Two minutes, 30 Seconds, 7 Seconds, 1 second? How long do you have to make that first impression? It is actually less than that, according to a pair of Princeton Professor Alexander Todorov, it’s is 1/10th of one second.
That is nothing, it is a snap of the fingers, nothing more. You are basing your initial opinion on the way the person looks, the way that they are dressed and the way they hold themselves. This is thanks to the limbic part of the brain, which is our animalistic or instinctive unconscious part of our mental facilities. It is making a simple distinction that all animals make, Freeze, Flee, Fight. It is also making choices about whether we are under threat and what the next step should be.
Once made the judgement about that person is quickly reinforced and very difficult to change. Allow me to briefly go through those key elements and give you some tips and advice to help make that first impression count in your favour.
The Way you Look
No, I am not advocating because you are unhappy with your nose this means plastic surgery. You can’t help the way you look and each person is special & unique. What you can do is make the best of what you have.
Keep it simple
Be clean, be neat, be presentable. It really is that easy. Gentlemen, you get a special mention here, please do make the effort. Keep the stubble in check, comb the hair, tidy the eyebrows.
Finally, put a smile on your face. Not a cheesy grin, you don’t want to come across as crazy but a gentle smile will make you more approachable.
The Way you Dress
This is a huge factor in the first impressions people have of you. Clothes are a code that we present to the world to tell the world about us. In simplistic terms if you see a person in a white cotton ¾ length coat, you think medical person; you see someone in a dark blue uniform with a hat you think police officer.
What image & code is your clothing presenting to the world. That you are practical; that you don’t care; that you follow fashion; that you love labels; Everything you wear tells a story about how you feel about yourself and as a message to the world.
“Think about that when you get dressed in the morning.”
The Way you Hold Yourself
Are you the type that walks with your shoulders slumped forward, shuffling your feet? You are not doing yourself any favours.
Everything from the way you walk to the way you hold yourself conveys a further message. To help build that amazing first impression, you need to have the body language & movement of a confident person but not overly so.
How to do it? Simple, Stand up tall, push your shoulders back and keep your chin up. Look people in the face & in the eyes. Though don’t stare too deep into there eyes that might get you into trouble.
If you struggle with confidence then please do watch the amazing TED talk by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ on how our body posture can affect the levels of our confidence.
One final thing about this is don’t be lazy, Gwen Stefani discussed once in an interview that I read, why she always got dressed properly put full make-up when she left the house she said ‘I never know when I will meet a fan and they deserve to meet that me’. (I am paraphrasing). The thing is you never know who you are going to meet next: the love of your life? Your next boss? An investor in your business? A client? The list is endless.
The adage, “Don’t judge a book by It’s cover” though is morally true and one should not, unfortunately we do this as part of the animals we are. Therefore if you do want to make a sterling first impression it is wise to use everything to your advantage, so the first thing our limbic brain thinks is…Friend.