From First Impression to Unforgettable

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.

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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Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
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#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
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#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

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