Have you ever thought that just a glance at the face of a person can create an impression? Research suggests that it takes anywhere from 33-100 milliseconds to make a judgment about the character of a person.
A short amount of time is definitely not enough to be able to evaluate the character of a person; however, it’s natural to form assumptions about someone’s character when we first meet them.
Sometimes we get stuck in our initial impressions about others and are unable to alter our opinions even when confronted with contradicting evidence.
According to the old saying, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.
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What are first impressions?
First impressions are almost instantaneous conclusions we draw when we meet people for the first time. We come to this conclusion by quickly taking in details about someone, such as their appearance, clothing, posture, and voice tone.
We form an opinion that is not always accurate regarding people’s traits the moment we meet them for the first time. The qualities that we attempt to assess are the person’s honesty, friendliness, trustworthiness, and competence.
First impressions become the basis of all subsequent interactions with the person. It takes work to alter someone’s initial impression of us.
How long will it take to create a first impression?
Studies show that the majority of people form their first impression of someone in just 7 seconds. Research conducted by Princeton researchers suggests that people are able to make precise judgments about others in a fraction of a second.
Why are First Impressions Important?
Initial impressions are lasting. Ultimately, whether they’re true or not typically requires a long period of time and a concerted effort to alter the first impression.
Since they are mostly subconscious, first impressions are extremely pervasive, even when confronted with contradictory evidence. Due to our unconscious and cognitive biases, we view the world and others through our own lenses and make decisions based on these filters.
Your relationships can be dependent on the first impression you create. A positive first impression can make you an employer, build stronger relationships, and possibly even attract a partner. If you make a good impression, you will be able to strengthen your relationships and ensure that your future interactions run smoothly.
Research has shown that, on average, our first impressions of others are 76% correct; this means we have a pretty good knack for forming our intuitions.
If their first impression of your character is professional, friendly, and trustworthy, they will be much more likely to become relaxed with you. They’re more likely to view you as an acquaintance or, even more, a friend and be open to you.
This is because making a positive first impression will impact your social network. A positive first impression can lead to opportunities. Potential customers interested in a product are more likely to turn into actual customers. Networking referrals can result in job offers.
An excellent first impression can increase your chances of getting promoted when you’re equally matched in capabilities and experience with the other candidates.
Steps on How to Make a Great First Impression
If you’re meeting new acquaintances, colleagues, team members, prospective customers, or employers, here’s a list of strategies to ensure you put your best self forward to make an excellent first impression.
Prepare questions and talking points.
Before you begin your first encounter with anyone, consider what you want to discover from them and what you want to learn from them. This will help you be more clear about your thoughts and feelings and reduce the chance of having a boring moment during the conversation.
- In the event of an interview, do your research prior to the interview. If your questions concern particular aspects of the company, this will demonstrate that you’re a serious candidate who is thinking about the advantages of working for them.
- If you’re going to meet someone you admire in their work, make sure you learn more about them so that you are able to ask questions that pertain to them and get deeper than your average fan.
Create an intention.
Find a clear answer to the question, “What do I want from this meeting?” If you can articulate your goals for a meeting, you’re more likely to be seen as skilled and experienced. It may also help ground you in situations where you might be anxious.
- Your intention should be something within your control. If you’re applying for an opportunity, your intention of “I want to get this job” does not provide you with an exact course of action. Instead, you can set the intention: “I want to emphasize these 3 qualifications that I think make me the best candidate.” It is your responsibility to accomplish this, and it will serve you well in the course of your meeting.
Dress to impress.
I know it sounds trite, but appearance is our first filter. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, so put some effort into it. Dress to be suited for the job you want, not the job you’ve got.
Professional appearances will boost your image; the more polished you look, the more likely you’ll create a positive first impression. It’s not just about what you do; it’s the way you appear doing it.
It doesn’t mean that you should be conservative or costly; however, it means that you should put some effort into the appearance of your clothes. A piece of jewelry can go an enormous distance in conveying the right message or perhaps the wrong one!
In his book Unprotected A Memoir, the actor Billy Porter said, “Fifteen minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”
Being a bit early for a meeting demonstrates your punctuality and gives you time to ensure everything is in order. If you’re arriving early for an interview, you can read your elevator speech to yourself, adjust your tie, or check that your hairstyle is in position.
Make eye contact
The act of making eye contact can be a non-verbal way of communicating. Making eye contact is seen as a sign of honesty and a way to show respect for the person you’re speaking to. Maintaining eye contact also indicates that you are paying attention to the person in front of you and what they’re talking about.
Establish eye contact before beginning to talk, and keep regular eye contact throughout your conversation. However, you do need to understand the difference between eye contact and looking at someone.
An authentic smile can be among the most appealing characteristics one can possess. It’s a way to brighten an area by creating an uplifting vibe and making the people around you feel comfortable. Even in the age of masks, smiling that is visible to your eyes is an essential aspect of your first impression. It conveys warmth, love, and understanding.
Research suggests that using your eyes as well as your mouth to speak helps you appear trustworthy and sincere. To master the “Duchenne” smile that we consider to be a genuine expression of joy, Think of something that gives you happiness, and smile with a whole heart until you feel the muscles in your eyes contracting.
It’s normal to be scared when speaking to the world’s most famous scientist at a scientific conference or presenting your research to a group of experienced researchers, but don’t let your anxiety manifest. Remain calm and remind yourself that you are more knowledgeable about your work than any other person, according to India Johnson, a social psychology graduate from Ohio State University. “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed while others are being critical of your research,” she states. “However, keep in mind that you are the expert, and let your passion and confidence take the lead.”
One indicator of confidence is to alter your voice. If you speak slowly and calmly, it will make you seem more confident than otherwise. It is the same when making eye contact rather than constantly checking your notes.
Even the most boring of people feel emotions, and you should show interest in the things they have to say. There is no way to tell who this person knows or how they may be able to assist you later on. It’s also a decent way to conduct yourself.
According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, one of the most effective ways to gain people’s trust is to let them speak first.
Begin to gather details about the person you are talking to. Take note of what they are sharing about themselves. The best way to accomplish this is to have a conversation.
How to Make It Work for You:
- Listen well.
- Ask pertinent questions during your conversation.
- Keep eye contact to demonstrate that you’re wholly engaged.
- Don’t interrupt or finish their sentence.
- Talk calmly and clearly.
People are extremely quick to spot a lack of sincerity in a person, so it is essential to be authentic.
Continuous worry about whether you’re saying or acting in the correct manner is perceived as insincerity, too.
Being authentic means understanding your weaknesses and strengths and conveying them in a respectful manner.
Empathy is the capacity to comprehend and share the same emotions as another individual. Naturally, it’s important to want to appear professional and not cross boundaries, but demonstrating that you can comprehend the person or the group you’re talking with and that the words they’re using resonate with you will allow you to establish a real connection.
To be empathetic to others, inquire with genuine interest, listen intently, and not just react. Make it a priority to remain engaged and focused on the conversation.
Most people prefer to avoid repeating their answers or asking the same question repeatedly because it makes them feel as if they’re not being heard. It’s not a good idea to want the first impression you make to portray that you’re a slack listener, so make sure you practice active listening.
Active listening means giving the speaker your complete focus and paying attention to what’s being said and the motivation behind it. Look for the opportunity to ask questions that relate to the conversation. If you ask the right questions, it indicates that you’re interested but do not ask questions that the speaker has already addressed.
Greet people appropriately for the context.
In many professional situations, a handshake can be essential; However, there are different ways to greet in different cultures. If you’re unsure of how to greet someone, try to err more formally. It is better to appear formal and courteous.
Use body language to communicate.
The words you choose not to use will be heard by many. It’s not just about our words. The way we express ourselves, our body language, facial expressions, and postures also send strong messages when we interact with others.
Research indicates that 60–70 percent of information in human communication is generated by non-verbal communication. However, many people pay little attention to body language or don’t realize they communicate negative or confusing signals.
Being aware of your body language can assist you in adjusting it to set the scene and make a good first impression. When you meet someone for the first time, be sure to keep these suggestions in mind:
- Do not close the space in front of you by either crossing your arms or placing the bag on your lap.
- Avoid fidgeting and movements like playing with your nails, biting them, drumming your fingers, or having fun with your hair.
- Be conscious of your posture, and be careful not to sit too long or lean forward greatly in your seat.
- Make it clear that you’re listening by smiling and leaning back slightly.
- Make appropriate eye contact.
- Be aware of any habits you may have and work to eliminate them.
A positive attitude
A positive outlook is a crucial aspect of creating a positive first impression. Whatever your style, no matter how well groomed and dressed the way you present yourself, it is not enough to make up against the impression that a negative attitude can create.
Possibilities of Displaying a positive outlook are difficult, particularly when it comes to situations like an interview, in which you’re probably feeling anxious. Keeping your eyes on the person in front of you and giving them your complete focus will help make a positive and trusting impression.
It is also possible to enhance your image of yourself with a relaxed facial expression by smiling and keeping eye contact for long enough to observe the color of the eyes. If you’re struggling to adjust your mindset, try reminiscing about a time you were happy, excited, or thankful. Let these feelings guide your thoughts toward a higher level.
In the long run, you can develop an optimistic mindset by teaching your mind to look for the positive side of difficult circumstances, being surrounded by positive people, keeping an appreciation journal, or practicing mindfulness.
Leave them wanting more.
If you feel you’ve made a strong connection with someone on the first meeting, don’t be scared to tell them “goodbye for now.” If you really connect, ask them to swap contact information and send them a follow-up text or email about how wonderful it was to have them as a friend.
Dos and Don’ts of first impressions
These are the general rules to observe for your first-time meeting to make sure you impress your guests.
- Be overbearing: This is usually due to talking too much or not listening enough. It gives the impression that you don’t care about the other person’s thoughts or what they might have to say.
- Interrupt others when they talk: In several cultures, interrupting people is seen as rude. It not only signals that you don’t listen, but it can also upset the person who is interrupted.
It also gives the impression that you are more interested in listening to your own voice and are more interested in hearing your opinion than the opinions of other people.
- Be constantly on your phone: Every now and then, it is recommended that we all do an electronic detox to reduce our addiction to devices. If you’re constantly checking your phone, you give the impression that you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. This also signals that you don’t care about your partner.
- Try too hard: It’s often evident and can make you appear fake. This can give the impression that you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to impress others, even if it means exaggerating your capabilities.
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- Read the room: Taking a moment to read a room gives you time to gather yourself. It also helps guide your actions by giving contextual details about formality levels and speaking style.
- Utilize different kinds of listening: Learning and using different kinds of listening can help you to speak more effectively.
Others can discern whether you’re an effective listener or not. This will contribute to their impression of you.
- Be optimistic: Being optimistic can create an atmosphere of positivity. People love being around optimistic people. A positive attitude can have a positive impact on the impression you project.
- Ask open and closed questions: When you ask open questions, it shows you’re attentive and interested. By asking closed questions, you show that you’re focused on what’s important.
Here are some suggestions for asking questions:
- What led you to this career?
- What’s the most exciting aspect of your job? And why?
- What is one skill that you’re working on?
- Who is your inspiration?
- What were you doing prior to this job?
- Have you got any passions?
- What’s your top thing to do during the weekends?
- What’s something you’re most proud of?
When you ask an array of closed and open questions, you show others that you have these skills, which builds a positive first impression.
How do you recover from a poor first impression?
Making a good impression can seem impossible.
It’s not. It’s just a matter of perseverance and patience.
Accept the bad first impression and pinpoint what went wrong.
Only by accepting a poor first impression can you begin to pinpoint what went wrong.
Self-awareness can help you determine what you can change and why. After you’ve identified the areas where you made a mistake (or why it was wrong), you can proceed to make the necessary changes.
Acknowledge your mistake and apologize if needed.
Confronting yourself with your mistakes can be a challenging thing. However, afterward, the admission of your mistake to other people is much easier.
It is important to remember that just because you made a bad first impression does not mean that it was entirely your fault. The most important thing is being capable of identifying the issue and not beating yourself up about it.
Apologizing for the error (if it is necessary) is a sign that you’re committed to improving the impression that people get of you. An apology could go a long way toward reversing a negative first impression.
Concentrate on the future.
Don’t dwell on the poor first impression. Once you’ve accepted and acknowledged it, concentrate on the actions you’re planning to take to improve your first impression.
Believing in a negative first impression is only going to make it more difficult for you to recover from it.
Stay consistent with your positive actions.
It’s crucial to stay consistent with the positive steps you take. Your consistency shows sincerity.
Also, you must be constant because any slip in your positive actions could make a worse impression.
A great first impression can bring many advantages. It can bring you benefits both in the short and long term, both for your professional and personal lives.
These guidelines can put you on the right path toward mastering making the perfect first impression. By paying attention to the details and practice, you’ll be able to make a lasting impression with all the right motives.