Despite First Impressions, There’s a Chance You Like Me…

In this week’s column, Dan Ariely looks at an issue I have often thought about, first impressions.

Being on the quiet side, I often think that I do not make a good first impression. To be honest, I blame it on my quiet side, but in reality, there could be several things about me that lead to leaving a poor first impression.

Some people may be disarmed by my rapier wit, my George Clooney-like appearance, my natural charisma, and my knowledge of double-entry bookkeeping. But tossing all those aside, I’ll assume it is my introverted nature.

Fortunately, Dan offers some research to indicate that while most of us may think we do not make a good first impression, that is usually not be the truth.

Here is the email he received.

Dear Dan,

This past weekend I attended a wedding. I enjoyed getting to know the people at my table, but I can’t stop worrying about the impression I left on them, and whether I may have come across as boring. I would like to meet up with these people again, but I am hesitant to contact them after this terrible first encounter. What do you think I should do? —Laura

and here is Dan’s response:

On average, we tend to be more likable than we think we are. Yet most people hold very low opinions of themselves, and especially of their conversational abilities. This mismatch between our perceptions of ourselves and others’ opinions of us is known as the “liking gap.”

The liking gap was first demonstrated in 2018. Researchers randomly paired people for 5-minute conversations, after which each was asked to rate how much they liked the other and how much they believed their partner liked them. Overall, participants made better impressions than they thought they had and underestimated how much their partners liked them.

The truth may be that we spend so much time and energy worrying about our own behavior and the impressions we’re giving out that we miss positive signals from others, such as smiles and laughter. It may be useful to remember that your conversation partners are also likely to be worrying about their own behavior and impressions, leaving them little capacity to really pay attention to you. Ask yourself if you remember and care about every little mistake your conversation partner made. Assume that your conversation partner is as generous as you are in judging other people and remembers as few of their small mistakes. Chances are that you are much more likable than you think you are, so go ahead and contact the other guests from the wedding.

I certainly feel that whomever I am speaking with is much more interesting than I am. I also think that person can’t wait to move on from our conversation so that they can speak with somebody more interesting than myself.

But what if that were not the case? What if I am suffering from the liking gap?

Does that mean I have to stay in touch with people I’ve just met?

If that’s the case, then I’ll have to try even harder to be one of the exceptions to the liking gap…

100 thoughts on “Despite First Impressions, There’s a Chance You Like Me…

  1. It may be true that we leave a better first impression than we think. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Studies have shown that those who make a bad first impression, and then show their likability later, tend to be more liked than those who make a good first impression and continue to show their likability.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That could be it. But I was thinking maybe they’re more likable because they’re seen as more genuine. When someone isn’t afraid to show their darker side, then their brighter side is more believable.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. I think Tippy is on to something about his suggestion with the prison guard. You would have a captive audience for your Puns! They would be on their best behavior to get paroled early! 😂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Information I wished I knew when I was younger. I usually feel as if I am always the unremarkable one that no one will care to remember. I feel any remarkability that I possess goes into my blogs. The written words are always better than the spoken ones.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I do agree that we are more worried than we should be when trying to make a first impression. and I think we tend to get less worried the older we are. It just doesn’t matter as much. Not that I want to be disliked, but … not everyone is going to like you, its just that simple. That shouldn’t make you like yourself less though! And actually there is truth in the more that you like yourself the more others will like you. I am not talking about being arrogant, for arrogance turns me off really fast, but just being self-confident in who we are, flaws and everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Introverts should prefer making bad first impressions. It saves them/us from more uncomfortable personal interactions. At this point in life, I’m not trying hard to impress people. Many people we meet only care about how they can get others can to support their interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know a few people who fit the opposite profile. They think they are more likable than they are. I knew a guy, who wasn’t a pretty good dude, but he had an excessively high opinion of himself. He was the type of guy who used to swing for the fences (To borrow a baseball analogy in light of the World Series) when it came to girls. I admired his belief in himself, but sadly he never got the girl. I don’t think he ever married.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is very dangerous information for people like me who are already in trouble for thinking we make better impressions than we do. Now we will be applying the likability gap factor and assuming that we make even better impressions than the already inflated one we are imagining.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I think the trick to making a good first impression is to listen more than you speak. Most people love talking about themselves. If you give them the chance, they will talk at length. All said and done, they will have learned little about you, but they still walk away with a good first impression. I save “tooting my own horn” for second and third impressions where there is less competition.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. remember sally field’s famous oscar acceptance speech? “you like me, you really like me!” yes, i am a victim of this as well, i can never gauge another’s reaction to me other than the “this is really boring” comment from a child or a giant yawn. i see those actions as signs.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This is the opposite of my problems lol I have a general dose of social anxiety. I tend to opt out of social events but when I’m there, I try to get by with my humour. I used to care about the first impression I left but I realize sometimes second and third impressions can be better at helping us get to know others!

    Great points about how most ppl are worried about how they are portrayed than judging others in the moment! It’s helpful to remember!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Stuff like this always makes me think of Sally Field’s Oscar speech. “You like me. Right now. You like me!” (And the fact that I have never felt the urge to say that after an encounter with anyone.) Maybe we all have those insecurities.

    I like you, Quincy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Based on the number of comments, this topic seems to resonate with many. I’d wager that my liking gap is huge. No one could possibly be as unliked as I rate myself after social encounters. I would do well to remember the study Dan described. If I worried less about being liked during conversations, people would probably like me more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel the same way; I just don’t like many social events for this reason. But it is somewhat comforting to know that many, many people feel the same way. and that people are often kinder to us than we are to ourselves…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. In my teaching career, the science behind “first impressions” was found in my numerous job interviews, meeting new staff, and of course my students. In looking back, I guess I did better than I may have originally thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m a very shy person and one thing my shrink told me back when I was going to therapy was that humans are incredibly self-absorbed. You may be freaking out about your appearance, conversation etc but the other person probably won’t even notice or remember it at the end of the day. Just like you don’t remember everything someone says to you or exactly what they look like saying it others don’t remember these things either. So I definitely think people are better at socialising then they think they are because we are the only ones fixating on our flaws- the other person probably doesn’t even notice them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah for sure. It’s made me a lot less self conscious because I don’t fixate on my flaws anymore. I don’t care that much about others flaws so I just assume they don’t care about mine either.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. Since I’m about to embark on another new life (I think this one will be at least my 3rd) I’m trying to figure out what kind of impression, (1st, 3rd or otherwise) I want to make/leave. In one of my past new lives I remember saying I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be/do when I grew up. In this upcoming new life I think I have moved beyond that point in that I now have some fairly solid ideas about that but have yet to figure out how to present them to new people. My old people already know me well enough to be able to keep up with me! Anyway, and either way, given my past and present I probably don’t really care very much if I leave a likability gap in my future.

    Liked by 1 person

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