In a former life I was a pastor, and I still like the advice from the Bible that tells us to be slow to judge – don’t cast the first stone! But the truth is that people are very quick to judge others. According to the experts people are hard-wired to judge others quickly because it keeps us safe from threats. People have been making rapid judgements of others for thousands of years – and the question we need answered is: friend or foe? In other words, are they going to kill us or befriend us?
I came across an interesting article recently on the Bustler website. This article got certified by practising psychologists to what people base character judgements on today.
Psychologist Kellie Zeigler says our brain seeks to identify anyone who could disrupt our life and cause us grief. For example, when your brain judges someone to be ‘rude’, you'll know to stay away so you don’t get hurt.
Psychotherapist Jacob Brown says humans are tribal people and our brains are wired to understand our status in our community as a means of survival.
“If you think of pack animals, a member of the pack doesn’t want to start acting too dominant or the leader may attack him,” Dr Brown told Bustler. “At the same time, they don’t want to be too submissive or they may not get all the food they’re entitled to. Accurately assessing your position in your social group enhances your chances of survival.”
According to Dr Brown, on a base level we are still determining the social hierarchy and out entitlement to resources when we judge someone we’ve just met.
Some people judge others by their clothes, appearance, education and job. Those cues help us determine whether we’re above or below them in the social hierarchy which influences how we behave going forward. Again people have been doing this for thousands of years. Just think how radical contemporary religions are like Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. These religions implore you to stop making judgements and instead love everyone! Alas, people still succumb to primal urges, like judging others and according to psychologists, this is the criteria many people use.
1. Hand temperature
Yes, seriously! Psychologist Elizabeth Irias says if you have cold hands people will perceive you as cold-hearted. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that people think others are more generous and caring when they shake hands with someone who’s just been holding a hot drink. “People assume that individuals with warm hands are warm and kind, and that people with cold hands are cold and unemotional,” Dr Irias told Bustler. If you have an important meeting coming up, and you want to be seen as warm, hold a cup of warm liquid or hand-warmer just before you shake hands.
2. Your name
I know you have no control over this but a 2018 study found that your first name influences how others judge your personality, age, and competency. Researchers from Syracuse University conducted a study of 500 university students and asked them to rate popular names. Female names were more associated with warmth than competence. Male names associated more with competence. Names like Dolores or Donald were considered to be older than names like Danielle or David. Names that were found to be both highly competent and warm included Anna, Caroline, Elizabeth, John, and Matthew – many of our traditional names. You can bet Peaches, Apple and Rainbow Sparkle didn’t rate! Of course if people had negative experiences with a certain name, they were more likely to rate them more negatively.
3. Eye contact
A 2015 study from the Academy of Finland found that the way you react to eye contact influences how people perceive your personality. People who avoid eye contact are perceived as anxious and self-conscious, which is a shame because in many Asian and indigenous cultures it is rude to look someone in the eyes. “Usually, introverts or shy people have issues holding eye contact for a prolonged period of time, especially when they meet someone for the first time or when they are nervous,” Diana Venckunaite, a life coach, told Bustle. “Extroverts or confident people don’t have issues with eye contact, and can carry on conversations without the need to look away.”
4. If you gossip about others
Ms Venckunaite says you can tell a lot by observing someone’s interaction with people around them, especially with people that have lower status or smaller job titles. How someone treats others or what they say about speaks volumes about the size of their ego, and the amount of respect and compassion they have. As my mother said, if you can’t say something nice about someone then don’t say anything at all. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people judge you based on how you judge others. If you have a tendency to describe others in positive ways, it shows that you’re likely a happy, kind-hearted, and emotionally stable person.
5. Your face
A 2018 New York University study found that people make instance judgments on faces based on their pre-existing beliefs about personalities. For example, you’re likely to judge people with babyish features as agreeable or harmless because babies are agreeable and harmless. However your assumptions may not be accurate, it’s just instinct.
6. Your voice
A 2019 study from the Université Aix-Marseille and the University of Glasgow found that people judge personalities based on voice alone. Participants were asked to judge others on trustworthiness, dominance, and competence, after hearing them say “Hello”. Regardless of the language spoken, participants were able to say that certain voices sounded more aggressive or confident by hearing just one word. They also judged other voices as being trustworthy and warm.
7. Your physical appearance
Physical appearance shouldn’t matter but it does. A 2009 study found that some people judge on appearance alone. Participants in the study were shown over 100 photographs of people they didn’t know. Some photographs showed people in a controlled pose with a neutral expression, while others were in a naturally expressive pose like smiling. Even when the photographs had someone in a controlled pose, participants were able to accurately judge them for some major personality traits. But when the person in the photo was in a natural pose, participants were able to accurately judge them for nine out of 10 major traits including extraversion, openness, likability, and loneliness.
I guess the take-out message is that people will judge you regardless of what you do or how you look, sound or feel. You can't control how others perceive you. Do not be upset by others’ prejudices or misperceptions. It is crucial that you respect yourself, and remember what the Bible says – be slow to judge others. Try to get to know someone first … and that can take years in some cases!
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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.