First Impressions 101: What does your first impression say about you?
By Sam Hanson
- Bardstown, KY
I have been guilty of forming a first impression of someone only to later get to know that person and be completely off base. Or was I? Research shows that your first impression will still dominate your initial opinion of that person.
I have always been interested in what others thought about our first encounter, as well as how correct my opinion was of them. I asked some friends and some colleagues to candidly give me their first impressions of me. Here is some of the feedback:
At first I was happy with my impressions until I thought, “Am I too aggressive? Am I too funny? Should I have shown a more serious side?” Instead of beating myself up over it, I came to the conclusion that the most important trait you can have when first meeting someone is genuine. A disingenuous first meeting is the quickest way to have a negative opinion formed.
The pressure is on, because studies show it only takes seven seconds to form a first impression. A positive first impression can turn into a long term association. It's important to understand how people make their first impressions.
to one university study "Solomon, PhD, Psychologist, Chairman, Marketing
Department Graduate School of Business, NYU," people make eleven decisions about us in
the first seven seconds of contact.
- Education Level
- Economic Level
- Perceived Credibility, Believability, Competence and Honesty
- Level of Sophistication
- Sex Role Identification
- Level of Success
- Political Background
- Religious Background
- Ethnic Background
- Social/ Professional / Sexual Desirability
According to this study the rest of your time is spent finding evidence to prove your original impression of that person, whether that impression is true or not. I have narrowed down some helpful guidelines, starting from the preparation of a first encounter – to the hand shake and smile.
1. Learn What
People Use To Form Their First Opinion
When you meet someone face-to-face, 93% of how you are judged is based on nonverbal data: your appearance and your body language. Only 7% is influenced by the words that you speak. When your first encounter is over the phone, 70% of how you are perceived is based on your tone of voice and 30% on your words. With that said, it’s not what you say—it’s how you say it.
2. Pay Attention To Your Grooming
Others will typically notice your hair and face first. Few people want to do business with someone who is unkept and does not look professional. Don’t let a bad hair day cost you the connection.
3. Always, Always, Always Be on Time
This shows respect for their time and for yours. Plan to arrive a few minutes early, 10-15 minutes to be exact. Allow for some flexibility for a wrong turn or a traffic jam.
4. Walk Fast
Studies show that people who walk 10-20% faster than others are viewed as important and energetic. Don't start a foot race – just keep up the pace.
5. Use The Other
Person’s Name Immediately
People like to hear their own name. Nothing gets other people’s attention as effectively as calling them by name and giving them your full attention.
6. Be Yourself
A smile or pleasant expression tells people that you are glad to be with them. Eye contact says you are paying attention. Nerves are going to be present and that's normal, but being cool as a cucumber will make both parties feel at ease. Don't be afraid of a little small talk – it’s human nature to want to connect, identify, and relate with others.
I would encourage you to get some healthy feedback from people who know you – who can give you some candid answers about the vibes your first impressions gives to others and remember – you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.