Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

From First Impression to Unforgettable

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The time between first contact to first impression is about seven seconds. Seven seconds of lightning speed analysis to figure out if we are trustworthy, likeable, capable, standoffish, aloof, arrogant, friendly … geez!

First impressions happen fast, but with the right know-how, seven seconds is all that’s needed to make sure you’re remembered for all the right reasons. Here’s how:

  1. It begins with the approach.

    Assume that people already like you. Relax, step forward and smile.

  2. Now boost it.

    With humility. The mindset: You’re the fortunate one to be meeting this person. The action: Tilt your head slightly towards them and raise your eyebrows a little. Raising your eyebrows communicates acknowledgement and recognition. Relationships flourish when people are themselves. Humility lays the ground beautifully for people to do just that.

  3. Make eye contact.

    And when you do, take a second or two longer to notice the colour of their eyes. It enriches contact and makes way for people to feel seen. In a room full of strangers, this will make a difference. 

  4. Be deliberate with your attitude.

    People will immediately pick up on attitude so be fully aware and in control of the one you cast. If the right attitude feels impossible to muster up for real (it happens) try ‘acting as though’. Take a moment to get into the headspace you’d be in if you were competent, confident, humble. You don’t have to feel it to put it out there. There’s a time for pretending – and this is it.

  5. Touch. Not too much though. And from the right distance. (Oh! So many rules!)

    Touch is powerful when used well and appropriately, even if it’s just in a handshake. From the outset though, let’s be clear that the touch has to be not-threatening, not-sleazy, not-invasive and not-heavy-handed. So what’s left then? Warm and affirming. Think of it as an extension of a handshake. Touch can instantly close a gap between people but it’s important that it’s done respectfully and sensitively – try briefly on the upper arm or shoulder. One more thing – be mindful of personal space and touch from a respectful distance.

  6. Move the conversation past smalltalk.

    Small talk is important to establish a connection, but nobody is remembered for their in depth analysis about ‘the weather we’re having lately’. The subject everyone is most expert on is themselves, so ask questions that encourage this. A common question is, ‘What do you do?’. Take the conversation deeper by asking the what/where/how/why of that (or anything else that comes up). What do they like the most/least. Why did they choose that path? Would they do it again? Why? Why not? It’s not an interview, but asking people about themselves provides the opportunity for them to be an expert and lets them know you’re interested – which makes you interesting. Asking the right questions shows attentiveness, interest and respect. And who doesn’t want that?

  7. Be a little bit vulnerable.

    None of us are have it all figured out. Vulnerability communicates trust and humility (there’s that word again). Nobody is suggesting that you run your life’s disasters by somebody you’ve known for five minutes, but understand that though people may be momentarily impressed by those who have it all together, it’s more likely that they’ll relate to the ones who don’t. Be impressed, be humble, and don’t be afraid to be a little bit self-depracating. The most charming people are the ones who are comfortable with their humanity and let people know it. Be real and be genuine. People aren’t stupid and will see straight through anything else, though some will take longer to see through it than others.

Everybody wants to matter, everybody wants to be liked. Remember that and trust that it’s in you to leave a brilliant first impression.

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2 Comments

Holly H

I would be fascinated to read thoughts on how to create the first few seconds good impression over the phone. I speak over the phone consultatively for a living and to be trustworthy, likable, and capable is the person I strive to be every day. How can I best communicate that by voice-only? Thank you!

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Hey Sigmund

Hi Holly. Speaking over the phone can be so much harder to give a good first impression than in person can’t it, but there are things you can do. The first might sound weird – but it works – and it’s backed by research which is always a good thing! Try assuming a confident pose when you talk. If you’re seated, sit straight, open up your body, head up. If you sit strong, you’ll feel strong and that’s how you’ll come across. The second is to get your breathing under control before you call to reverse any stress that might come from anticipation of the call. It also helps you to slow down and to sound stronger when you speak. The third is to smile. Even though people can’t see you, when you smile it comes across in your voice, helping you to sound more approachable and likeable from the outset. Hope this helps.

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