People judge you based on 2 things

Whether it’s in a personal or professional setting, we all want to be liked.

While it may seem that the key to being liked by others is complicated and mysterious, researchers have determined the way humans judge one another boils down to two key factors – and they’re probably not what you would have guessed.

The Stereotype Content Model

In 2002, researchers Fiske, Cuddy, Glick and Xu examined how humans make sense of one another. The study took a look at how we relate to both individuals and groups of people and what characteristics we perceive as positive as a whole. 

In learning more about how humans evaluate one another, researchers found that discerning the intent individuals have toward us is critical. This is likely due to our evolutionary perspective.

When encountering another human, our survival skills dictate that we need to know whether this person is safe and trustworthy or poses a threat. 

Once we’ve determined that the person we’ve just encountered is indeed safe and non-threatening, we then need to know whether or not they have the ability to be of service to us.

For our ancestors, this meant evaluating this person’s hunting skills. Today, it might be how you perform at your job or using an educated vocabulary.

The two key factors

According to the Stereotype Content Model, portraying yourself as warm to people you encounter will make you more likable. Per the theory above, people who appear non-threatening and friendly appear more trustworthy. 

The second key factor is competence – whether or not you seem capable and educated.

However, researchers found that warmth needs to be emulated by a person first to win someone over. Why is that? Back to the example of our ancestors, whether or not you excel at hunting and gathering isn’t important if you can’t be trusted. 

Leading with warmth first, then showing competence, is critical. But what’s more, the study found that groups of people who exhibited one characteristic without the other were viewed less favorably.

For example, senior citizens are non-threatening and viewed as warm – but due to their age, they are not perceived as competent. Competent groups like high-ranking businessmen and women or the wealthy are perceived as highly competent –but viewed as cold, which harms their overall favorability. The lowest of all groups were stereotyped as both untrustworthy and incompetent, such as drug addicts and the homeless.  

Of course, there are exceptions to this model – rich people who continuously use their money and power for good tend to have a more positive perception.

There are plenty of well-educated members of the senior population that are respected. But using this model as a basis for how you portray yourself to those you encounter can prove beneficial.

The next time you’re introduced to someone new, try leading with warmth, then competence to put this model to the test.