How People Judge Your Personality at Work
She’s bright. He’s impatient. She’s quick to blame. He’s kind and generous. We form impressions about people quickly, often based on a fleeting glimpse of their behavior. We can’t help it; we’re wired to quickly judge others. So it seems appropriate to turn the issue around and question what leads people to form an impression about you when they’ve just met you, or even just seen you across a room.
Little momentary things can be enormously influential. For example, smiling makes you seem friendly—as long as it’s not a nervous smile that reveals anxiety. Studies suggest that a genuine smile can deter strangers from drawing negative conclusions that they might otherwise make based on such visible information as gender or ethnicity.
Eye contact can show you’re fully present, whereas lack of eye contact or a shifting gaze can give the impression of disinterest or untrustworthiness. Of course, eye contact is one of several nonverbal cues that can have very different meanings in different cultures, so depending on where you are, a lack of eye contact could also be a sign of respect.
How people treat others also conveys information, which means people can form an impression about you just by listening and observing. When I recently spent an unpleasant (though thankfully painless) afternoon getting a root canal, I couldn’t help but notice how respectfully my endodontist treated his assistant. Evidence of kindness and respect suggest a lot about a person, and this applies to all of us, not just the dentally inclined.
Think about other things that influence how you form conclusions about others. Do they talk primarily about themselves, or do they inquire about you (and listen when you get a word in edgewise)? Do they meet commitments? Are they relentlessly late for appointments or usually on time? Do they allow you to be less than perfect or trounce you for the smallest mistake? Are they even-tempered or fond of moaning and groaning? All these things can similarly influence how others form impressions about you.
In the workplace, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that everything you say and do—and much of what you don’t say and don’t do—can influence how others perceive you.