First Impressions - how much does it matter

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression

First impression is an incomplete impression

Now that you are here, let’s talk first impressions. If you think about this deep enough you will realize that our inquisitive minds is always on the look out to judge people, circumstances, situations and the likes. We simply judge others no matter what, whether they are our parents, teachers, friends, and a random stranger on the street that we come across.

We always judge which in principle isn’t very wrong because this is the way we have grown up in the society. First impressions are a daily form of human judgement. It’s something we do unconsciously. We’re sizing up whether the person in front of us could be a potential mate, a friend, a business partner or even an adversary.

All by how you look them in the eye, shake their hand, make a joke, or trip over your own feet. Everything you do within those first few seconds decides whether you’re accepted or passed over. I believe there are times you get that second chance, but regardless, that first meeting is still ingrained while they’re giving you another look. 

First impression creates a ‘bias’ that inadvertently colors future encounters either positively or negatively.

First impressions are an important part of any interaction and as humans we are all equipped with the tools to garner and process an incredible amount of information at the very first glance. In fact, you don’t even have to utter a word for someone to form an opinion about you since most communication is through nonverbal cues. The fact that we are really good at this means that first impressions are more often than not accurate.

But on the flip side, isn’t it shallow to judge people by their appearance? I mean, aren’t we admonished not to judge a book by its cover, or make assumptions about people based on what we see on the outside—things like race, gender, or age.

However, if you think about it, that’s exactly what a first impression is – making a split-second judgement about someone the moment you see them. Such snap judgments definitely have faults but does that mean first impressions should be completely avoided?

However in my opinion, I believe that first impression is significant but definitely not the last. I have seen professionals not dressed fancifully having a beautiful command of English and a great sense of humor. And I have also seen many good looking people with a terrible and awful attitude.

Its best never to judge a person before talking to them because people are like onions with several layers exposed only when they feel comfortable enough with whom they are with. Our impression of them keeps changing with every peel. And so you never really get to know a person fully in first impression.

Your perception changes when you get to know their story.

First impression is an incomplete impression.

That is why it is said, treat everyone with respect. Let their actions be a metric if they deserve having your respect or not. Respect is never “earned”. It is a natural right. But some people lose it with their actions.

Thus, one must not totally rely on the first impressions because there we would be creating a fallacy and getting entangled in the cobwebs of judging people even before we get to know them.

Behavioral scientists however argue that first impressions need to be taken seriously because we place an inordinate amount of importance on the first piece of information we receive about a person and will actually reject subsequent information that conflicts with our first judgment.

In essence my advice to young adults would be to pay attention to what they do and even when they speak to any new person, because you are most certainly being assessed. And I am not advising pretense here!

The reason is that few of us are given the opportunity to rectify a negative first impression! It can take a bit of time for others to see what makes us special. So we need to make a strong first impression if we hope to get through the front door. Often, all it takes is a mindset that refuses to be sabotaged by events around us.

Bad impressions, on the other hand, are always detrimental. Picture yourself interviewing a prospective employee who shows up late and is poorly groomed. No matter how intelligent or talented they turn out to be in the course of the interview, you’ll never quite forget that they didn’t care enough about the job, you and your organization to make a good first impression. And let’s say you hire such a person, you’ll always be on the lookout for tardiness or poor grooming thereafter.

How then can we make a great first impression-putting our best food forward? Let me share a couple;

First step is to BE YOURSELF! No copycats allowed.

1, Dress to Impress

Since the 5 senses is the first channel for forming an impression about anything and any person, our appearance is the first chance to get a visual impression. It is our first filter and it’s important to put some effort into looking exactly how we would like to be addressed or treated. As they say dress for the job you want and not the job you have.

 A professional appearance will enhance your personal brand and the more polished you appear, the more likely you will leave a positive impression. It’s not what you do, it’s how you look doing it.

This doesn’t necessarily mean conservative or expensive, but it does mean you need to put thought into your appearance. A watch or piece of jewelry goes a long way in sending the right message, or the wrong one!

2, Wipe That Look off Your Face

Making a great first impressions is not just about your clothes and appearance. It is well known fact that your facial expressions and body language plays a part in how people perceive you.

People never forget a smiling face. Why would you want to leave a wonky and straight face on your first meet up. A smile is an open invitation to interact with others. It signals that you’re trustworthy and cooperative and that you value the other person’s time and attention.

Of course I am referring to you wearing a genuine smile on your face. The sort that pushes up your cheek and create laugh lines around your eyes. Such a smile comes from a good place with the intention to allow the new person to take keen interest in your personality.

3, Appear Interested in the new person

When you meet new people in person or virtually, it is important that you make an effort to appear interested in what they have to say. You never know who that person knows and how they might be able to help you out in the future. Besides, one of the best ways to win people’s confidence is by simply letting them talk first. Be a good listening, make good eye contact and do not be shifty as this could suggest that you have something to hide. It is also polite not to interrupt the speaker during a conversation. Of course asking the right questions and clearly and calmly is certainly going to leave a great perception of your personality.

4, Offer a Firm Handshake

Giving handshakes now appears to be an old fashioned way of greeting. It is now regarded as being unsafe, unhealthy and risky act. This has been replaced by fist bumps, elbow checks and even eye contact. This would perhaps come across as inappropriate and will only last a couple of years. Hopefully, handshakes will return for one simple reason—they are an easy way to make a killer first impression.

However until early 2020, the conventional handshake was the international sign of politeness. A proper handshake can convey confidence. And it should be warm, friendly, and sincere. If it is too firm or too weak, you may convey a negative impression. If you’re seated when you’re introduced to someone, stand before you shake hands—it shows respect for the person you are meeting.

Always remember to smile and to make eye contact when you shake hands.

5, Politeness matters

No one forgets a really polite person. Not a sucker! Polite people are memorable because they appear polished and proper and therefore stand out for positive reasons. They make us feel comfortable, respected and valued. We want to be around them. When you step forward to meet someone, smile, tilt your head slightly downwards while acting as though you are the one honored by the introduction and not them.

Gossips never leave a good impression. So…keep it to yourself.

6, Body Language

Your body language can give you away from a mile. It’s one of the most important non-verbal cue I look out for when I meet someone for the first time. Someone who appears well put together can be torn apart just because he lets subtle hints of his insecurity seep through his shaking jaw, sweaty palm, quacking voice tone, sitting position, walking gait, rapidly blinking eyes or fascial expression amongst others.

Until you can control your body language, the only person you will fool is yourself. Experiment by trying out different positions in from of a mirror to get a sense of the vibes you give away when you talk, keep silent or walk. It would help first in building self-confidence and in getting some control on your body.

It is important to manage your body language and there is a lot to talk about when it comes to body language! I will save this for a new POST.

7, Arrive Early

Here is why my strength lies. I love to arrive early. Not just in time, or a little late. I love to arrive well before time and I always appreciate those who arrive early too. It is important that in making a good first impression, the easiest way to get ahead of the pack is to arrive a few minutes early. It’s always important to be punctual because when you arrive on time you send the clear message that you’re responsible, capable, and respectful of others’ time.

Use the few extra minutes to go to the restroom so you can check your appearance and gain your composure before you walk into an important meeting.

In a city like Lagos this may suddenly appear impossible. But planning is the best way to get around this. Always schedule extra time on your calendar to accommodate traffic delays, weather, and parking.

8, Prepare ahead of time

Proper preparation reduces anxiety and will help give first impressions that portray you as competent. If you do your homework before an important business meeting, you will have a tremendous advantage over your competition.

If you are attending a networking event, familiarizing yourself with the names and industries of those attending will help you better understand the needs of your potential new clients.

When you take the time to prepare, you’ll appear interesting and knowledgeable—two qualities that help make good first impressions

Whether snap judgments are right or wrong, they are the way our brain makes sense of information in a short period of time. Knowing this, we can take advantage of this to put our strong foot forward. Give ourselves the chance to make a great impression on that first meeting. A lot still depends on this even if our meetings have gone virtual. Do not take these 8 tips for granted.

Most importantly – BE Yourself! No one is exactly like you and no one has gone through the exact experience that has made you unique and different. It would always count for something during that first meeting.

Thank me later.

 

Cheers.

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