The power of first impressions
It takes a tenth of a second to form an impression, when meeting someone for the first time. In a blink of an eye, we decide whether we like someone, we evaluate their personality and character; we classify them as trustworthy or unreliable. These first few seconds can influence our decision on who to hire, love and trust. That is why making a good first impression is important, whether in a business or interpersonal setting.
Esquire Middle East finds out from life coach Sophia Fromell how to make people's first impressions of you count.
Adjust your attitude
How do you react when you first meet someone? Do you smile? Are you inviting and friendly or distant and distracted? People pick up on your attitude immediately so before you meet someone make sure you adjust your attitude to fit the occasion you are in.
Don’t forget that the manner you usually interact with people is not an one-size-fits-all approach. A number of people rely on a single communication style with others, despite different situations and audiences.
Pay attention on how you usually interact with people. Are you chatty and laid back or direct and impersonal? Does this interaction style fit the audience you are addressing?
It might be required of you to be very formal and efficient while in the boardroom, but would that be the communication style you would adopt on a first date?
Notice how you present yourself
First impressions are based almost entirely on what you see. We judge someone’s trustworthiness, level of sophistication, personality and professional potential based on what they wear, their hairstyle, their facial expressions and the way they carry themselves.
To make a good first impression consider how you dress; do your clothes project an image that is appropriate for the occasion you are in? Always keep in mind the audience and the event you are in. If you are going for a business interview in a fairly conservative industry it may be appropriate to wear a suit but this might not be the right outfit if you are considering a position in a more creative industry.
Say goodbye to the limp handshake
More than 70 percent of people admit that they lack confidence when it comes to shaking hands. Given how often we shake hands though in a business environment it is imperative that we get this right.
The limp handshake is a signal for insecurity, lack of authority and shyness. Instead extend your hand, keeping your fingers together with the thumb up and open and shake firmly, pumping once or twice from the elbow.
Do not offer just your fingertips; and avoid repeatedly pumping the other person’s hand up and down in excitement.
The ‘terminator’ shake, where you squeeze the other person’s hand, crushing their fingers is a no-go even in the most aggressive business environments.
It’s not about what you say but how you say it
To make a good first impression, it is important to recognize the importance of non-verbal communication in the way we come across.
Fifty-five percent of the message we want to communicate comes across through our body language, 38% through the tone of our voice and only 7% is communicated via the words we use. These numbers show that while what we say is important, how we say it matters more. Non-verbal communication can reinforce, contradict, or substitute our verbal communication.
For example, a smile can reinforce the sincerity of our words and people who smile are often seen as trustworthy and approachable. Making eye contact indicates interest and openness. Standing tall and holding your head straight can signal confidence and competence.
Be interested and be present
When meeting people for the first time, be genuinely interest in who they are. This is the time to fid out about them, not to show off like a peacock. Engage them in conversation without bombarding them with questions; do not give the impression that you are going through your ‘first impressions questionnaire’. Instead ask a select number of questions and be fully engaged and present ensuring the other person has your undivided attention.
Make sure the time is right
Do not socialize or go to a networking event when you are having a bad day. It is likely that your bad mood will continue and you will not make the impression you want on the people you meet.
Equally, when plan business meetings when you feel you are at your optimum level of the day. If you are a morning person, ensure that important meetings are scheduled first thing in the morning and that you use your afternoons to attend to admin tasks.
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Sophia Fromell is the Founder of Ithaca Life and is a certified Life Coach with a degree in Life Coaching Skills and Practice from Newcastle College, UK and a member of The International Coach Federation (ICF). The views expressed in her columns do not necessarily reflect those of Esquire or Hearst International