Good first impressionsWe’ve all heard the old sayings, like “You never have a second chance to make a good first impression,” and “First impressions are lasting impressions.”  Well, they’re true.  A 1980 study by  Nisbett & Ross found that all it can take is a single, brief encounter for people to form a virtually unshakeable opinion of you – even when later evidence overwhelmingly tells them that they are mistaken.  So whether you are in the customer service, business, sales, management, or just looking to make new friends, knowing the art of making good first impressions is essential.

There are, of course, many different ways to ensure you are making a good first impression, but here are the four most important:

1. Smile!

You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s worth repeating once again. There is nothing that sends a positive message to another person faster than a warm, genuine smile. People can even hear a smile over the telephone.  A study by Willis and Todorov, of Princeton University identified that we begin to form judgements of people after just a 100-millisecond exposure to a facial expression. That’s 1/10th of one second!  So, people aren’t seeing a smile when you first meet them, you’re in for an uphill battle.

2. Make Eye Contact

You’ve probably only heard this one only a half-a-million times, but it’s critical. Don’t just look at someone’s eyes – look into them. Make a connection. Let him know that, for this instant, he is the most important people in your life.  You don’t have to stare, of course.  but count two full seconds before you break contact.

3. Use Names

If you’re like most people, within two minutes of being introduced to people, you’ve forgotten their names. Make a point to memorize them, and use the name at least twice during the first five minutes. Not only will it help you remember it, but it will send the message to people that they are important to you.

4. Be Interested In The Other Person

Resist the temptation to talk about yourself and the things that interest you.  Make a point to learn about the things that interest your new acquaintance, and show that you are interested them as well.

There are a lot of other little things to ensuring a positive first impression, but if you don’t have these first four going for you, you don’t stand a chance!

Good Luck!


[This is from the Archive Project – where we are attempting to get 10 years of Winning at Work on the web! Original publication date: 3 January, 2005]

Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience, employee engagement and workplace performance for 25 years

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