Join Carol Kinsey Goman for an in-depth discussion in this video Six keys to making a positive first impression, part of Body Language for Leaders.
- In business first impressions are crucial, and they're made faster than you think. In fact, in seven seconds or less, people will have judged your trustworthiness, competence, warmth, and confidence, and once someone mentally labels you as likeable or unlikeable, powerful or submissive, trustworthy or devious, everything else you do will be viewed through that filter. While you can't stop people from making these snap decisions, because that's how the human brain is wired, you can understand how to make these decisions work in your favor.
First impressions are heavily influenced by nonverbal cues. In fact, studies have found that body language has over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say. We all want to deal with people who are energizing and engaging, and who put us at ease, and make us feel good about ourselves. Luckily, these are the very qualities that you can project nonverbally in those first crucial seconds. Here are six powerful keys to making a positive first impression.
First, adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly, so before you go into the conference room to meet with your team, or enter someone's office for a sales call or job interview, think about the situation, and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody. Attitudes that attract people include friendly, happy, receptive, patient, approachable, welcoming, helpful and curious. Attitudes that are off putting include angry, impatient, bored, arrogant, afraid, depressed and suspicious.
The next key is to check your posture. Do this with me, raise your shoulders towards your ears, now roll them back, now drop them down, perfect. Keeping your posture erect, your shoulders back in this position, and your head held high makes you look very sure of yourself. Next smile, a smile is the facial expression we like the most. It's an invitation of welcome, it says I'm friendly and approachable. A tip here is to enter the room with a small smile, and let it widen as you look at the other person.
It's also important to make eye contact. Looking at someone's eyes transmits energy, and indicates openness. By the way, most of us don't really take advantage of this nonverbal cue, to improve your eye contact make a practice of noticing the eye color of every one you meet. This will encourage you to extend your gaze a bit longer than usual. Another key is to raise your eyebrows. Briefly open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the eyebrow flash, that's a universal signal of friendly recognition.
Finally, lean in. Leaning towards someone shows you're engaged and interested in them, but be respectful of the other person's personal space. That means in most business situations staying about two feet away. I've got one more tip for you, although this one comes later in your interaction, you can create a lasting and positive impact by adding a single nonverbal component to one simple word. Here's how you do it, when you meet someone and they tell you their name, find a way to repeat that name during your conversation, and as you do touch the person lightly on the arm.
The powerful impact of this brief touch comes from the fact that you've triggered positive feelings by remembering and using their name, and as you touch them these positive emotions get linked or anchored to your touch. Then at future meetings you can reactivate that good feeling by once again lightly touching their arm. Every encounter from conferences to training sessions to business lunches presents an opportunity to network and expand your professional contacts. When is the next time you expect to meet someone new? Plan now for how you want to be perceived by thinking of the nonverbal cues that would enhance that positive impression in those first crucial seconds.