First Impressions Count!

Make a great First Impression

Remember the last time you heard that old adage, first impressions count? Well it is true, according to a Harvard psychologist. Nonetheless first judgments are not always based on a person’s attractiveness or dress sense.

People judge others when they meet for the first time. For example in a job interview the panel are passing personal judgement, even in the first two seconds.

The following factors are part of this initial evaluation of the new person:

  1. Warmth – can I trust you?
  2. Competence – can I respect you?

According to psychology professor Amy Cuddy, ideally you want to be perceived as having both attributes.

Most would assume that almost always, competency is the most important factor – especially if the meet and greet scenario is a job interview. We all want to appear to be qualified and able to perform the job at first introductions.

However, Cuddy says that from an evolutionary perspective, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust. The primary factor to ‘selling ourselves’ is warmth.

According to this, in order to influence others it is more important to first demonstrate you are warm and trustworthy than to prove you are capable and gifted.

Leading with the traits associated with competence can be misread as manipulative or threatening.

Without trust, no respect can be established. Only after we’ve established trust, can our peers assess our other strengths of intelligence, capability and qualifications and admire them for their value.

Use the following tips to help you build trust in your first meetings with new suppliers, alliances, networks or even a new boss.

5 tips to building trust through body language

  1. Engage – tilt your head or body towards the person to show them you are listening, and engaged.
  2. Empathy – watch and convey what the other person is doing by ‘mirroring’ their emotions, smile if they smile, be empathetic.
  3. Eye contact – the first thing people see, keep steady, confident and friendly eye contact.
  4. Hands – presentation is important, avoid fidgeting, keep palms open and relaxed, handshakes should be firm with a smile. Avoid folding arms, or closing your body to others.
  5. Posture – stand tall, head stable, hold your shoulders up and wide, chest upright, slower movements.

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