Whether you’re looking to secure a new job or going on a first date, it goes without saying that making a good first impression is key. While most of us have at some point or the other worried about how we fared, looks like we can take a back seat and relax. According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, we are better at making a good first impression than we think.
Researchers call this gap, that is the gap between the impression we thought we made and the impression we actually made, the “liking gap” – something that can affect our ability to develop new relationships.
“Our research suggests that accurately estimating how much a new conversation partner likes us – even though this a fundamental part of social life and something we have ample practice with – is a much more difficult task than we imagine,” the authors of the study Erica Boothby, PhD, from Cornell University, and Gus Cooney, PhD, from Harvard University, explain. In other words, we are really bad at accurately guessing what people really think of us.
The researchers conducted a series of five studies in total to understand the liking gap. The first study involved strangers having a short conversation with each other. Following this, the participants were asked how much they thought other people who had a conversation with them liked them and also how much they liked others who were involved in the exercise.
On an average, it was found and surprisingly so, that people made a better impression on others than they thought.
“They seem to be too wrapped up in their own worries about what they should say or did say to see signals of others’ liking for them”, says Margaret S Clark, Professor of Psychology from Yale University. “The liking gap works very differently. When it comes to social interaction and conversation, people are often hesitant, uncertain about the impression they’re leaving on others, and overly critical of their own performance”.
“In light of people’s vast optimism in other domains, people’s pessimism about their conversations is surprising”, the study explains.
Maybe the next time you need to make a first impression, keeping this in mind may help you feel a little less nervous and a lot more confident.