It is widely accepted that making a good first impression is very important. The impression you give off the first time you meet someone sets the standards for moving forward with the relationship. Whether this be meeting a blind date for the first time, an interview or any other social interaction where you meet a new person.
Our survival created the need the be able to make incredibly quick snap judgements out of very little information which are generally very accurate. Sometimes we just don’t have the time to stop, think, assess all options and make an informed decision. The time it would take to do this could cost us our lives in certain situations. Our unconscious brain can take in and process large amounts of information without our conscious brain even knowing what’s going on. Have you ever just gotten a bad feeling about someone, but can’t explain why? This is your unconscious brain trying to tell you something your conscious brain just can’t pick up. How many times do you know where your impression of someone is coming from, and how many times is it just a feeling?
When we look to make a good first impression, the first thing most people focus on is their dress sense. Wearing your smartest suit or prettiest dress may help factor into the impression you make, but there are so many more factors. Your scent, vocal tone, body language and the persons preconceptions can all factor into a first impression. Smelling pleasant is very important; not drenching yourself in cologne or perfume, as that can give off a very bad impression, but smelling clean and pleasant can make your first meet go a lot smoother. Vocal tone is one of the first ways respect is conveyed, your vocal tone can show your mood, manner, authority or submissiveness. Your body language can convey many different messages to the other person, keeping control of what messages you send is a big part of making a good first impression. The persons preconceptions about you can factor into your first impression; if they don’t like you from first glance possibly due to a stereotype, past experience or your current reputation, then it will be more difficult to change that impression.
When looking to make a good first impression, the first thing you must ask yourself is what kind of impression do you want to make? Are you trying to impress a potential employer? Seduce a beautiful blind date? Make a new friend? You must be aware of who you are trying to make an impression to, for using the wrong body language in the wrong situation can give off a very bad impression. Try to use all knowledge of the person to your advantage.
In a business situation, an interview for example, bring only 1 bag and 1 coat, any more will give off the impression of disorganization. Be sure do do all your preening and check yourself over before you go in. The first part of their impression will be seeing you, then they will catch your scent and following this shake your hand. If you’re dressed well and smell good then you’ve passed the first tests. A good firm handshake, not squeezing tight and not limp is the best way to do it. Keep your hand straight and equal to theirs as putting hand on top is dominant behavior and will be taken badly in a business environment. Once in the interview, sit up straight, keep an interested expression and lean in slightly to show interest. Many people struggle to know what to do with their hands in these situations. Try to refrain from wringing hands or using too many hand gestures. Rest your hands on the arm of a chair or on the table. Palms down on the table projects authority, and in an interview the interviewer has the authority so this will convey the wrong message. Try gently clasping hands together or touching your fingertips together as known as the steeple position. The steeple position projects high confidence in what is being said, making it a good tool to show you know what you’re talking about. Make a good amount of eye contact and try to keep your vocal tone confident and respectful as this will convey a very good message.
When you’re looking to attract someone, the body language you use is very important. Obviously this is different for men than it is for women. But the messages we are trying to convey are the same. When we try to attract we want to appear open, approachable, interested and fertile. For men showing they are fertile involves standing up straight, square shoulders, feet just over shoulder width apart and displaying hands. For women tilting head to expose pheromones. Men are naturally attracted to vulnerability, showing the neck, wrists and ventral side can be very attractive to men. To appear open and approachable you want to keep open body language, this involves not crossing arms or holding a anything close to chest. Keep the ventral side open and exposed to show that you are open and approachable. Men may wish to take up more space in order to appear dominant, a trait naturally attractive to women. Tilting of the head or leaning in shows interest. During arousal the cheeks flush, blood goes to lips causing them to swell and pheromones are released, simulating these effects can be very attractive to men.
In a general social situation or just looking to make friends, you want to be open and interested in the other person. Again keeping open body language is important here. Show them your ventral side and keep your feet pointed towards them. A good tool for making friends is to mirror their body language. Mirroring their body language is essentially positioning yourself in the same way as them. Mirroring body language can build trust, understanding and rapport. It often makes people feel as if you are on the same wave length, although they will not know why. In a business situation it is not a great idea to mirror the body language of your superior, as they will usually have dominant body language and you displaying that will come across confrontational.
I have found that the fastest way to make a bad first impression is to intrude the persons personal space. The amount of personal space a person requires depends on their culture and location. For the UK and US it is best to leave a minimum distance of 48 inches between you and a person you do not know. Projecting dominant body language in certain places can also give off a very bad impression very quickly. Displaying dominant body language to your boss, superior or in someone else’s house will result in a bad impression.
Being aware and in control of the impression you wish to give can be a great tool to improve your chances of nailing that job, getting that date or making that friend.