first impressions

First Impressions Last!

We’ve all heard those famous words, ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’. In both personal and business situations, people form opinions of us in a matter of seconds, so read this useful article to give yourself the greatest chance of making the best possible first impressions.

It takes less than a second!

When you are introduced to someone new, his or her brain forms an impression of you in just one-tenth of a second and within just sixty seconds, it’s processed thousands of visual, oral, and tactile cues as to who you are, what you’re like, and if they’d like to get to know you better. These cues instantly produce a gut feeling as to whether you’re a potential threat or asset.

This means that people have already decided on what you are like before you’ve said anything but your name!

First impressions last

Not only are first impressions registered extremely quickly, but they last a very long time. People tend to remember the things they take in initially about someone, rather than the information they learn later.

The initial impression you make works like a filter through which someone new will continue to see you; moving forward, they’ll look for behaviours that confirm their conclusion, while mostly ignoring things that contradict it.

Once you’ve made an initial impression in their mind, the rest of the relationship tends to follow on, potentially affecting all their future thoughts about you. Research has, in fact, found that it can take up to six months of regular contact with someone for their initial impression of you to change.

Can you judge a book by its cover?

Studies¹ have also shown that first impressions are highly accurate in gauging a person’s true personality, which means that you can judge a book by its cover after all.

Some researchers believe that our genetics may have evolved to present our personalities on our faces. It also may be that by repeatedly making certain expressions, they can get etched into our features. Our moods and personalities are also invariably translated into our body language — how we stand, walk, gesture, and our general posture says a lot about who we are and what we’re like.

What this suggests is that first impressions aren’t just superficial and that changing yours begins with inner values rather than outward behaviours.

Giving something back

There is almost universal agreement among social researchers when it comes to the qualities people appreciate when meeting new people; people like other people who are warm, confident, trustworthy, credible, kind, and who make them feel comfortable, interesting, and valued.

Basically, people like people who seem to be of a benefit to them, rather than a burden. People are attracted to people who have something to offer — not just monetary resources, but those of many different kinds.

The authors of First Impressions² explain that ‘people are looking for those who come bearing four social gifts’;-

•       Appreciation

•       Connection

•       Elevation

•       Enlightenment

People naturally seek alliances that will support and enrich their life, who can make them feel understood and valuable, who can open their minds to new perspectives and information and who can make them feel good about themselves.

On the other hand, people tend to avoid those who are boring, empty, self-absorbed, insecure, and needy; people who will inflict a cost; who will require a greater energy investment than they give.

What kind of people are you drawn to?

Those who seemingly will add to your life, and help move you closer to your goals or those that will suck the life out of you, and take you off track?

Be true to yourself

Your personality creates an aura around you and people can sense it as soon as you walk into a room.

It’s almost impossible to fake qualities like warmth, knowledge, and honesty; the real person will come through in the end.

False confidence can also be easily spotted. A genuinely confident person will be open, they will welcome different views and opinions, whereas someone with false confidence will be defensive, they will attack the source of new information, rather than deal with the content.

It’s also very difficult to feign interest in people when you haven’t developed a genuine curiosity about others. So, if you’re serious about improving the impression you make externally, you should start by shaping your character, so work on the following areas to help you achieve this:

•       Improve your communication skills

•       Broaden your mind

•       Develop greater empathy

•       Gain confidence through increased knowledge

You may also find of interest the article covering Emotional Intelligence, which provides further detail regarding empathy and self-awareness.


¹post by Brett and Kate McKay published in the Art of Manliness, November 3, 2016.
²First Impressions by Ann Demarais, Ph.D and Valerie White, Ph.D, published in March 2004 by Bantam Dell, New York.

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