“First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.” ~Elliott Abrams
Would you believe me if I told you that the moment you meet a new person, you have about 45 seconds to make a first impression? Sometimes it doesn’t really matter to you – and maybe more often than not. But what about those times you really want to make a good first impression?
Research tells us there are some basic factors that are consistent with how we as humans process information and form our first impressions. Part of this is evolutionary, even.
- We draw trait inferences from the facial appearance of other people. Researchers investigated the minimal conditions under which people make such inferences.
- In five experiments, each focusing on a specific trait judgment, they manipulated the exposure time of unfamiliar faces. Judgments made after a 100-ms exposure correlated highly with judgments made in the absence of time constraints, suggesting that this exposure time was sufficient for participants to form an impression.
- In fact, for all judgments—attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness—increased exposure time did not significantly increase the correlations.
- When exposure time increased from 100 to 500 ms, participants’ judgments became more negative, response times for judgments decreased, and confidence in judgments increased.
- When exposure time increased from 500 to 1,000 ms, trait judgments and response times did not change significantly (with one exception), but confidence increased for some of the judgments; this result suggests that additional time may simply boost confidence in judgments.
- However, increased exposure time led to more differentiated person impressions.
How to use the Science of Making a Great First Impression to Your Advantage
Most of us fall into one of two categories: either people love us from the start, or they require some time to realize how great we are. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give people a great first impression? Once a first impression is formed, it’s challenging to change. This holds true for business, romantic, and social situations. The first impression counts for a lot.
You only have one chance to make a great first impression, so if it matters to you, here’s how you can make it good.
Top 10 Ways to Blow People Away With Your Amazingness in 45 Seconds or Less
1. Determine the type of impression you want to make. In everyday life, you have many facets to your personality. Sometimes you’re serious, other times you’re silly. There are times you’re romantic. And sometimes you’re all business. The situation will determine the type of impression you wish to make. Meeting with a potential client is different from meeting a blind date.
2. Choose your clothing and accessories accordingly. If you have the opportunity to plan, wear clothing and accessories that support the impression you wish to make. A Hawaiian shirt says something different from a well-tailored suit. Jogging shorts don’t convey the same message as a skirt. I shouldn’t even need to tell you this – but make sure your clothes are clean and fit well. Wear appropriate shoes.
3. Consider other aspects of your appearance. You won’t be seen as someone with a lot of discipline and self-control if you’re overweight. You won’t be viewed as well off if you’re sporting a $7 haircut. Have you shaved recently?
4. Have good eye contact. Eye contact is critical. Too little eye contact conveys nervousness or a lack of respect. Take a deep breath and look them in the eye. Avoid staring. A good number is 75% eye contact. Spend the remaining 25% looking at some other part of their face. It’s okay to look away completely on occasion.
5. Smile. A smile is inviting and soothing. You’ll even make yourself feel better. A smile will make it easier to maintain good eye contact, too.
6. Have a firm handshake. The right amount of pressure is somewhere between bone crushing and the infamous dead fish handshake. Be firm, but remember that it’s not a contest. Ladies can be a little gentler.
7. Listen. We love it when others give us attention and make us feel important. Pay attention when the other person is speaking. Ask relevant questions. Avoid looking around the room as if you’re planning your escape. Be interested.
8. Be interesting. Have an opinion and be willing to share it. Be aware of current events. People find you interesting when you’re interested in them. Giving others your full attention might be the best way seem interesting to them.
9. Make them feel good about themselves. The better someone feels at the end of your conversation, the more they like you. It’s that simple. A sincere compliment never hurts. Be respectful and kind.
10. Use the other person’s name and remember it. Admit it, you enjoy it when someone new uses your name. “Hi, Mary” sounds a lot better that just a simple, “Hi.” Few things make us feel more insignificant than someone forgetting our name. Remembering names is challenging, but so important.
Making a great first impression makes many things easier. It’s easier to make a sale, get your point across, or get a date. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so make it a good one. Practice making a good first impression by introducing yourself confidently to everyone you meet. Their reactions will let you know how you’re progressing.
Okay, now it’s your turn! How do you make a great first impression? Have you ever accidentally made a bad one? Share your thoughts and experiences with the QB community in the comments.