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As humans, we naturally judge each other within seconds, but what exactly are we judging?

Some people might say that we analyze how attractive someone is. While others believe that we evaluate their dress sense and what it means about their personality.

But both of these are wrong, according to psychology professor Amy Cuddy.

In fact, in her new book called “Presence,” she says that people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:

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

Psychologists call these factors as warmth and competence, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.

While most people assume competency as the most important factor, especially in a professional context, Cuddy says that actually trustworthiness is the most important factor, which makes sense according to evolution.

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

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Cuddy says that competence is highly valued, but it’s only analyzed after trust has been established.

In fact, focusing too much on displaying what you’re good at can often backfire.

Cuddy says MBA interns are a perfect example of this. Usually they are so concerned with coming across as competent and intelligent that they can skip social events, refuse to ask for help, and come off as hard to talk to.

Cuddy says that these people are in for a rude awakening when they don’t get a job offer because nobody got to them know enough to develop trust in them.

“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. 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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