First impressions are the snap judgment people make during their initial contact with you. According to various theories, it is a prehistoric wiring in the brain to help us distinguish quickly if the person we are meeting is a friend or a foe.
How quick is this judgment? Depending on the research du jour, it is from 1/10 of a second to 30 seconds. The most recent research published by NYU/Harvard puts the time at 7 seconds.
Within two blinks, and before you have said anything, the following information is being registered during those 7 seconds:
- Social standing
After the information is registered, the next steps that occur, consciously or unconsciously are:
- What is this person’s intention-to help or to harm?
- Are they trustworthy?
- Are they credible?
A lot of this information is rooted in an unchecked bias: beliefs held based on your experience and exposure of the world. Everyone has biases and when used properly, they keep you safe. When triggered or used improperly, you can miss amazing opportunities. So much information can happen within 2 blinks of a first encounter.
Another research conducted by Harvard indicates that it takes up to 8 subsequent encounters to change another’s person first impression of you. While this may be possible in a relationship that needs to be built professionally or within a group of shared friends, when going on a job interview, meeting with a new client or even going on a first date, a lot of pressure exists in making a positive first impression.
Here’s a not-so little secret: making a great first impression can only happen when you are confident. Not arrogant or a faux-humble, but truly secure in who you are, what you do and your greater purpose.
The cliché of “Fake it until you make it” is dangerous.
Of course, certain people are able to “fake it until they make it”, like actors, politicians and sociopaths. If you fall into one of those 3 categories, this site is not for you.
People with a high level of self-awareness can spot disingenuity immediately. They may not know why exactly they don’t trust a person, but something in their “gut” alerts them that something is not right. Remember, it can take up to 8 times for that person to change their mind. If you are in a one-shot situation, those other 8 times disappear.
Is it possible to develop a greater amount of natural charisma and confidence in an authentic way? Of course! There are endless books about the matter of how to improve your charisma and confidence. To save you time here are 2 quick tips:
- First get clear on your purpose, then act.
Knowing your Greater Purpose or as Simon Sinek would say, your why, activates your sense of inspiration first, your motivation second. Inspiration comes from a place of curiosity and expansion. On the other hand motivation comes from a place of lack and fear. However it is this place of lack and fear that needs to come to light and be transformed into positive action, or else it becomes desperation. And everyone can sense desperation, unless they are desperate themselves.
Inspiration pulls you forward. It’s where your dreams live.
Motivation pushes you forward. It helps makes those dreams a reality.
Inspiration is the seed. Motivation is the growth. Both are needed in making a great first impression. And the second, third, fourth and so on.
- Reminder, not rules
Keep in mind that 7-seconds is a powerful reminder that the first impression is really about how you see yourself. It is not an absolute that if you do this or don’t do that, you will make a great first impression. A combination of factors come into play but none of them will matter if you are running on empty.
If you feel confident, open and welcoming, the recipient will see you in that manner. And if you feel scared, closed and distant, the other person will see you in that way as well.
Instead of faking it until you make it, try believing it until you achieve it. If you believe in yourself, and inspiration is fueling that belief, others will believe in you as well. People can sense your energy and presence before entering the room. Project confidence, and the connection will happen.
Be yourself, find those who matter, and enjoy making connections wherever you go.