What you are taking for Granted about First Impressions

Imagine, you have a new colleague at work and your impression of that person is not very favorable. A few weeks later, you meet your colleague at a party and you realize he is actually a very nice guy.”

The above illustration was given by Bertram Gawronski, a Social Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. The question that arises at this point is whether your first impression of your new colleague changes.

Gawronski says that although you know your first impression was wrong, your gut response to your new colleague will be influenced by your new experience only in contexts that are similar to the party. Your first impression will still dominate in all other contexts.

According to Gawronski, this is a result of our brain storing expectancy-violating experiences as exceptions-to-the-rule, such that the rule is treated as valid except for the specific context in which it has been violated.

The above illustration confirms that while the opportunity to change one’s first impression exists, it’s incredibly hard and takes a long time. Time that is undoubtedly taken away from more valuable pursuits.

7 Seconds to Relationship Gold

First impressions are the fundamental drivers of our relationships, says Professor Frank Bernieri of Oregon State University. Studies have shown that you only have a few seconds to determine whether the person in front of you is a friend or foe. This is referred to as “thin-slicing ”

“Thin-slicing is not an exotic gift. It is a central part of what it means to be human. We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation. We thin-slice because we have to, and we come to rely on that ability because there are lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very thin slice, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us an awful lot.”                                                ~ Malcolm Gladwell, Blink

Experts say that when it comes to first impressions, the thin slice takes about 7 seconds. With that in mind, here are seven areas that you have total control over that must be prepared for a powerful and positive first 7-second showing.

1. Your smile should communicate authentic interest, warmth and confidence. Don’t smile because you know you have to i.e. the ‘habit smile.’ Don’t go overboard with it either.

2. Your eyes should be focused on who you’re speaking to but should not subject them to an ‘I can see into the depths of your soul’ moment.

3. Your handshake should be firm, warm and dry. It should not be inspired by dead fish – the limp shake or by Arnold Schwarzenegger – the terminator shake. Nor should it channel a cheerleading routine – the finger tip shake or assume familiarity prior to it being earned – the two-handed shake/the too close shake.

4. Your voice should convey authority, self-confidence and positivity, not arrogance or indifference.

5. Your listening skills should reflect that two people are having an engaged conversation.

6. Your posture and attitude should be open and non-confrontational.

7. Your attire, in addition to being situationally appropriate, should enhance the words coming out of your mouth and your body language and not be in competition or in stark contrast to them. Never forget that shoes are also part of the attire.

What’s on the outside counts. Initially at least.Your time is valuable. Don’t use it trying to make a good second impression. That time may well be wasted. Within you lies the power and control to get it right the first time.

Thanks for reading! If this post resonates with you be sure to click the like button below. Share it with a friend (or enemy) so that you may begin to have transformational conversations. 

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