First impressions are everything. They shape our relationships and too often we coast by without preparing ourselves in any way to make a positive imprint. Wikipedia says this, “research has shown that ‘in the first few milliseconds of our perceiving something, we not only unconsciously comprehend what it is, but decide whether we like it or not’. Did you catch that?
In the first few milliseconds, we perceive something and make a decision on how it makes us feel.
Wikipedia follows with, “it takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression, with confidence in impression formation increasing with increasing time taken to form the impression.” While we may start off at a disadvantage because of a poor first impression, what we do from those first few seconds on can make a tremendous impact on how we are viewed for the duration of the conversation and even the relationship.
On average it takes us up to 9 hours to reverse a negative first impression. Consider that. If someone gets a negative first impression of you, it will take 9 more hours of positive interaction between the two of you before the other person may begin to change their perceptions of you. I don’t know about you, but that is an incredible amount of work and effort to win someone over.
In many relationships, this may never cross our mind, but consider a business deal or meeting your in-laws for the first time. If you have a negative first impression in those two situations, you are starting yourself off at an incredible disadvantage. Is it not worth preparing more ahead of time to make sure that does not happen? I believe it is.
Here are 7 relatively simple ways to make a good first impression:
- Always be on time
I know life happens and unforeseen things come our way, but if we are honest and truly intentional about our schedules we don’t ever have to be late. I don’t know about you, but time is one of my hottest commodities. I place an incredible amount of value on my time because I only get so much of it in my life. I don’t want to waste anyone else’s time by showing up 5, 10, even 15 minutes late to a meeting. It is inconsiderate of their time and chances are nothing I had going on was so important I couldn’t get away to be on time or a couple minutes early.
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but just smile more. Be happy and enjoy your life, or at least act like it. Find the silver lining in everything you do. Smiles are contagious, kind of like a yawn. If you smile at people, it infects them and often they will return the smile or at least be cheered up on the inside. And if you need a reason to smile, go check out this website: 24hoursofhappy.com
- Give others your full attention
Put away your phone. Shut your laptop. Hide your iPad. Stop trying to multi-task. We live in a world where it is accepted and commonplace to only give another person a percentage of your attention and devotion. We have gotten used to talking to people while they are texting and accepting that as the norm, but it’s not. We deserve each other’s attention and devotion when we are together. When you meet someone, make sure you are clearly focused on them, not finishing up what you were doing. It makes a tremendous difference.
- Present yourself well
This one is simple. First, dress to impress. Second, make eye contact and maintain it throughout the conversation. Third, speak clearly. And lastly, make sure your body language tells the other person that you are engaged and invested in the conversation.
- Diffuse the Tension
Want to know the easiest way to cut through any tension? Make the other person laugh. Of course, you will want to employ humor at only the most appropriate times. Be sensitive to the fact that different people can have a vastly different sense of humor. Play it safe, but try to make the other person laugh. If you succeed, there is no better way to diffuse the awkward tension of a first meeting.
- Learn the method of a proper handshake
Seriously. I can’t tell you how many people I have met (including businessmen) in the past few years that turned me off almost immediately because of the form of their handshake. Whether it was because the hand was wet, clammy, limp, or any other horrifying form, there are not many things worse than a bad handshake. When I shake someone’s hand and it is limp, I can’t stop thinking about it. It drives me insane. All it takes is a firm squeeze. Don’t crush my hand, but at least let me know you still have a pulse. If you get clammy hands, wipe them on your pants or shirt or something right before shaking my hand. Do whatever it takes to make sure you have a handshake worth remembering.
- Project Positivity
Go out of your way to project positivity to others. Make the other person feel like you care. Smile. A lot. Compliment others. Don’t self-reference in your conversation, but rather ask questions about the other person and seek to know them better. Own up to your mistakes and focus on the good things. Do what you can to help the other person even if that means going out of your way for them. Listen to them intently and let them know you value their time and opinions.
If you apply even one of these seven tips, I guarantee your next few conversations will go radically different than those you have had in the past.
In fact, write down something from the list above that stuck out to you and commit to trying it out this week. Make observations and get back to me in the comments with your results or shoot me a tweet!