Harvard social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, says people quickly size you up by answering two questions when they meet you.
Can I trust you?
Can I respect you?
Is one of these more important than the other?
Hard-driving Type-A personalities might argue that respect (i.e. Competence) is the key. So they spend a lot of energy showing how smart and capable they are.
But in fact, research shows that Trust (i.e. Warmth) is more important. Cuddy explains, “From an evolutionary perspective it’s more important to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.” The first, most important thing we want to know about a stranger is, “Am I safe with you?” Once safety is established, we can focus on competence.
Several years ago I wrote a similar piece with tips on how to build trust with people who value safety vs. accountability. Two distinct, but important types of first impressions. It shows that trust is more than just warmth, and that personality influences how people experience trust.
Tips for building trust through warmth
Here are three ways to show you can be trusted and send the message that others are safe with you.
- Disclose: Be transparent with them. It’s OK to share your feelings and personal side. Making the first move with your own vulnerability is a key to building safety.
- Validate: Show your support by asking how they are doing, listening, being genuine with them, and encouraging them. Reassure them that you will accept them even if they make a mistake or don’t know all the answers.
- Empathize: Connect through shared emotional experiences. Don’t one-up them with your trials and tribulations, but at least show them you can make an emotional connection.
If you are a “competence first” kind of person, try earning trust through warmth and safety. Once you do that, others will be much more receptive to your accomplishments, skills and abilities.
Maybe it takes Harvard Research for the “competence-first’ people to take note. The rest have been saying it for generations,
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Our research on compassion shows that the strongest bonds are formed when we focus on safety, curiosity, and consistency; in that order. Learn how with our Compassion Mindset course.