What do people judge us on in the first three seconds of our first meeting?
a) our vast and deep knowledge of our area of work, or
b) the coffee stain on our shirt, accompanied by that blob of Weet-Bix?
If you answered b) give yourself a pat on the back. Unless we are well known for a) it’s probably b)
Most of the information we communicate before we open our mouth is with our non-verbals. That includes our body-language, our posture and how we are dressed, and our grooming.
How do we make a good impression?
This can be summed up in one sentence: Think about the comfort of the other person.
Make eye-contact, listen, check that your listener is engaged. When we get stuck in self-consciousness we forget to be conscious of others.
One of my favourite first impressions goes to Samantha. She strode across the room with purpose, with direct eye contact and a warm smile, she held out her hand to shake and used my name;
‘Zerafina, I’ve heard so much about you and have been looking forward to meeting you.’ Aww shucks. It’s nice to be noticed.
The Horns or Halo effect
When we meet someone for the first time, that snapshot is 100% of what we know about that person. Our tendency is to perceive that person bathed in the light of that ‘thin-slice’ of information.
If we serve up a bitter-lemon thin slice, others will perceive us to be the whole lemon. All of our subsequent actions will be judged in light of this information. This would be the ‘horns’-effect.
If we are kind to the waiter, polite to others around us, and make others feel comfortable, our subsequent actions are judged in light of this ‘halo.’
How to make a bad impression
- Focus on yourself
- Be rude to others
- Criticise something
- Break promises
- Send dismissive or rude emails
There are plenty of other things we could add to this list. Often we do some or all of them assuming that others will know that we are just having an ‘off-day.’ But that’s the sum total of everything a new person knows about us.
How to make a better impression
- Look at the list above
- Find the opposite of each of the list items
- Find ways to demonstrate those things.
Last of all- check your shirt for coffee and Weet-Bix. It’s easier to be forgiven for the coffee stain than making others feel uncomfortable, but it helps to look like we’ve made an effort with our appearance.