This week’s survey was inspired by our efforts to get our middle-school-aged kids to behave appropriately when greeting adults. Both Jim and Nora tend to mumble, look away, hunch over, and give other anti-social cues when, say, an adult compliments them after a school band concert or a play. When we tell them to stand up straight and speak clearly, they often give us a look that suggests we are not only clueless to the social norms of respectable society, but also just plain stupid.
Now we have hard (though nonscientific) data to back up our claims: we asked Cognitive Daily readers what behaviors indicate to them that a person they’ve just met is friendly or confident. Respondents were allowed up to three responses to each question (though we didn’t actually program the survey to limit the number of responses — it’s casual, remember!). The first two questions asked about friendliness. What makes a man or a woman friendly? Here’s the result:
So the top factors for friendliness in both men and women were smiling, establishing eye contact, greeting by name, and having a relaxed posture. A strong handshake is a significantly larger indicator of friendliness in men than in women, and eye contact is more important for women than men.
What about confidence? Here are those results:
Now upright posture becomes more important, and smiling is much less important. A strong handshake is even more important for men, but is now also one of the top four factors for women.
Let’s take a closer look at the data: how expectations differ between women and men. There were no significant differences between female and male responses about men, but gender was a significant factor in how people view women. Take a look at this result from the question about behavior of friendly women:
For women, relaxed posture was more likely to be an indicator of friendliness than it was for men. Perhaps unsurprisingly, no female respondent said that winking was a friendly gesture from another woman, but 11 percent of men said winking was a sign of friendliness in women.
There was also a significant gender difference in perception of confidence:
Women value a strong handshake in other women much more than men do in women. So apparently women wanting to project confidence might be advised be especially careful to use a strong handshake with other women.
Most importantly, however, when we tell our kids to stand up straight, smile, and look people straight in the eye, we have some data to back it up!
Note: In case you missed it, next week’s Casual Friday survey has already been posted. Click here to participate.