First Impression Hacks

What kind of first impression do you make? Can you hack it?

What kind of first impression do you make? Can you hack it?

First impressions

They take seconds to make, and are a combination of our nonverbals- everything we communicate about ourselves through what we wear, how we interact with our environment and our body-language.

The feedback I give in coaching is based on research (not just personal opinion). The main theme is: What kind of impression do you give, and do you want to give that impression?

Giving a good first impression

In their book ‘First Impressions; What You Don’t Know About How Other See You‘,  Anne Demaris and Valerie White sum up a good first impression:

‘A good first impression is one that reflects the real you. If you are presenting the best of yourself, the self you want to share, then you are making the impression that is right for you.”

First impression hack

The effects of these hacks are only temporary and only statistically significant (read, ‘not foolproof, or 100% consistent’)

For the brave or foolish, read on:

Hand someone a warm drink

Researchers have found when they handed a person a warm drink, they rated a fictional character as being warmer. You can read more about the study here. This finding is interesting for two reasons:

  1. How we may be influenced by our physical environment
  2. How that is reflected in our language

We talk about a person as being ‘warm’ or ‘cold’. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that it indicates how we perceive the world and our emotional response. The second reason this is interesting is because we may be provoking this response in others when we use this language. This is a very new area of study, which already has findings on how the words ‘lick’, ‘kick’ and ‘pick’ light up the movement centre in our brains, not just the language centre. In other words, we have a physical response to hearing these words. (I wrote a post about this research, you can check it out here)

Simple hack #2; make ’em feel good

This one is simple in theory, but might be more of a challenge in practise.

Try directing your conversation partner to a positive emotional state.

Their positive emotional state will then be associated with you…

The reasons this is a challenge is that:

  1. If you’re determined to stay positive when your conversation partner is not, that would indicate that you are emotionally insensitive.
  2. We’re not talking about any creepy NLP/evoke a mildly hypnotic state in someone only so they will walk away feeling the ‘ickyness of manipulation’
  3. It can be a big challenge, and a very rewarding one, to find out what makes someone light up with interest.

For more tips on first impressions, check out this in-depth post on how to assess your own first impressions. The Secrets of First Impressions



The Secrets of First Impressions

Does your first impression leave a lemony taste?

What kind of impression do give others? Does it leave a sweet or sour after-taste?

First Impressions

What do people judge us on in the first three seconds of our first meeting?

Is it:

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

  1. Complain
  2. Focus on yourself
  3. Be rude to others
  4. Criticise something
  5. Break promises
  6. 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

  1. Look at the list above
  2. Find the opposite of each of the list items
  3. 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.

What can you do this week to improve the first-impression you give?