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If You Answer Questions This Way, People Don't Trust You, Study Says

New research shows that responding like this makes you seem less credible.

Being trusted is an important foundation to any relationship, which is why we strive to come across as sincere as possible when having a conversation with others. However, even the smallest of actions can diminish your credibility with someone instantly. In fact, a new study from the American Psychological Association (APA) has concluded that the way you answer a question could make people less likely to trust you. Read on to find out if you're guilty of this habit, and for more ways you're making a bad impression, This Word You Use All the Time Makes People Not Trust You, Experts Say.

If you pause when answering a question, people are less likely to trust you.

Young man looking at colleague in office

Researchers from the APA conducted a series of experiments with more than 7,500 participants from the U.S., U.K., and France to observe social interactions, publishing their findings Feb. 16 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers had participants watch, listen, or read about a person responding to a question, with the scenarios varying from an immediate answer to a 10-second delay. According to the study, participants rated delayed responses as less sincere, regardless of the question that was asked.

"When you take pause before answering a question, it can appear that you are trying to manipulate your words or craft a certain message. At the worst, when you take a bit to answer, it could appear you are trying to think of a good lie," explains Susan Trombetti, a relationship expert and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking. "When someone replies immediately without hesitation, it seems like they do not have time to think of a lie and have their honest answer right away." And for real signs that you shouldn't trust someone, If You Notice Your Partner Doing This, They're Lying to You, Studies Say.

There are a few situations in which a pause doesn't affect people's trust in you.

Man talking in meeting

According to the study, there are only a few conditions that allow those answering questions to pause but still be believed. For instance, if your answer is socially undesirable (like saying no when your friend asks if you like the cake they made), then your response speed does not matter as much, as a socially undesirable answer is considered sincere no matter the time it takes you to respond. Also, if people think your response was delayed because you had to use mental effort (like having to think back if you had done something years ago), then you are also still likely to be believed despite a slow response time. And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Delayed responses can have negative effects in many different situations, including job interviews.

woman interviewing potential employee, hiring manger tips

As Ignazio Ziano, PhD, a professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management, explained in a statement, people are typically judging each other's sincerity whenever they interact, and that extends to professional settings. He offered up a scenario where a hiring manager is asking two job candidates, Ann and Barb, whether they really know how to use Javascript as they claim. While Ann replies yes immediately, Barb says yes after three seconds. According to Ziano, this means the "hiring manager is more likely to believe Ann than Barb, and therefore more likely to hire Ann." And for more things to avoid during interactions, This One Question You Always Ask Can Kill a Conversation, Experts Say.

But there are ways to make yourself seem trustworthy even when delaying your answer.

Man comforts friend or partner by putting hand on his shoulder

Megan Hamilton, a speaking, visibility, and confidence expert, says the reaction to delayed responses is a significant problem, as most of the time, people do need a minute to gather their thoughts, especially in high stress situations like a job interview. To help buy yourself time, she recommends using a theater training method called the Meisner Technique. "You repeat back the question that's been posed," Hamilton explains. "While doing that, take a minute to quickly outline your answer in your head, and then take it from there. You don't want to be filling space with 'umm' or 'ahhh' or any other fillers, but you do want to get composed." And for more habits to look out for, People Don't Trust You If You Text With This Punctuation Mark, Study Says.


Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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