You don’t need to say a word…
Every agent worth their salt knows how important it is for prospective clients to understand that they are trustworthy – but not many know that those they meet will decide on their trustworthiness in just one-tenth of a second.
This was just one of the results of a recent survey by Princeton university aimed at showing just how quickly people decide what to think about others they have just met, including their status and intelligence.
During the survey, researchers at the university gave one group of students 100 milliseconds to rate the attractiveness, competence, likeability, aggressiveness, and trustworthiness of actors’ faces.
Members of another group were able to take as long as they wanted and while the assessment of other traits differed depending on the time spent looking at the faces, the assessment of trustworthiness was basically the same for everyone – one-tenth of a second.
What is more, it takes the average human twice as long as this to consciously recognise a face, which suggests that the assessment of trustworthiness (or threat) in others is something that people still do almost sub-consciously – and certainly long before any verbal interaction has taken place.
Meanwhile it is interesting to note the outcome of similar studies conducted around different characteristics over the years. These have found, for example, that people wearing name-brand clothes are generally perceived to be of higher status than those wearing non-designer garments, and that those wearing tailored clothes are perceived as being more successful in business and more likely to get promoted than those in casual attire.
A study at Loyola Marymount University found that looking people in the eye when speaking resulted in a better rating for intelligence as well as credibility, while a University of Pennsylvania study found that men with shaved heads are perceived to be more dominant than similar men with full heads of hair.
Psychologists call this type of instant decision-making about others “thin slicing” and it underlines the importance of practicing and perfecting non-verbal communication skills that will give people the right micro-clues about your personality.