Forming good relationships has always been fundamental to doing good business. So when you meet someone for the very first time, it’s important that you get off on the right foot. Let’s suppose you’re going to meet a new key buyer. You’ve heard on the grapevine that they can be a tough nut to crack. A little bit stand-offish, perhaps cold at first, slightly reserved, certainly not very welcoming. Think high-street bank manager on bonus day, early 2009. A right misery.

Do you approach the meeting expecting a positive outcome or with a touch of trepidation? Are they going to like you or will they have you escorted from the building after five minutes? Should you steel yourself for rejection or tough it out with confidence, chest puffed out proudly?

Well, new research by Dr Danu Anthony Stinson at the University of Waterloo in Canada backs up the idea of the self-fulfilling prophesy. Namely, that whatever you expect to happen, probably will. That’s because your behaviour influences that of the other person. So if you go in there all meek and mild, like a lamb to the slaughter, the chances are you’ll be chewed up and spat out.

So, what psychologists call ‘the acceptance prophecy’ holds true. Stinson proved all this by arranging a series of blind dates between men and women. Half the men were told that the women they were going to meet were a little anxious about the date and half were told that their blind date was an experienced man-eating vixen with a sixth sense for bullshit. Or words to that effect. The men who met the ‘nervous’ women behaved in a warm, friendly and relaxed manner. Their prior knowledge of their date’s anxiety had the opposite effect on them and made them feel more confident in comparison and here’s the clincher much more likeable.

However, it was a different story for the men who met the cross between Bette Davis and Myra Hindley. Their nervousness and fears of rejection were naturally heightened and well, let’s just say they didn’t make it to first base.

In summary, the guys who were confident got on better with the women, than the ones who approached the meeting fearing rejection and were interpersonally colder. And just as importantly, an independent panel of researchers who observed each date liked the personality of the confident guys much more than the others. So be a social and business optimist. Approach every meeting expecting to be liked and more often than not you will be.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a meeting with the bank manager. Where did I put that clown outfit?