As the saying goes: “You’ll never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”
Are you preparing for a job interview?
Attending a dinner party?
Or meeting someone for the very first time?
These are social settings where you don’t want to screw up because you know very well that these are situations in life where first impressions count.
So, how long do you think it would take a complete stranger to form an impression of you?
If you have no idea how long it takes…
Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, two psychologists from Princeton revealed that…
It ONLY takes one tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face.
That’s right. It’s not a typo.
That means making a first impression is almost instantaneous. Within a fraction of a second of meeting you for the first time, their brain begins to search for hints. Physical appearance, speech pattern, and non-verbal cues are all clues that help to form an impression.
In that fraction of a second, a perception of your personality and character is formed. And longer exposures don’t make much of a difference. First impressions are crucial because they tend to be long lasting and indelible.
If you want to avoid hitting your head against the wall because you didn’t make a good first impression, remember:
The way others see you during your first encounter will determine whether you have a mediocre first meeting. Or one that leads to a meaningful and fruitful relationship.
The phrase “there’s no second chance when it comes to making a great first impression” has almost become a cliche. But it still holds true.
Let’s explore what you need to do to create the best first impression and make it work to your advantage.
Before you think of pulling off a good first impression, you need to pay attention to 2 important concepts.
This is a straightforward. Just keep this at the back of your mind at all times. The second concept is an expanded version of this.
When you understand how this Rule works, you’ll be well on your way to consistently producing amazing first impressions.
This rule was devised in the 1950s by Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer in the field of body language study. According to Mehrabian, your words have only a 7% impact on communication.
Because, while relying your message, your tone of voice makes up another 38%.
The remaining 55% comes from your nonverbal cues. That is to say, your body language, speech pattern, facial gestures and physical appearance makes a huge impression.
This means your nonverbals hits the subconscious mind of a stranger fast and in a subtle, unintentional and unconscious manner.
Research on the unconscious mind has shown that the brain makes judgments and decisions quickly and automatically. In other words, when it comes to making decisions, the human brain operates on autopilot.
Your body language and facial expressions give out subtle, unintentional, and unconscious signals when meeting someone for the first time. Impressions other people make of us is based on mental representations.
These are mental imagery which may involve hearing, sight, taste or smell.
Psychologists calls this unconscious communication.
To leave a good first impression, you got to send these “signals” intentionally and on purpose. Judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how you treat others and how you get treated. So, you must pull your act together in the blink of an eye.
This will help you make a good first impression. It will be used as a benchmark for all subsequent conversation with the people you meet.
One straightforward way to creating a good first impression is by adjusting your attitude. When it comes to attitude, many people categorize it as either positive or negative.
Avoid doing this. Instead. we should consider attitudes in terms of their usefulness, according to Nicholas Boothman.
According to Boothman, author of How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less:
“There are three really useful attitudes that great communicators have in common: enthusiasm, curiosity, and HUMBILITY. In the right combination, these three attitudes create an irresistible presence.”
According to Todorov:
“We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them.”
When meeting for the first time, sensory cues such as sight, sounds, and smells influence first impressions. That is part of the nonverbal cue that is responsible for 55% of any communication.
It is also a very human characteristic to look for familiarity in others. You like individuals who act like you, have similar appearances, personalities, attitudes, and beliefs. Whether you are aware of it consciously or unconsciously.
According to Nicholas Rule, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto:
“We judge books by their covers, and we can’t help but do it. As soon as one sees another person, an impression is formed. This happens so quickly — just a small fraction of a second — that what we see can sometimes dominate what we know”
When you meet someone for the first time and they remind you of an arrogant person, you may automatically label them as such. People tend to associate the emotions they felt in your presence with your personality.
This means that if you make someone uncomfortable at your first meeting, they may form a negative first impression of you. The human brain has a difficult time adapting to change and doesn’t accept information that contradicts its existing beliefs.
This makes it difficult for someone to recover from a bad first impression once it is formed. It is possible to recover from a poor first impression. But it is always better to get it right the first time and make a good first impression.
Since you can’t avoid being perceived, the next best thing is to make sure you’re perceived in a positive manner. Even though impressions can change over time, it could be an uphill task trying to shift someone’s initial opinion.
Hence, it makes prudent sense to make a positive impression right from the get go. Here are 5 ways for getting hired, having a wonderful first date, and gaining a lot of friends:
“One cannot not communicate.”
According to communication theorist Paul Watzlawick, who coined the above phrase, everything about you sends some kind of message. Above it all, your appearance will often be the first thing others will notice.
How you look should not matter as much as your personality or being a person of substance. Unfortunately, appearance matters. Especially when it comes to making a first impression.
Thus, appropriately dressed according to occasion is important. Even though appearance is much more than what you wear, always dress the part. Do your research on the appropriate dress code beforehand.
When it comes to appearance, the one thing you must not neglect is your personal hygiene. Check for clothing stains, chipped nails, excessively oily hair and any form of unkemptness.
When you take pride in your appearance, it suggests that you value yourselves and have confidence. Believe me, it is very difficult to undo another person’s first impression of you.
Your body language communicates volumes about you without you being aware of it. According to Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy, you can influence other people’s impressions by changing your body language.
Cuddy had studied first impressions for more than 15 years. According to her, people build their first impressions of you based on two key criteria: trustworthiness and warmth.
Cuddy realizes that we don’t form a single impression of someone when we meet them for the first time. Two impressions about a person are formed based on their warmth and trustworthiness.
If you are confident in yourself, it will show in the way you conduct yourself and communicate verbally and nonverbally. Exude confidence by establishing a pleasant eye contact, a warm smile and a friendly demeanor.
Don’t forget to display an open and approachable posture with your chest up and gaze horizontal. This will help you to portray warmth and trustworthiness.
And please, even if you go to the gym for two hours three times a week, refrain from bone-crushing handshakes.
Your body and mind are connected to each other. When you are stressed, your body releases the stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. When you are happy, dopamine – the “feel good” hormone is released.
So, be mindful and align your thoughts in accordance with your actions and intentions. Your thoughts shape your reality and your life. So, when you have positive and happy thoughts, your body will release hormones that will help promote positive feelings.
Be aware of the first impression you want to create. When you are congruent, your internal feelings and thoughts are in harmony with your actual experience of the world around you.
When you have positive feelings, you are bound to radiate positive vibes that will be picked up by others. And this will definitely help in creating a good impression.
If you have critical and judgmental thoughts, your goal of being perceived as warm and approachable will fail because you are incongruent and conflicted.
It is a common tendency to notice how you are feeling instead of how others are feeling. Try to pay more attention to your surrounding and those around you.
Be more attentive to the person you are communicating with and place less focus on yourself. Avoid talking about yourself too much and dominating the conversation.
Instead, listen intently to others, talk in terms of their interests and make them feel important. People will always remember how you made them feel.
Directing your focus on someone else and away from yourself will help others perceive you in a more positive light. People become far more responsive when they feel that you are showing a genuine interest in them.
You will be surprised how easily people can sense your sincerity and interest in them.
Being authentic and true to yourself is a good way to make a good first impression. It implies acting in ways that reflect your true personality and feelings.
Rather of presenting simply one side of yourself to others, you authentically express your entire self. When you “be yourself,” you gain confidence, establish trust, and win the respect and integrity of everyone you meet.
You may be viewed as insincere or phony if you strive too hard to satisfy others. Or are overly concerned with whether you’re saying the proper thing.
So, never try to be someone you’re not.
You should also not pass judgment on others or on yourself.
I’ll leave you with a Zen proverb drawn from the tea ceremony to emphasize the importance of first impressions:
Ichigo ichie (一期一会).
Ichigo ichie literally means “one opportunity, one encounter” or “one chance in a lifetime.”
When attending a tea ceremony, both the host and the visitor should be prepared to be sincere with one another. They will also bear in mind that the occasion is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that will never be repeated.
Hence, each moment is precious and it should be approached with the utmost sincerity.
If you treat every meeting as if it were your first and last, you will value each contact as if it were your last. Because it is possible that it will never come to you again.
First impressions are created in less than a split second.
Make it count.
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