It takes only a few seconds for someone to make a judgment about you the first time they meet you. And that initial impression is seldom reversed, so first impressions really do matter. Whether they are for dating, job interviewing, or other purposes, decades of research on primary and recency effects suggest that we especially tend to remember first and last interactions and impressions. So, whether you are looking for a job, a date, or a favour from a stranger, it is important to make first impressions count and count big!
In many ways, this is why speed dating (or speed interviewing) makes a whole lot of sense. We form judgments about people quickly and with very little information. So, why suffer through a long and dragged out interview process or date when you know within a few minutes if you have interest in the other party or not?
So here is my list of five top strategies for a fabulous first impression.
1. Be yourself … but be your best self.
Ethics are important and faking it to be someone who you are not is ethically problematic as well as just unsustainable. You can’t keep up false impressions for very long unless you have an antisocial personality disorder. So, you should be yourself but try very hard to be your very best self.
2. Get yourself organised and centred before having the first interaction.
Whether it is a job interview or a date finding a few minutes to organise and centre yourself will likely pay big dividends. Perhaps spending even a minute in meditation, prayer, or repeating a favorite mantra may be productive. What do you do to organise and centre yourself? Recently I’ve used a one-minute meditation in all of my classes teaching at Santa Clara University. Before class, we spend one minute in silent meditation. I’ve been impressed with the results and students seem to be too.
3. Pay close attention to your non-verbals.
Your words can be deceptive but your non-verbal communication tends to speak volumes of truth. Pay attention to your posture, manner, eye contact, and other non-verbal communications and ask yourself what they are communicating about you.
4. Clothes matter.
I’m no fashionista or fashion forward kind of guy by any means but it is true that clothes and grooming matter. It matters in terms of how others judge you as well as how you behave too. So, attend to your clothes, grooming, and so forth to send the message that you want to send.
5. It’s never about you.
It is way too easy to be narcissistic and focus on yourself during initial interactions. Big mistake in my view. Focus on the other as much as you can. Attend to the other person by asking questions and try to see the world through their eyes. Not only will you likely connect better but you’ll find yourself freer to be your best self that is likely to be more thoughtful and compassionate too.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make sure it’s a good one!
Written by Thomas G Plante, Ph.D, this article originally appeared in Psychology Today
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