easiest relationship you’ve ever had isn’t the right person to marry, who the hell is? Observing other couples around me, I have noticed that men propose to the woman they’re a little bit afraid of losing. There has to be that little bit of tension, wherein desire is born and nurtured and kept alive and causes men to want to seal the deal.

          I don’t think I can stop being a kind person, but I need to stop rescuing guys from their insecurities. If you’re nervous on a first, second, third date, I’m not going to rush in and reassure you and tell you I think you’re witty and charming and adorable. You’re going to have to sweat for a while and maybe you’ll remember that feeling long enough to not take me for granted 2 or 3 years down the road.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Have it your way. But in my opinion, ‘making a guy’ sweat is a) not particularly nice treatment (no more than making a girl sweat) and b) 2-3 years down the road once your relationship is sealed, he’s not going to be thinking of the first few weeks. He will reveal his true self. Which is why I say wait 2-3 years to get married. I would just suggest being the BEST partner you can be instead of thinking that two wrongs make a right. 80% of guys still get married voluntarily, which is to say that finding a marriage oriented man is not like putting a man on Mars.

        3. Sarahk

           

           

          Rachel, I have to say that I kind of see the point that you were making here. (Evan’s also kind of.)   It’s like a guy wants a warm type but doesn’t appreciate the work that goes into it sometimes.  Like, some of them (Evan possibly) saw that he wanted a certain type of more reasonable personality, but some don’t seem to get that at the age that he did.  And what’s more is that it is good advice to suggest that a woman be warm and kind, which might be good, but that if you’re dealing with a man that hasn’t matured to appreciate that yet, it is exhausting.  And what might be worse is if a man decides that he is going to start going after that warmth, and he thinks that he should simply get it now that he wants it.  When possibly that guy should be understanding that it doesn’t come easy, and they recently made a change to start desiring it, so a woman feels kind of appreciated and understood for being tired, open and warm.  It seems difficult because the guy still is himself in a way.  Flees from anything that scares him in the beginning stages of the relationship.  I think it’s about wanting to be appreciated for the effort when you’re past your teen years and single and had been through a slew of men who couldn’t appreciate anything, enjoyed the chase, and/or recently separated themselves from it.  Should additional advice be given to find a man that doesn’t expect warmth, but also warmly returns the effort (like right away, as well.)  Women don’t like the cold either.  Been there through guys that said “you’re so wonderful, now if I could only find the one.”  It gets tiring.

        4. Adenine

          This is exactly my perspective! I am an awesome girlfriend. I am committed to my partner fully. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have MADE the commitment, asked for exclusivity and continue to nurture it. However, people perceive this as seeming needy and being too available. It’s not true, though. If he didn’t respond with the same commitment and enthusiasm, it wouldn’t be a successful endeavor. If he decided to take advantage of my trust and generosity, the relationship would dwindle and fail. The critism I get is annoying. My relationship is MINE. It is important to ME. It serves ME. I am not blindly attaching myself to some dude because I have a desparate emotional need. If he wants to test that theory, I will find a new partner and our “friends” can talk shit about that guy, too.

      2. 2.2.2
        Christine

        Well, maybe there’s something to that.  I’m in my mid-30s and my guy is in his early 40s.  It’s possible that I lucked out a bit from the timing.  By the time he met me, he was really burned out from the “difficult” women he dated before.  So maybe that’s why he was enthusiastic about dating someone like me.  If nothing else, maybe that will give you some hope that in your mid-30s, you can be like me and Evan’s wife–and find a guy who’s also sick of the crap!

        The relationship you describe, where you have to constantly play emotional “keep away”, sounds absolutely exhausting to me.  I don’t see how you ever build true emotional connection and intimacy while keeping your feelings at bay.  To me, real love is about being open and vulnerable, and letting someone in.  Isn’t that the real reward of a relationship, having someone in your life you can trust with your feelings?

        Good luck to you–I hope you don’t have to wait as long to find love as I did, whether it’s with this guy or someone else!

         

         

         

        1. Adreana

          Rachel,

          You can be warm without being overly accommodating or too available.  It’s not that different from what we want in a guy really—someone who is caring and sweet, but isn’t afraid to disagree or banter with us. If you act too bitchy or too nice you’ll attract men with mommy issues….

           

           

      3. 2.2.3
        Stacy2

        It seems, Rachel, that you discovered that “the Rules” actually do work exactly as laid out.

      4. 2.2.4
        Shannon

        You’re are making things way more complicated and harder than it needs to be.   I’ve learned a simple skill that has helped me tremendously – ask yourself the simple question “am I happy or not?”.  If you, be happy and show, if you arent happy – express it, say “Im not happy, you are too embroiled with your ex and I feel insecure.  I need to feel secure.”  Then walk away if he doesnt fix the situation.  You dont blame him, yell at him, turn cold or codemn all men, you simply stand up for yourself and your own happiness.  Just start with that simple question – are you happy and follow through depending on your answer and you become an authentic woman and puts you in a very special category and things have a magic way of falling into place 😊

  3. 3
    ahimsa

    speaking as an intj, some of us do not have a personality type which exudes warmth and openness and these are extremely hard characteristics to fake. it is also true that many people who are sociopaths are very charismatic and tend to have to such attributes as these.  if one is attractive enough, being an introvert is not considered as a negative and instead the person often is looked on as being deep and mysterious which only adds to their attractiveness.  for those of us without the socially accepted genetic gifts (for men-height and hair being the top 2), we end up being labeled as closed, cold and depressed adding to our attractiveness.

    therefore it is not only the physical things which we can do nothing about, but also our personalities about which we have no choice or control over.  talk about playing a game with stacked deck, this is yet another indication that romantic success has little to do with one’s effort or methods but instead comes down to winning the genetic lottery, coincidence and blind luck.

     

      1. 3.1.1
        ahimsa

        these lucky few ARE the one’s i was speaking of Evan and actually i think that your examples prove it even more so.  for every one of these success story’s there are countless examples of constant failure and rejection.  dating  coaches of course will put it down as lack of effort, poor methods and/or unwillingness to “lower” ones standards but those of us without a financial motive who are directly experiencing it have a far different perspective.

        it’s like someone saying “winning the lottery is impossible” and then being told “no it’s not just look at the newspaper and you will see that people win all the time”.  many times having no hope is preferable to having false hope and expectations.

         

        1. ScottH

          well, that’s a dreary outlook.  but I understand where you are coming from.

        2. Evan Marc Katz

          Your analogy falls flat.

          250 people per year become lottery millionaires by sheer dint of luck.

          2.3 million women marry every year and 500,000 meet thru online dating, which increases your odds of getting a date and is also a skill.

          If you think there is no skill to dating, 1. please listen to my podcast which asks the same question 2. check out the latest one on bad dating advice and 3. Let me know if a guy ever did something stupid on a date that prevented you from wanting to see him again. Of course people need dating advice. Ascribing success to luck is sorely mistaken and likely keeping you stuck where you are.

    1. 3.2
      Karl S

      “romantic success has little to do with one’s effort or methods but instead comes down to winning the genetic lottery, coincidence and blind luck.”

      Being genetically gifted in the looks department will certainly make it easier to attract others and it will help you get noticed by other genetically gifted people, but it says nothing about whether you will be more romantically successful. You might argue that being psychically attractive to others gives you more opportunities to find the right partner compared to an average looker, but in the end you still have to A – develop the outlook and skills for navigating a real relationship, and B – find someone who can do the same.

      if one is attractive enough, being an introvert is not considered as a negative and instead the person often is looked on as being deep and mysterious which only adds to their attractiveness.

      Or it can have the opposite effect. Being attractive immediately polarizes you in the eyes of others. It can make people want you, but it can also make them hostile to you when you don’t want them back. A quiet, average looking girl might be ‘invisible’, but a quiet or aloof girl who is good looking might be perceived as snob or a bitch because she is noticed more.

      1. 3.2.1
        Stacy

        Oh, and let’s not forget that when you are really attractive, lots of people assume you are already taken or have a personality defect.lol

        1. Christine

          Or people assume someone that good looking must be stupid lol.  I once read a David Sedaris story where he assumed that an extremely good-looking guy must be stupid, because it’s unfair for someone to have both looks and brains lol!

          He was being facetious but there are lots of people who think that.  I actually read an interview where Ryan Phillippe resents how people assume his fiancee must be a bimbo, because she’s in her 20s and  looks like a supermodel (she’s a Stanford Law graduate)

          I personally don’t think super attractive people always have some defect.  It’s not a quota where you can only have good looks at the expense of other qualities.  But, some people do think that way.

  4. 4
    Adrian

    Rachel,

     

    You are missing the point (in my opinion). The point of pain, failure, and heartache is to use those experiences as tools to teach us how to recognize a good partner from a bad one, and how to treat that partner once we find them. Turning something that is meant to cripple us into something that strengthens us.

     

    Just because you have dated bad men, does not mean all men are bad men. Many women tell the story of how they had to date a lot of frogs before they found their guy. These are not sweet overnight stories, but stories that lasted for years and even some times through marriages; the 20 year old still looking for real love, becomes the 60 year old who finds real love for the first time!

     

    Scary right! (O_O) Where is Hollywood when you need it.

     

    However, real life is NOT like a hollywood movie! It takes longer than 2 hours to reach your happy ending:

    >in the movies you date only one bad jerk boyfriend before you meet a great guy. In reality there are usually dozens of bad boyfriends you will date for years!!!

    >In the movies you easily see him for the manipulator he is on the first date. In reality you usually don’t see that until months or even a year or more later.

    >In the movies when it comes to spotting manipulators you are always sharp, quick, and decisive. In reality you fall in love with those guys, you don’t see their true colors for months, and you question yourself as to if you should dump him or not; if it is your fault or not.

    >In the movies bad boyfriends are horrible and selfish courtiers. In reality they are often funny, charming, fun to be around, generous, giving, and kind in the beginning.

    >In the movies, your friends and family always warn you that he is no good. In reality, often times they are just as fooled by his charm as you are. There are no easy or subtle warnings for a bad boyfriend BUT time! 

     

    Many men and women have dealt with similar partners as you Rachel for years before they found someone truly worth their time.

     

    What keeps them going (in my opinion)  are three things.

    1). The understanding that all men/women are not like the ex’s that hurt them.

    2). They refused to become someone else in order to get a husband/wife.

    3). They decided to quit EVERY day, as they continually to put their next foot forward in dating.

    …   …   …

    Personally Rachel, I believe that you know all of this, I think you are just hurting and that is normal, we have all been there. Nevertheless, if you do get a guy to marry you, do you think you would be happier in the long run with a guy you had to manipulate in order for him to show you devotion; or would you be happier with a guy who devoted himself to you because of your kindness???

     

    Only you can answer that, I don’t know what kind of person you think is better; the person who does whatever to win, or the person who suffers for years because they held onto their integrity. Again, in the movies, the person who held onto integrity always has a happy ending, in reality, they sometimes don’t.

    1. 4.1
      cookie

      “Just because you have dated bad men, does not mean all men are bad men.”

      do people around here think stating the obvious makes them sound smart?

  5. 5
    sparkxx

    @ Cookie
    No. it is not a pissing contest about who is smarter. It is simply the fact that these seemingly obvious facts are often the ones under looked. Like say, if you eat junk food, you’ll get fat. if you don’t save, your future is bleak.
    Trust me, after a string of unsuccessful dates, a person is bound to think that all men/ women are the same and effectively hang their dating boots.
    While dating success cannot be left to chance, good genes or sheer luck as has been suggested somewhere in this thread, there are still some people who are yet to achieve the success even when they put their best foot forward all the time.
    In the end I guess, dating should be approached with a certain level of personal confidence…if you are warm no need to hold back. Do what you ought to do to be the best date ever. if the other person doesn’t get that, it’s their loss.

    1. 5.1
      Adrian

      Sparkxx,

      Thank you!

      I did not reply to Cookie because I did not wish to feed the troll.

      I is never about sounding smart!

      It is about showing someone that they are not alone and that others understand their struggle with dating, because they are or have been there.

  6. 6
    a

    Great great article, LUV IT

  7. 7
    Lucy

    I agree with  you. I’m naturally shy and introverted so I’ve had to learn in life that being a warm person will get me further in any social relationship, whether or not it feels fake to me. By that I mean I don’t like being insincere but I’ve been found that showing that I seem to take an interest in people, even people I don’t really know will eventually win  me more influence. So for instance I’ll ask a stranger how their weekend was even though I have only just met them so really it doesn’t have much impact on me. I have just stopped overthinking it. Now I’m  more practiced in this,  I’ve become a warmer person anyway.

    I am a warm person and though I do take my time to get to know a man, I hope he thinks I’m more mysterious than stand-offish.  I mean I don’t plan to do anything other than being myself. It’s just exhausting and unnecessary to do otherwise. You can be kind and still have appropriate boundaries e.g. I am not a people pleaser, I have my own opinions and I don’t try too hard. That’s just me being myself and not playing games. When you get more relationships under your belt you also know the appropriate amount of effort to make a different stages so you don’t get walked over or seen as an easy target. I think it’s important to be warm but show the man that you have your wits about you. You do have to be a little bit forward. The girls I know who are like this get noticed more because men like to feel that they are a stud/getting special attention from her.

    I like Rachel’s basic approach. I don’t make an effort not to show my interest or play games but I show just enough to intrigue the guy. I just don’t put it right out there for him to see plainly so it would overwhelm him. This is behaviour that comes naturally to me, not a game. I’ve just learned that less is more over the years due to being burnt and as long a he gets an inkling that  you like him, you don’t need to shove it in his face haha. I will then be warm to the guy in a quasi-romantic way and I do put myself out there but hold back the passion until I feel he’s on board. If he doesn’t respond I still know that I have put myself out there enough and I can always dismiss it as a casual flirt.

  8. 8
    Droop

     

    First impressions mean nothing if your ugly believe me I found out the hard way that women are more shallow.

  9. 9
    AP

    The 3rd question (for guys) at first glance appears to be “would I want to have sex with her”. For a woman like myself who comes off as both warm and honest, that does not seem to be enough to make that good first impression. If you are considered pretty, but not thin (size 14 which is average for American standards), the other 2 human qualities Evan describes don’t seem to be relevant for dating. Trust and respect get put in “friend I can trust” box.  I would say that having a 10% “bitch” quota will initially get a man interested.

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