Why First Impressions Count
By Debra W. Gould, MS
What kind of first impression do you make on others? Have a guess? Research shows that this first seven- to-17-second interaction is critical. For example, a 2009 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that factors ranging from clothing style to posture play a role in how impressions are formed. Having a handle on the kinds of impressions you make can go a long way toward advancing your career.
Today we are passing along four first-impression tips:
1. Be careful with humor. Although a quip or two might serve as an icebreaker, stay away from sarcastic remarks that could backfire. Because you don’t know a stranger’s sensitivities, prolonged joking might establish barriers you can’t overcome, either now or later.
2. Give up the need to be right. Confrontations with somebody you’ve just met will destroy rapport before you even start building it. Wait until you have established credibility before you challenge another’s statements.
3. Appearance counts. Several years ago, a professional colleague offered to meet me for lunch. I decided against wearing a suit, opting for a business casual dress. When he showed up in shorts and sandals, the message he conveyed was: “Joe, meeting you is a rather ordinary experience and doesn’t call for me to present a business-like appearance.” Follow this rule of thumb: don’t dress for the job you have now, dress for the job you want to have.
4. Be aware of your speaking style and how it affects the first impression. Listeners judge our intelligence, our cultural level, our education, even our leadership ability by the words we select—and by how we say them. Rather than mumble, speak so you’re easily heard. Enunciate clearly. Alter your pitch to avoid the dullness of a monotone. Display animation in both voice and facial expression. Gesture naturally, without “canning” your movements.
When you make a good first impression, you’ll open the doors to opportunity, connection and success.
Debra W. Gould, MS is the president of Debra Gould & Associates, Inc. based in New Orleans and provides management consulting and training services to commercial and government clients. Debra is one of the founders of The Ebony Speakers and co-author of the book, Real Women, Real Issues - Positive Collaborations For Business Success. Debra can be reached at: (504) 244-6576,
email: firstname.lastname@example.org and
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