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Do you trust yourself?

I want to ask you a personal question – who do you trust? I mean, if you had to rate people in order of the trust you place in them, who would come at the top? And who at the bottom? Where would your partner be? Your best friend? Or your boss?

More importantly, where would YOU come on the list? That is, to what extent do you trust yourself?

The reason I am asking you these questions is that I have recently been re-reading some research which I think is fascinating. We have all heard about the fact that you should not judge a book by its cover, and yet we all frequently do. And we are good at it too.

The research took a group of students and asked them to rate their university tutor in a number of categories. They had been taught by that professor for a term, so were used to them and knew them relatively well. They were asked to rate the tutor in areas related to their effectiveness, areas such as how ‘accepting’, ‘competent’, ‘active’ and ‘confident’ they were.

Then, a group of students from a different university were shown a video clip of the same tutor and asked to rate them on the same scales. And after watching just 5 mins of footage, they came to the same conclusions as the tutors’ own class had done. So, having seen them deliver just 5 mins of content, the students formed the same impressions of that tutor as a group of students who had experienced a full term of their lectures.

Then the researchers did something interesting. They turned the sound off. They played the now silent footage to a different group of students who had no prior knowledge of the teacher. You guessed it, they too made the same, apparently accurate assessments. By now there was one question in the minds of the researchers…is it in your mind too?

How much could they reduce the time by before the accuracy of the assessments being made by the students was no longer significant? From 5 mins they cut it and they cut it further. Until they got to… ? Well, what would your estimate be?

You see my point here is that I think we generally don’t trust ourselves as much as we should. We override our instincts and gut-feelings, opting instead to get quantified data or carry out time-consuming research. At some level, we will know very quickly if we like someone, believe them, connect to them…or trust them.

I’ll put my hand up to having not listened to my own instincts before, and it cost me…badly. I let someone who I did not trust, cause me immense financial and emotional hardship. Why did I not act on my instincts? Why was it only once it had happened that I found myself thinking “I knew he was going to be trouble”? Is it lack of confidence or self-esteem or self-belief? Or is it cultural pressures, our reliance on science and observable evidence?

So, back to the students in our research. Remember the situation? One group had studied under the tutor for a term and rated his effectiveness. Then a different group with no prior knowledge of the tutor were shown silent video clips and asked to rate the tutor too. It turned out, that the two groups provided the same ratings of the tutor’s effectiveness even if the latter group only saw 2 seconds of footage. Two silent seconds of footage don’t forget.

So, whatever you are doing today, remember that you are an amazing being who is aware (albeit not always consciously) of a great many things going on around you. Take notice. Trust your instincts and know that your colleagues, employees, employers and customers will be forming opinions of you this quickly too!

1 Comment
  1. Katie I think you have made some very valid comments. I too have in the past thought too long about a person I was about to employ only for us to part company in a very short period of time. However having spent many years in retail I finally decided that if the person I was about to employ didn't "grab me" within about 20 seconds then what were customers going to think?
    I now finally believe in going with my gut and very rarely does it let me down! You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

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