How many seconds do you think it takes before someone has formed an opinion of you? It may be faster than you realize. Neuroscientist research actually shows that our brain processes impressions between 3 to 7 seconds! Further, first impressions are very difficult to erase.
While we may only have 7 seconds, the good news is that if handled well-7 seconds is all we need!
Every encounter, from conferences to meetings to training sessions to business lunches provides an opportunity to meet people, network, and expand your professional contacts by making a positive first impression.
So just how do you make the best possible first impression?
There are a few important things to consider. Did you know that first impressions are more heavily influenced by non-verbal cues than verbal cues? Communication is 7% about WHAT you say and 93% is about HOW you say it and to WHO you say it to! More specifically, 7% are your words- literal, 38% your tone of voice interpretation, whereas 55% is context, body language interpretation.
Understanding this, here are a few tips to help you to make the best possible first impression.
What is your current attitude/mood? Are you distracted or present? What is your energy level and alertness? Perhaps you are overwhelmed and haven’t caught your breath before entering a situation. Are you attending an event out of some form of obligation or commitment you’ve made, but really don’t want to be there? We’ve all experienced this before. The problem is however, that people pick up on your attitude instantly. So before you greet someone, enter a room, or step onstage to make a presentation, consider the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody. What is the impression you want to make? If you simply can’t get it together, and you have the option, you may want to consider not attending.
How are you carrying your body? Do you appear friendly and approachable? Are you standing tall, with your shoulders back, and holding your head up straight? Perhaps you are slouching or leaning up against a wall? What are your arms doing? Are they folded, suggesting that you’re bored? Or are your hands busy with food and drink causing a barrier in between you and others you meet? Are you smiling, making good eye contact, and maintaining an interested facial expression? By smiling, you are sending an invitation and letting people know that that you welcome them. When you look at someone’s eyes, you are demonstrating interest and openness.
Handshake and Personal Space
Shake hands and be aware of people’s need for space. One of the quickest ways to establish rapport is through a single handshake. Research shows that it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with just a single handshake! Conversely, if you have a weak handshake or an overly aggressive one, that won’t reflect positively. Leaning forward slightly shows that you are interested and engaged. However, if you are too close, hugging or touching people, you may be making them uncomfortable. What is considered a comfortable amount of personal space is not the same for everyone. Pay attention to their cues.
How much talking versus listening are you doing? Is your voice sincere and clear? People want to know that you understand them. Are you giving them your full attention or are you looking over their shoulder, perhaps for someone else you’d rather be talking with?
Across all cultures, the people you meet are judging how warm and trustworthy you are, as well as how competent you are. Research shows that these two trait dimensions account for 80 to 90 percent of an overall first impression.
It is much harder to change a negative impression than to make a positive first impression. So have your few seconds count and make the best first impressions you can.