Some people are able to make an entrance – whether socially or professionally, pleasant enough for others to notice them. First impressions count – even though some would like to believe otherwise. Making a sound first impression will always be important to whatever that we have chosen to do.
First cut tends to be deepest
Research shows that whether in a business or a social setting, most people will judge you within the first second of meeting you. Chances are that their opinion will not change for a while. Making a good first impression is incredibly important, because you only get one shot at it. Of course, in the long term, your subsequent behaviour can swing perceptions but still, the first cut tends to be the deepest.
Psychologist Alex Todorov attached to the Princeton University and co-author Janine Willis, a student researcher who graduated from Princeton in 2005, staged a unique experiment in which they were able to get people to look at a political candidate for a microsecond. To their amazement, they found that having been exposed to someone for such a short space of time for the first time, the participants were able to predict who would win the election with an alarming accuracy rate of 70 percent.
Snap judgments may not always be right but it seems that they can be fairy predictive. So, how do you grab the right kind of attention the first time around, especially when you have such a short window to make the kind of first impression you like to make?
It is important to come through as genuine. Many people can spot – instinctively – when you are putting it on. It always pays to be genuinely interested in people, come through as possessing actual opinions rather than put on ones.
Making or breaking careers
What is your intention – put simply, what do you seek when you make contact? Is it to network and perhaps get more business or is it to make small conversation. If you come through as being bored or disinterested in the going ones wherever you are, that immediately registers a negative push.
What kind of interactions are you showing to be making – are you yawning or wishing you were elsewhere or are you interested enough to stay focused? You need to be focused on why you are there, meeting whoever you are meeting.
Being dressed for the occasion goes a long way in conveying the best impressions. If you are under-dressed or over-dressed, loud or impeccable, the message is conveyed about the person you are perceived to be by the clothes you wear, the kind of watch you wear and the perfume too.
Stylists have jobs because people take these things seriously – they can make or break careers. It is always a good idea to take note of the dress code for an occasion, the time of day to select colours and to do some mental home work on where the function is and who is coming before you select what you should wear.
Body language often conveys the most accurate messages about who you really are. It is good to be conscious of the way you hold yourself, the kind of conversation you make and even the gestures. So many people give themselves way quite a bit through body language.
You do not have to speak a single word – everything you do conveys a whole lot about you. Your hand shake, the way you cross your hands and stand – if your eyes are darting across the room or you don’t hold your gaze when someone is saying something to you – these are all subtle messages that convey right or wrong impressions of who you are.
Right kind of small talk
Making small talk is sometimes very important – that is, making the right kind of small talk. Some people are good at making conversation; they tend to be well read, be aware of what is happening around them and are able to connect easily when making small and polite conversation.
Polite conversation is often not about expressing highly overrated opinions but listening to others and acknowledging in general the topics related to conversation. You need to be constantly aware of the fact that people are making judgments based on what is being said.
Some let a bad mood spoil the entire day – such a mood can give negative first impressions in ways you may not even think. It’s always a good idea to take stock of the emotional status before going to attend that all-important function.
What some of us forget is that wherever we maybe, whatever we may be saying, we are being evaluated constantly. Especially so when it is our business interests that are being presented and evaluated through us.
It is always a good idea to be genuinely interested in other people and develop listening skills. People quickly notice the difference between listening and hearing. If you are a good listener, the others notice. Listening skills are priceless to develop and are quickly noticed. Being able to listen often conveys a positive image of who you are. Listening also allows you to connect with others at a closer level. People like to talk to people who genuinely listen and pay attention.
First impressions are relevant not only for the business world but in almost all human relationships. That’s why we need to be able to convey a positive image of ourselves, wherever we are.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)