How are first impressions formed?
You only get one chance at a first impression and, according to recent studies, 55% of a first impression is formed by the way you dress, act and walk through the door. That’s over half of the impression you’re trying to make being given, without you even saying anything! Another 38% is simply from the quality of your voice; the grammar and confidence you have, leaving a mere 7% of your first impression to the words you say themselves. Wow.
So how do we achieve that perfect first impression?
Make eye contact.
In my experience, someone who doesn’t make eye contact with me when we’re talking, makes me feel a little uneasy. I find it slightly unsettling when I’m having a conversation with a person, and they’re looking at everything but me. I don’t know why, but it makes me feel suspicious and a touch paranoid. Now, imagine I’m someone who you’re having an important business meeting with…
If you’re simply a little shy and nervous about making eye contact with people, then, for the purpose of this meeting, you might have to embrace it head on. Likewise, too much eye contact can be equally as unnerving. We aren’t looking to acquire a restraining order from our first encounter.
A smile; one of the simplest of movements our faces can do, one of the first we learn to do, and quite possibly one of the best expressions to display. But it must be genuine. Anything forced, or fake will be obvious, so smile genuinely, at the opportunity arising to you, as you greet a new person.
Give a firm handshake.
Now, we all know this one. This pearl of wisdom that is passed around through generations of families, strangers in the street, careers advisors. Just the right amount of pressure; too much and you’ll hurt the person, this isn’t a world’s strongest man contest. But not enough squeezing and your bordering on just simply allowing the other person to hold your hand; and you might not know each other that well yet!
If you could combine a firm, but not too firm hand shake, with a genuine smile, whilst making eye contact with that person then you are onto a winner.
Dress for the part. Smart, appropriate clothing is always the best option. I would always rather be over dressed for an occasion, than under dressed. Hair should be neat and tidy, this includes facial hair. Err on the side of caution as you don’t know how strict or relaxed a company’s policies are.
Say their name.
You’d be surprised at how effective simply referring to someone by their name can be in creating a great first impression. It shows you’ve paid attention, you’ve retained some information and it can make that person feel special and important, to be individually identified.
A fundamental skill. It shows respect, enthusiasm and empathy to listen to another person. Showing them signs that you’re actively listening is even better. Smiling, nodding and responding to what is being said shows you are present and engaged in the conversation.
First impressions can make or break your success in any situation. Undertaking some simple steps to ensure you create a positive and lasting first impression could be a lot simpler than you thought.