Why First Impressions Stick
Personal Business Skills Articles
Submit Articles Back to Articles
seconds – thirty seconds, tops – that’s all the time it takes some to
assess your confidence, competence, status, likeability, warmth, and
trustworthiness. That’s how much time you have to make a first
fact, it’s impossible for us not to make these
snap judgments about one another. Human beings are wired that way.
to the triune brain theory, our grey matter is actually three brains in
one: The reptilian brain controls the body’s vital functions such as
heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. The cortical brain
handles activities such as language, analysis, and strategizing. (The
seat of our conscious thought is here in the prefrontal cortex.) But it
is the limbic brain that is most responsible for the value judgments
that strongly influence first impressions.
limbic system, in particular the amygdala, is the first part of the
brain to receive information and react to it. The amgydala takes in all
incoming stimuli and decides instantly whether or not it is
threatening. Before the conscious mind has had time to logically
evaluate someone, the limbic brain has already made a decision. And,
because these decisions are made without a logical process of
deliberation, they impact us with the immediacy and power of an
old-brain survival imperative – unconsidered, unannounced, and in most
cases, impossible to resist.
are psychologically programmed to see what we expect to see. So, once
this unconscious evaluation has labeled you as trustworthy or
deceptive, powerful or submissive, friend or foe, people will go
through all sorts of mental gymnastics to hang onto their initial
judgment: They will seek out information that confirms what they
believe to be true, they will look for and take note of your behaviors
that reinforce that opinion and ignore or downplay behaviors that are
television show 60 Minutes dramatized
confirmation bias on a show with polygraph examiners. The show’s staff
set up a mock situation in which four polygraph examiners chosen at
random were asked to administer polygraph examinations to four
different employees regarding the theft of camera equipment. (In fact,
no theft had occurred.)
of the four examiners was subtly led to believe that one particular
person was the likely thief. And so they found the identified
candidates – a different one in each case -- to be guilty, simply
because that’s what they expected to see.
the initial impression you make is negative, it can have devastating
long-term consequences for your business dealings – and even your
career. While you can’t control other people’s biases or past
experience, you can use your body language to send the right signals.
Here are seven body language tips for making a positive first
Adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. A study
at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging that
discovered it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of
the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a
person's emotional state. That’s why you can’t wait until you’re in the
meeting room to “warm up.” You’ve got to walk in, already expressing
the emotions you want to project.
Stand tall. Pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. This is a
posture of confidence and self-esteem.
Smile slowly. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says,
“I'm friendly and approachable.” A slow onset smile leads to even more
positive reactions. So, begin with a slight smile and let it grow
Make eye contact. Looking at someone's eyes transmits energy and
indicates interest and openness.
Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to
simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of
recognition and acknowledgement.
Lower your pitch. You’ll have them at “Hello” if your voice sounds warm
and inviting. Don’t let nervousness take your voice into its higher
range. Before speaking, take a deep breath and exhale through your
mouth. (If you are unobserved, make a soft “ahh” sound.)
so releases the tension in your throat and helps to keep your vocal
tone relaxed and lower.
Shake hands. Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue.
People react to a great handshake (palm to palm, web to web, firm, but
not bone-crushing) by judging you as open and friendly.
– first impressions stick. That can work in your favor if you make sure
yours is a good one!
About the Author
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an
international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association
events. She's a leadership blogger for Forbes and the author of twelve
business books including “THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LEADERS: How Body
Language Can Help – or Hurt How You Lead." To contact Carol call
510-526-1727, email Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com, or
visit Carol’s website www.CarolKinseyGoman.com. Authors Google+
Follow us @Scopulus_News