You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. We form judgments about people quickly and with very little information. These judgments are based on our cultural and familial patterns that build our inner reality and also our previous experience. According to studies, on average it takes only 7 seconds for a person to form a first impression – in such a short time we often didn’t even have a chance to start a conversation.
It might seem unfair, but first impressions have a long-lasting effect on us and we tend to hold to them even if we know the person for a longer period of time. According to Olivia Fox Cabane in the Charisma Myth research shows that when we have a choice between changing our minds about something or looking for proof that there’s no reason to change our mind, we favour towards the proof.
What is a first impression?
There is no doubt first impressions are important. So what are the components that we take into consideration when forming a first impression and how to master them?
Clothes and our overall appearance play a relevant role in forming of first impression and are part of our non-verbal communications. It’s not about wearing expensive items, it’s about being well-dressed for the occasion or the environment you are in. If you are invited to a dinner with a client, don’t wear tattered jeans and a t-shirt. Choose clothes that will represent you but also appropriate for the event. Also consider: am I wearing to much make-up, are my hair combed?
2. Body Language
When you meet someone for the first time they unconsciously judge your body language. Remember, all of these non-verbal gestures will be read and interpreted in 7 seconds:
Are you moving dynamic or rather slowly?
People that move dynamically tend to be perceived as extroverts and people that move slowly as rather shy or introvert.
Is your posture straight or slouchy?
If you walk with your head up and sit with straight spine, your body will send signals that you are self-confident, not scared to be challenged, open for discussion.
Are your arms crossed or open?
Don’t slump. Open gestures will make you look more approachable and friendly.
What’s your facial expression?
Smile – positive emotions are contagious.
Are you making or avoiding eye contact?
Looking into persons eye will make you come across as trustworthy and will help you build rapport and connection. Looking around gives an impression that you are shy and nervous.
Do you have a shy or a confident hand shake?
A solid handshake makes a great first impression. Remember not to squeeze the hand of the newly met person to much.
3. Verbal Communication
The moment we open our mouth within the first seconds of meeting someone, people also count our verbal communications into the first impression. It’s not only what you say, but also how you say it. What tone of voice do you have? Is it friendly? Is it loud? Do you speak clearly and in a structured manner?
How can you improve?
Remember that the first impressions can be mastered. So now is your turn! Try out these easy exercises:
1. Any occasion is good
Take a minute before the next occasion to make a first impression and think about how would you like to be perceived. You don’t even have to wait for a special next occasion, you can also train making first impression each time you go to a new restaurant and talking to a waitress or waiter or when you are meeting new people at a party. Each occasion is good. The more you practice, the better you will become.
2. Mirror, mirror
Look at yourself in the mirror. Observe your posture and gestures. See your facial expression when you speak. What do you like? What would you like to improve?
3. Learn from others
Ask other people, what was their first impressions of you? What did they think of you when they encountered you for the first time?