First Impressions: Fatal or First Prize?
By Jack Perry
formulates first impressions of others upon meeting them. We look at
the way the other person dresses, his or her hairstyle, and other
physical features, and then we quickly decide whether we like the
person or not. In fact, many studies show that we form these
impressions in mere seconds.
Gottman of the University
of Washington observed newlywed couples in the 1970s. He watched their subtle
interactions and tendencies for only fifteen minutes and was able to
predict with ninety percent accuracy which couples would still be
married fifteen years later. In another study, Nalani Ambady of the
Harvard Department of Psychology observed the length of time it takes
to form a first impression by recording ten second video clips of
individual professors. She showed the clips to a group of students and
asked them to rate and evaluate each professor. When Ambady compared
these students’ evaluations with those from students who had
actually taken the professors’ classes for the entire semester, the
correlation was amazing. She found that the students from the first
group were able to formulate impressions in only ten seconds that were
similar to the second group who’d seen the professors for an entire
accurate or not, people often base all their subsequent interactions
with others on these initial impressions. So have you ever thought
about the first impressions other people formulate about you? Probably
not. In reality, most people don’t. But if you want to be the best
you can possibly be in sales or business, the first impression you
exude is crucial to your success. Work on it, polish it, and practice
Forms First Impressions?
impressions are based on everything you see, hear, and smell. In a
business setting, this means others will be looking at how you dress,
what you say, and your personal grooming habits. Equally important are
your non-verbal communication messages. Albert Marabian of UCLA
studied what aspects of communication actually communicate the most to
other people. He found that fifty-five percent of communication is
received from body language. Another thirty-eight percent is received
from tone of voice. And only seven percent is the actual words. That
means that over half of your initial message comes across through your
posture—the way you hold and move your arms, the position of your
eyes, and other completely non-verbal methods. And in the case of a
contradiction between your words and your body language, body language
deserves to be said that first impressions aren’t always fair or
accurate. But remember the saying, “If you try to swim upstream, you
will drown.” You can’t fight the rules and be successful, and the
rules dictate that you must be well-groomed and well-dressed. Look at
yourself in the mirror before going to work in the morning and ask
yourself, “Would I do business with me?” If you can’t answer
“yes,” then you might as well get back into bed.
So how can
you make a winning first impression every time? Consider the following
Focus on Your Prospect: Your first
meeting with others determines whether they want to conduct business
with you in the future. Therefore, you want to be right there, in the
moment, with your prospects. Don’t look over their shoulders or scan
the room for someone else to talk to; look your prospects in the eyes
and focus on what they have to say. If you happen to be at a large
networking function, don’t get distracted and think that you need to
meet everyone. You’re actually better off if you meet one or two
people and establish a winning impression by spending time with them
rather than making casual contact with many people.
Establish a Presence: Confidence
comes across in the way you stand, move, and handle yourself in a
group. When you’re confident and calm, you create a positive
presence. So the next time you enter the boardroom or a sales meeting,
put your nerves and insecurities aside and walk in as if you own the
building. But keep in mind: confidence is very different from
arrogance, which creates only a very negative presence.
Use a Firm Handshake: Handshakes,
especially in business settings, are often the first body language
another person will notice because they are used as greetings.
Therefore, they are important in developing good first impressions.
The University of Alabama published a study on handshakes in The Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology that identified a firm handshake for some duration
coupled with eye contact communicates that the person is sociable,
open, and friendly. By contrast, a weak handshake communicates that
the person is shy and introverted, or indifferent.
Get Organized: Especially
in business, organization is a crucial part of impressions. For
example, if you get into a salesperson’s car and it’s a filthy
mess, you probably won’t feel comfortable signing his contract. Or,
if you meet with a lawyer whose briefcase is so jammed with loose
pieces of paper that it takes her five minutes to find a pen, you
probably won’t feel comfortable with her representation. A lack of
organization sends a message that the person doesn’t pay attention
to detail and might even produce sloppy work. Take the time to stay
organized and tidy.
Consider Your Prospect’s Background: Consider
the people you’ll be meeting and the environment you’ll be in. In
certain geographic and economic backgrounds, you must tailor your
style of dress and behavior to fit in. For example, if you’re
meeting a prospective client on his ranch in Idaho, your custom made suit and shiny Lexus might alienate you. Likewise,
a dusty truck and cowboy boots could alienate a prospect in Beverly Hills. To relate comfortably with people and make them feel comfortable
about you, you can’t seem like an outsider.
Don’t Scream Success: If you
want people to think you’re a big shot, then you never want to say
in words that you’re a big shot. Don’t brag about your fancy toys
or pricey clothes. Everyone has met a person like this and was
irritated by his or her behavior. Let your appearance, body language,
voice, and listening skills communicate your level of success.
First Impressions…Every Time: If
you’re serious about your career and you want to be as successful as
possible, then great first impressions are the key. Everything you do,
say, and wear formulates the way the world sees you. And because
people decide their impression of you in seconds, you must consider
the way your prospects will perceive you before actually meeting them.
When you use these tips for creating a winning first impression,
you’ll secure more sales and achieve higher levels of business
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