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Creating a Warm Welcome

When we first meet someone, we very quickly start to form impressions about them. I am sure you have come across the stats about how long it takes us to form our first impressions…and how hard it is for us to change them. If not, it all happens literally in a matter of seconds. We are alarmingly fast and remarkably perceptive at determining our social impression of new people who we meet.

The first two assessments we make, are whether or not someone is competent, and whether we feel warmth towards them or not. These then account for 82% of the evaluations we go on to make about someone’s social behaviours. 82%! Of the two, people are usually more sensitive to ‘warmth’ information, and they use it to quickly build a picture of how trustworthy someone is and how helpful they will be.

No wonder lots of people feel pressured when we go to networking events. The sad truth is, we are all being judged and assessed before we’ve even got ourselves a drink. And there lies an opportunity…

Neuroscience research has shown that some of the same areas within the brain process physical sensations of warmth, and psychological sensations of warmth – that is, when we feel warmly towards someone. For years, studies have shown that warmth and comfort are highly significant in the social development of both animals and children, being even more important than food when faced with times of uncertainty and stress. So strong is the connection, that feelings of physical warmth, activate feelings of interpersonal warmth.

So, I’m going to let you into a secret. This means that if we want people to feel warmly towards us, to create an impression of us being warm, friendly and trustworthy, we simply have to activate their warmth sensors within the insular cortex. And how are we going to do that I hear you ask? Easy. Just get them to hold a mug of warm drink. Seriously.

Yes, if someone holds a warm drink, they are significantly more likely to perceive people they meet having greater interpersonal warmth, than if they hold a cold drink. Moreover, they are likely to be more generous too, choosing rewards for friends over themselves when given the opportunity.

So, the next time you are about to meet an important visitor, or want to build trust quickly, remember that if they are holding something warm, they will judge you more favourably.

Finally, scientific evidence for why mugs are preferable over cups and saucers!