It’s generally accepted that the first time you meet someone, you have about seven seconds to make a lasting impression.
That’s it—that’s all it takes.
Amy Cuddy, a psychologist at the Harvard Business School, and her colleges have been studying the art of first impressions for over a decade.
As such, they’ve determined that first impressions come down to two simple judgments:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person’s capabilities?
Their research has found that 80 to 90 percent of a first impression relies on these two snap judgments. Most would assume that competence overrides trust as the most important factor, but according to Cuddy’s research, that’s not necessarily the case.
In a past article, she explained to Wired, “We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that’s trying to answer the question, ‘What are this person’s intentions toward me?’”
In other words—trust comes first, competence follows.
So, as a 5amer, what can you do to take advantage of these first seven seconds to make a positive, lasting impression? Below, you’ll find five tips to show you how to make it happen:
1) Smile Like You Mean It
In a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, researchers found that 48 percent of Americans believe that a smile is the most memorable aspect of meeting someone for the first time.
How you smile, however, can affect that impression.
Most people are innately good at reading facial expressions and can tell when a smile is insincere. Smile too big and you come across as nervous or even arrogant; smile slightly and you might inadvertently brand yourself as being shy or smug.
The best course of action is to smile as naturally as possible.
Even better, just like yawns, genuine smiles are contagious. Not only do people respond positively to warmth, but a solid smile helps build the very trust that’s vital for making a sound first impression.
- Bonus: Studies have found that smiling is highly correlated with reduced stress and longevity.
2) The Handshake
The importance of a good handshake is something that has been studied with respect to both business and personal relationships. Too hard, and you come off as overbearing and over-confident. Too soft, and the opposite takes place—you come off as weak or aloof.
Accepted in the United States and in most countries around the world as a sign of politeness, the handshake, when done correctly, can inspire both trust and confidence.
Find the right balance of the two firmness options for an ideal handshake. Also, solid eye contact and a smile can go a long way in forming a strong connection and great first impression.
3) Introducing Yourself
In certain social and professional situations, introductions can be awkward. Thankfully, verbal introductions can help cut through the noise and break the tension.
A simple “It’s a pleasure to meet you” or “Thank you for taking the time to meet me” can be the icebreaker needed to ease any tense situation or keep you from starting off on the wrong foot.
If you’re bad with names, this is the point in the conversation to reinforce a person’s name in your mind. Whether you repeat it silently to yourself or respond with a simple, “Great to meet you, (insert name),” do whatever it takes to make a permanent mental note of a person’s name.
No one likes to be forgotten, and people take notice when you fail to remember who they are.
In a group situation, it’s acceptable for someone else to make the initial introduction. Once you’ve been introduced, however, it’s time to speak for yourself. Enter the conversation in an unobtrusive manner and engage with confidence. Place the focus on someone else within the group—ask questions, listen in earnest and provide meaningful responses.
4) Mirroring Body Language
It’s both psychological and physiological—humans instinctively mirror each other’s body languages. On the physiological front, the “mirroring” reaction is caused by a neuron that affects the part of the brain that recognizes faces and facial expressions.
With first impressions, non-verbal cues are just as important as what you say.
Research has shown that people who feel the same way or experience similar emotions are more likely to connect on a deeper, more permanent level. If you’re able to mirror a person’s body language and non-verbal cues, it sends a psychological message that you’re on the same wavelength, bringing about trust and confidence.
5) Confidence, Not Cockiness
Sometimes, the confidence/cockiness line is a thin one—as such, tread lightly.
What may come off as confidence to some, could be interpreted as cockiness to others. Ultimately, it’s all about reading the room and putting your best foot forward in a way that is genuine, straightforward and respectful.
Inspire trust and project competence—in any introductory moment, confidence will naturally follow.