5 Secret Judgments People Make When They Meet You (And Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Them)

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One tenth of one second.

Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov say that’s how long we have to make a good impression on people we meet.

Here’s what people wonder about you.

What are people snap judging about us in the blink of an eye? Two things, says social psychologist Amy Cuddy. When they meet us, people are asking themselves:

  1. What is this person’s intention toward me?
  2. How strong and competent is this person?

But it goes beyond that.

Researchers have discovered people also judge these 5 things as soon as they meet us.

1. Our sense of adventure.

Researcher John Thoresen and his partners asked people to make judgments about strangers while they walked. They found observers believed people with a loose, expansive walking style were adventurous and extroverted. (As it turns out, the observers were often wrong about that. Moral of the story: don’t get all judgey about how people walk.)

2. How smart we are.

Similar research has shown people assume a person is smart if they make direct eye contact, talk fast, or have a strong handshake.

(But don’t babble purposelessly because studies suggest THAT is a big turnoff. As if we needed research to tell us that.)

Strangers also determine how smart we are by what we’re wearing (and studies say that especially includes our glasses and our shoes).

3. Whether we’re successful.

A UK study showed that people quickly pick up on even minor facets of clothing. For example, observers had a more positive impression of men who wore tailored suits than they had of men who wore regular suits off the rack.

4. How important we are.

A study from Evolution and Human Behavior show that strangers gave preferential treatment to those whose clothing displayed brand name labels.

(Sidenote: Does “society” sound  suspiciously like middle school to anyone else?)

5. If we’re trustworthy.

When University of Glasgow psychologist Phil McAleer played recordings of the word “hello” to listeners, he found higher pitched male voices were judged to be less aggressive and more friendly.

(So practice your falsetto, gentlemen.)

Women, however, were judged to be trustworthy if their voices lowered at the end of a sentence.

Holy Smokes. That’s a lot to remember.

If the way people judge each other isn’t disappointing enough, there’s also this: It’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE to change someone’s first impression over time.

No pressure, right?

But we’re not panicking.

Let’s try to boil these judgments down to a few key insights. Like being fully present and engaged when we’re meeting people.

When we center on offering people attention and respect, a lot of these social behaviors tend to fall into place. We don’t just make eye contact, but we actually see and hear the people around us. We notice and appreciate each others’ differences. And let’s face it, when we show people deliberate kindness, they’re often so gobsmacked they could care less what brand of jeans we’re wearing.

When we show up with hope in our eyes and make people feel welcome, newcomers want to be around us. And the comfortable space we create allows more slow-building and multi-dimensional impressions to form, which paves the road to friendships that benefit our lives.

So look people in the eyes and have a strong handshake. Practice good body language and offer some small talk. Sure. But the best tip for making friends as an adult? Just be nice.

Interested in reading more research about friendship? Click here or here.

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  1. KeithConnor

    I snap judge people all the time. It’s such a bad habit as this article reminded me. People who like this stuff might like that Blink book by Malcolm Gladwell. I think that’s the title of the one where he talks about thin-slicing people?

  2. KareBear

    This is crazzzzzzzy. I guess it’s not that surprising though. I’m glad the article ended the way it did because I was about to be afraid to talk to anyone!!

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