How many times do you remember walking out of a job interview or meeting with a client and just not feeling like you nailed it? Did you feel like you didn’t quite get across just how personable and professional you can be? That very feeling is why first impressions are so important for business. In fact, it’s arguably the most important thing.
It’s the classic “judging a book by its cover”. Within the first few seconds of meeting anyone, whether it’s business or social, they are judging you on your appearance, body language, demeanor, mannerisms and how you’re dressed. One of the most intimidating parts of making a first impression is, it is a very hard thing to change.
Our society often stresses the importance of a first impression, pointing out that you only have one chance to make a good one. But is that an overblown statement?
1. The Imprint On Your Brain
A new study reported by Psych Central states that a first impression might actually be more powerful than facts. For example, one part of the study found that even when told whether someone was gay or straight, people would still judge their sexuality based on their appearance - even when they were presented with the real answer. In other words, people tend to trust their gut feeling over everything else.
Author Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book, Blink, that first impressions are found to be pretty accurate and can stand the test of time. He called it “thin-slicing,” which states that humans are able to make a quick and accurate judgement when meeting another person for a few seconds. He provides examples of this such as students being able have a great sense of whether a teacher will be a good one or not.
2. They’re Not the End-All And Be-All
It is undeniable that the human brain quickly jumps to conclusions when first introduced to another person. But there are some people who think that these first impressions can be inaccurate and should actually be avoided.
Other behavioral economists, such as Dan Ariely, argue that first impressions can’t be trusted. It can be argued that a first impression creates a bias that thereafter affects any judgement you make about a person or product.
3. Use Them To Build Your Brand
So while the validity or morality of using first impressions might be up for debate, one thing is for certain -- people make them. Those critical first few seconds when you are meeting with a client or an employer or even someone in your social life can determine what they’ll think of you from that point on.
It’s a fine line to walk. You want to be professional, friendly, engaging, intelligent and all of the things you want your client or employer to see.
It’s innate for people to make a first impression and, right or wrong, it is critical that as a business person you make a good one on everyone you meet. But there’s no need to have anxiety about it. Making a first impression is mostly common sense. With a little more thought and preparation, the next time you’re going into a big meeting, you’ll be able to win anyone over right off the bat.
Not sure what to practice? Learn 5 great body language tips to network better.