How to Earn Instant Respect

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy reveals the secret to establishing instant rapport. In her book, “Presence”, she argues that these are the first two questions that people ask themselves when they first meet you:

  1. Can they trust you?
  2. Can they respect you?

In this order. And that’s the first takeaway: without trust, professional relationships are doomed to fail. No matter how capable you are or how big a game you can talk. Come across as sly or untrustworthy and you are done.

I hear you: Trust is something that takes long to build. True. But surprisingly, we humans decide in a split second whether someone could be trustworthy. Why? It has to do with evolution, as our survival depends on spotting threats, whether in natural hazards or other people. To save our butts, our instincts are faster than our rational thinking. Sure, you can earn a deeper level of trust after you’ve known somebody for a while, but research shows that we instinctively form a first impression of how trustworthy we deem somebody. And as Cuddy argues, that’s the gateway to the relationship. After all, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

So do I know techniques to help you come across as more trustworthy the first time you meet others? You bet I do! Let me share 3 of these techniques with you today.

A. Be Genuine (within social norms)

“Be yourself” has gotta be the lamest business advice you could get, right? Actually it’s the best advice: try to be someone you’re not and you’ll send the other person’s caveman instincts reeling. Unless your acting is Oscar-grade (hint: it’s probably not), even if others can’t quite put their finger on why, they’ll get a strange vibe from you and keep you at a distance.

It’s true that you might want to tweak some of your behaviours to be more agreeable. Consciously try to smile more, but don’t smile if you really don’t feel like it. Give a positive spin when you say things, unless the situation at hand is unmistakably negative. Look, I’m no one to tell you how to best be yourself (lol), but social norms are important when you’re trying to impress someone. So understand the social norms, tweak the parts of your style that stray too much from those, and otherwise relax and be yourself. I bet you you won’t feel like a phoney. And people will gravitate towards you.

B. Establish Vision Match

We tend to trust the people who have the same vision of the world as we do. It’s not necessarily wise, in fact sometimes we need to hear the opposite of what we already think. But it’s true nonetheless that we’re more likely to follow advice that reinforces our world view.

The “Value-Based Selling” methodology advocates establishing a ‘Vision Match’ with your interlocutor early on. Finding a common view will help you sell anything to them, including a better perception of you. Old-school selling advice wrongly suggests to lie, “if they like fishing, tell them you also like fishing”. This is a terrible idea: as you already know, our instincts can spot a phoney from miles away.

So be yourself and try to find opinions or interests you genuinely share. They like fishing? Ask them why: maybe they like the outdoors and you can discuss the recent hikes you’ve been on. Or change the subject to talk about your favourite restaurants and bro out over your mutual fascination with South Indian food. A helpful tip I learned from the Dalai Lama’s writings is that all humans deep down enjoy the same things: their loved ones, delicious food, and Game of Thrones (not a direct quote).

C. Leave something on the table

This advice may not apply to your first meeting with someone, but it can work wonders if you get the chance to apply it early on in the relationship. In his insightful sales book “Getting More”, Stuart Diamond suggests to build good will by always “leaving something on the table”. So if you have the chance of shaming someone, help them save face instead. If you’re negotiating with somebody, don’t squeeze them for all they have. Cut them some slack (and make sure they realise that you’re doing it), and I bet you they’ll love you in return.

Coming across as trustworthy is the first step towards a successful business relationship. However, to avoid becoming a “lovable fool”, you need to also tackle the 2nd step and convey to others that you’re worthy of their respect. If trust is earned through integrity, respect is earned through ability.

To command respect, you first have to be good at something. And you want to build your expertise before you meet that important person for the first time. That is why the 1st step in my sales career progression method is called “Master Your Trade”. You can learn more about my Sales Leader Accelerator method HERE. And feel free to send any questions to me directly on