Have Them at Hello
Hey, you! Glad you’re back!
Today, we’ll talk about how to make a killer first impression every time. (Okay, maybe not a “killer” one, but a phenomenal one.)
First, I have three questions for you:
• Can first impressions be changed?
• If so, is it easy or hard?
• If it’s hard, why?
If you answered that changing first impressions is not just hard but very hard, if even possible because we all suffer from confirmation bias, you’re right.
Confirmation bias is people’s tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that affirms their prior beliefs (or hypotheses), and it will have them focus on everything about you that confirms their first impression, rather than make the effort of finding indications to the contrary.
Being likable right off the bat is easier than trying to change their initial assumptions about you later. That’s the first reason you must make an extra effort to give a terrific first impression, rather than just “be yourself” (especially not the “yourself” that goes to Walmart at midnight in their pajamas).
The second reason to make a phenomenal first impression is the halo effect. The halo effect is the tendency for positive impressions of a person in one area to positively influence our opinion or feelings in other areas. For instance, someone who’s perceived as physically attractive is more likely to be perceived as kind or intelligent, and someone who’s perceived as intelligent is more likely to be perceived as friendly or funny. You want to make an awesome first impression to have people infer that you possess other qualities.
Others judge you within the first one-tenth of a second (whoosh!), so you don’t have time to wing it, and preparation becomes key. (For instance, make sure to check your zipper, just in case.)
Inside Out, Outside In
Start from the inside out. Your body language will reflect what’s going on inside your head and your heart. If you’re not excited about meeting someone, if you dislike them before even meeting them in person, if you lack self-confidence, if your shoes hurt, or if you’re experiencing any other unpleasant thought or emotion, it will likely show. (Don’t tell me it won’t. It will.)
Since our conscious mind can handle 40 bits of information per second (bps) and our unconscious mind can handle 11 million bps, it’s our unconscious mind that handles first impressions. When you meet someone, their mirror neurons fire and then match your emotions. For instance, if you’re nervous, that’ll make them nervous. So, instead of coming at them like a grouch, come at them like they’re a cute little puppy. Just don’t rub their tummies.
If you project a negative emotion, since they don’t know what’s really going on in your head, they’ll likely assume that you don’t like them—and they won’t like you. (That’s because we tend to make things about ourselves.)
Start by getting in a good mood, having positive thoughts, and dressing comfortably.
Then, do something that will make you feel you look better. In other words, start by feeling good from the inside out, and then feel better from the outside in.
Dress the Part
To feel like you look better, work on your appearance. People first judge books by their cover, and your looks are your cover.
Your appearance should show that you took the time to put together an attire appropriate for the occasion and to be carefully groomed. Do your homework, and dress similarly to how they’ll be dressed when you meet—maybe just a tad better. (My husband says I dress to kill—and that I cook the same way, but that’s another story.)
Don’t Overestimate Your Handshake
Most people think that they have great taste, are above-average drivers—and have a perfect handshake. Truth is, many drive in the zoom-zoom lane even if they can’t go at zoom-zoom speed, and many have handshakes like overcooked pasta.
Your handshake should be firm, web to web (the webs between your thumb and pointer should make contact), short (two shakes), and dry. A handshake that’s too strong is rude and too soft is wimpy. Shake everyone’s hands the same way.
Ask people you trust to give you feedback on your appearance and handshake. (If you’ve been giving them “the dead fish,” I bet they can’t wait to tell you.)
In the next episode, you’ll learn how to project a body language that exudes confidence, warmth, and competence, which is critical during first impressions.
See you tomorrow.
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