“You only have 30 seconds to make a great first impression

First impressions can leave an indelible mark and impact others’ perceptions of us. We have all committed the unthinkable – saying or doing something during a “first impression” meeting that makes you wish you could hit the rewind button and undo the damage. How painful is it to realize that you misheard someone’s name and spent the entire conversation mispronouncing it!  Perhaps that joke you impulsively decided to open with bombed, and you instantly knew that your acquaintance had written you off. Painful experience led to the truism, “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.”

The power of the first impression is validated by research including that mentioned in this Psychology Today article https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200405/the-first-impression. This article testifies to the fact that whether they mean to or not, most people form their first impressions of us in a matter of seconds – and usually on the basis of just a handful of cues or observations. Did you know that when it comes to those precious first few seconds of an impression, 55% is based on your appearance, 38% is based on the tone of your voice and your body language, and only 7% is based on your words? You have to do more than say the right things – you have to be an attractive person!

Perhaps even more intimidating is evidence that these “snap” first impression judgments tend to be relatively consistent. For instance, in one of the studies referenced by Psychology Today, untrained interviewers and professional ones reached similar conclusions about the attractiveness of the same job candidates.

You may not be able to literally control what people think of you, but you can influence their impressions by wisely managing your visual image and presence (VIP™). Applying proven VIP principles can not only increase your own satisfaction with your appearance, it can enhance others’ ability to quickly perceive your confidence, competence and potential.

It’s important that we understand the meaning of some key words here.  Let’s clearly define “impression” so that we can keep it in its proper context.  By definition, impression means either “to leave a mark or a feeling” oran effect, feeling, or image retained as a consequence of experience.”

Let’s break this down – if we peel away the nuance, an impression is basically about a feeling that you stir within the other person you have just met. So, right or wrong, an impression is about people’s judgment of you being driven by a feeling they have before they have actually come close enough to really know what you are like. They are deciding what you are like before they actually know.

What better way is there to address this challenge than to accelerate others’ ability to get to know you? Therefore, here are 5 simple ways to authentically make a great first impression.

1.    Dress appropriately for the occasion.  Your physical appearance carries a lot of weight when it comes to impression.  Let your clothing reflect your personal style and taste. The adage, “a picture paints a thousand words” is applicable because people create mental pictures based on visual imagery.

  • Take into consideration the setting: Business, Casual, Formal etc.
  • Take into consideration cultural norms and traditions.
  • Make sure you are properly groomed at all times (nails, hair, teeth)
  • Invest in great clothing it really makes a statement

2. Color makes a bold impression.  Strategically incorporate color into your wardrobe.

  • Darker colored clothing will give you more visual power, presence and credibility.
  • To look taller and thinner, use the one color dressing technique.

3.    Use direct eye contact. It adds to your authenticity.

  • Be 100% attentive
  • Show sincere interest in the person you are meeting
  • Avoid looking over the shoulder, or across the room
  • Avoid answering your cell phone

4. Be mindful of your body language – it speaks louder than words

  • Use smooth gestures with purposeful and decisive movements
  • Project confidence, competence and self assurance
  • Smile from the heart – show your lips, teeth and inviting eyes

5. Use words full of truth and grace. People will judge you on what you say and how you say it

  • Be articulate and give sincere compliments
  • Avoid using manipulation as a form of persuasion
  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Everyone likes a winner; Think, act and behave like one!
  • Think, act and look happy and optimistic

What types of common “first impression” mistakes have caused you pain in the past? Let me hear about your challenges in this area and any coping strategies that you have tried. I know from experience that the VIP system can turn first impressions from something that has us “hoping for the best” into something that we confidently manage as part of our path to personal growth, success and happiness.