Have you ever asked someone what their first impression of you was? I always get the same answers, and most times they’re completely wrong. On one hand, I find it hilarious while on another I worry a little that it may affect my future. People always say that I seem bossy, sassy and stand-offish. I don’t know where they get this from because I’m just a shy harmless girl. Most times they’ll say that when they first met me they were scared of approaching me, and I always wonder why. It takes a lot of time for anyone to reach my core and discover my goofiness and light-heartedness.
I once did a short two-week internship at an organization, and within the second day, one of my colleagues mentioned to someone that she thought I had a bad attitude. The crazy thing is that I had not even talked to her, I had just seen her once the previous day. Yet this was enough for her to come to that conclusion. First impressions are a classic illustration of judging a book by its cover. I don’t advocate for them but because we can’t do much about them, we have to work around them.
Studies by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face and that longer exposures don’t significantly alter those impressions. A tenth of a second is such a short time. Before the person has even properly looked at you or heard what it is you have to say, they have already formed an impression of you.
When an interviewer calls you for an interview, most times they have already judged you based on your C.V and qualifications. The point of most face to face interviews is to see a person’s confidence and understand whether your personalities are compatible. This is why first impressions are so important, and why it bugs me that people think I’m domineering.
A first impression stays with the person for a long time. If you don’t get a chance to interact with them personally, they may just avoid you altogether. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s why you have to ensure that every time you are interacting with people for the first time you strive to make the first impression the best impression.
Here are a few ways of making a good first impression.
- Give a firm handshake
Handshakes affirm trust and connection. It has been said that a firm handshake transmits your underlying confidence in yourself and your abilities. When individuals feel your confidence, it helps instil trust in your words and work abilities. On the other hand, weak handshakes weaken the connection between you and the other party, and more often than not give a negative impression. A good handshake is firm but not too tight because again this gives an aggressive impression.
The cliché saying that a smile is worth a thousand words has a lot of truth to it. Smiling makes you seem receptive and approachable. If you are constantly frowning or angry, you might not make the best first impression. People will mistake you for being arrogant or rude. No one wants to work with or be friends with someone who is constantly angry. That’s why you must learn to smile more so that you come off as receptive to everyone you interact with. I’m sure you’ve met people who you get scared of even moving close to for fear of a rude remark. Then there are other people who without even saying a word will lead you into believing that they are friendly and kind. If you’re trying to make a good first impression, you might want to smile more often.
- Be well Groomed
There’s no better analogy for this point than the one in the book “The 5 am club” by Robin Sharma. The homeless man meets two people at an event and starts to talk to them. He seems to be poor, but his words do not match what he has worn. He speaks very good English, and his words have a lot of wisdom. However, based on his dressing, the other two people dismiss him for a very long time and are confused because he seems wise and yet he doesn’t look the part. Eventually, they came to discover that he was a millionaire who had disguised himself as a millionaire. Oftentimes we judge people based on how they dress. This may not necessarily be a good thing but it happens. Someone once said that your dressing is a representation of who you are. Whether you admit it or not, there will be impressions formed on girls that wear super short dresses or those that wear suits and ties. It’s just how the world works. Therefore, if you are to make a good first impression you have to look and smell good.
- Be on time
For years, the phenomenon of “African timing” has been used to excuse our lack of respect for time. I know that sometimes things happen, but that’s why you have to plan. You can’t blame your lateness on traffic. This is not an excuse because if you live in Nairobi or anywhere else then you probably know the traffic levels and you need to plan with that in mind. Being on time makes a good first impression, not only in the workplace but also with relationships. It shows interest and respect for the other person and thereby builds your connection.
5. Be confident
There are so many people who claim that they’re not confident by nature. In my opinion, the best way to gain this confidence is to fake it until you make it. No remedy will overturn your level of self-confidence in one day. Not even in one month. The best thing is to act as though you have already reached the peak and within no time it will become a part of you. Remember that thoughts become things. If you believe it enough, it becomes your reality. So believe that you are confident and you will become confident. Nobody likes to interact with people who lack personality or aren’t opinionated. That’s why you have to build your confidence. Adjust your body language. Sit and stand upright. Imitate the people who in your opinion have this trait. Accept compliments without deflecting them. By doing so, you will, without even knowing, make a very good first impression.