The Power of First Impressions

We are wired to judge a book by its cover. First impressions stick.

A University of York study found that we sift through available information as quickly as .033 seconds of seeing another person’s face,  making on-the-spot evaluations of a mind-boggling range of really important things like their trustworthiness, status and attractiveness.

Think about the “swipe right” Tinder generation, and you know this makes sense. We may live in a selfie-saturated culture, but it’s based on human nature.

And changing first impressions takes real time and effort.

Most research shows you need to have 4-7 interactions for up to 40 minutes, in different contexts, to recalibrate what you think of another person - including giving a person another chance if he or she didn’t leave a positive impression at first glance.

That’s time and effort that many of us, from potential employers to potential mates, don’t often have to invest.

So, how do you make a great first impression?

Grooming standards are top of the list when it comes to hitting your mark in that first 7 seconds. That’s everything from appearing clean and tidy to  wearing ironed clothes - signals that suggest what standards you have. A former client, a high-level executive, admitted he kept shoe polish in his office. Not just for himself, but for his less detail-oriented team members - to make sure they came across as "polished" in their pitches.

Nonverbal cues are critical too: a warm smile, a confident handshake, steady eye contact, strong posture. These non-verbal behaviours aren’t just visual - they tap into our value systems, giving us impressions of people as “leaders” or “followers”  based on judgments we make often on an unconscious level.

Yes, it’s sounds a lot like what your mother told you when you were growing up, “stand up straight and smile, look the other person in the eye.” But apparently, she was right. And it’s probably even more important that you get this right than even she realised.

A study done in 2000, by Robert Baron and Gideon Markman, “Beyond Social Capital: how social skills can enhance entrepreneurs success” suggests that the nature of an entrepreneur’s face-to-face interaction strongly influences her success. Study results showed that the way entrepreneurs were able to make favourable first impressions, read others and adapt to a wide range of social situations influenced their access to venture capital.

So, don’t waste time and effort fighting human nature, or think you can ignore it. Decide how you want to be perceived and give yourself the best chance of making a first impression that will lead to a lasting and positive interpersonal connection.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.