Why First Impressions Matter?

Love at first sight! It’s not as cliché as it is made out to be. According to many researchers, first impressions are very important. They set the tone for the entire conversation. At least for that conversation. Many times, you won’t get a chance to change the perception of you.

Perception is Reality

Actions Speak Louder than Words. Many people form their opinion of someone new in the first few minutes. As per many studies some people start making their first impressions in the first 7 seconds! So, you are on a very short leash, literally!

As per many researchers you get only 30 seconds to 2 minutes to make yourself count. People say not to judge a book by its cover! But that does happen. That’s how our brains work. It reacts to anything that is out of place, not normal and out of context. When we see someone, those same instincts kick in immediately. Without fail. The perception will matter. Whether it is an interview. Or a business meeting. Or even a date!

First Impressions Last

Though, not always, but many times they do. It is very hard to change the set habits, and perceptions. A very concerted effort is needed to change them.

So, play to your strengths. Never put forward your weak foot. Identify the connection between your strengths and what is needed of you. Use that as an icebreaker. As a conversation opener. Start by telling the audience what you can give them. Hook ‘em up!

Use the compliments received as the traits that others have noticed in you. Because, if someone was impressed enough to give it to you, it was genuine and will work again. Make them relatable and measurable for your audience to be able to understand.

Body Language Speaks

Generally there are accepted gestures, postures and facial expressions that are acceptable or not in a setting. These may vary depending on the culture, environment, and context.

Crossed arms seem to be distrustful or confrontational. Not open to ideas. Straight posture and relaxed shoulders indicate you are in control. Making eye contact signals honesty and respect for the listener/speaker. Nervousness is reflected if you are jiggling legs, tapping fingers, playing with pen or buttons, twirling hair, etc.

Handshakes are now passé. But a confident greeting is not dependent on that. A cheerful hello, a respectful Namaste or Aadab work as well.

But, Speak Carefully

Be concise. Consistent. Neither too fast, not too slow. Modulate your voice, if required. Finish your sentences. Don’t change them midway. Speak clearly with an even tone. In a balanced volume.

Don’t be nervous or shy about your regional language quirks. If they are not too confusing, they add flavour to the conversation. Communication is about touching the minds not being perfect.

Filler words and phrases are dampeners. Excessive usage and you lose the attention of the audience. They get the impression that you are not prepared. Slang must be avoided at all costs in interviews and formal meetings.

And, Don’t Get Distracted

Pay attention to what others say. One of the best signs that you respect is attentive listening. Avoid all distractions. Switch off the mobile phones - before a job interview, important presentation of meetings. At least keep them on silent mode always. And in pockets.

A fiddling person distracts everyone. Don’t take your eyes off, if the speaker is looking at you. If you work from home, find a secluded place. Cut the background noise.

Go on a Digital detox, every now and then. Develop a habit of reading to increase attention span. In addition to knowledge and vocabulary. Take notes - for better recall and understanding. It shows sincerity. Ask questions, when opportunity is given or at the end of the meeting. Better understood is better retained. Keep the folder organizedand meetingspaces clutter-free. Don’t multitask, unless that is what is expected of you.

Office chit-chat is good and healthy, but not too much of it! Delegate and don’t micromanage everything. Neither be too hungry, nor fill yourself too much. Have a balanced diet. Exercise, meditate, and relax daily.

Avoid holding too many meetings per day. Executives need time to execute! Also avoid too strict policy and rules, as people resent it. Avoid making too many but trivial decisions. Steve Jobs always wore the same turtleneck every day to his office - saved his mental energies by great deal.

Dress to Impress

Dress depends on the nature of work and workplace environment. For a fashion designer, 3-piece suits are boring. For a banker, flip-flops are a disaster.

What you wear is the first glimpse of your personality to the world. Clothes must be comfortable but not flowing. For women, they can have patterns but should be light and not too distracting. Remember you are not participating in a pageant at an interview. For men, the designs should be solid, light coloured and confirm to the official dress code.

Money can buy you clothes not style! They should fit well and are ironed. Do not accessorize too much. Black and blue are the to go colours whenever in doubt. Shades of these also work well.

Be On Time

Anyone who is late is considered reckless. Evasive. Unprepared. And lacking confidence. Coming late to a meeting signifies you don’t respect others. At all. Especially if it is a pattern.

Punctuality indicates you are in control. Have courtesy and respect the time of others. After time is money. When you rush, you tend to make avoidable mistakes.Bloopers have a propensity to occur to those who hasten everything. Because they did not plan and timed well.

Don’t get yourself the tag of a sloth. Or a couch potato. Being on time is well appreciated. No matter what.

Make a Lasting Impression and Improve it daily!

First Impressions are not the last impressions. But they do last for long. So, making them is great is desirable. But, even if you aren’t dazzling in the first meeting, all is not lost. Perseverance, continuous work, and gradual improvement could bring you in limelight even later.

Sometimes there is no one to guide you. Or you are short on resources to dress well. Or there are many things that you’ll pick only when you are on the job. Everyone understands that. Well most of them. Anybody worth their salt, will not set your image in stone. But will only draw a rough sketch of your persona.

Now, how do you define it, refine it, shade it, colour it to bring out your best is up to you. Your every meeting, interaction - casual or formal, will add a line or splash of colour to it. When you pass them in the lobby. Or have a casual chat in the cafeteria. Or show up at an office outing. What you do or don’t do. What others say about you - casually or as feedback. Everything continuously builds your impression, persona and image for others.

Don’t become image conscious, as those are shallow people. But have a strong set of principles. A moral compass. Never swerve from them. Your image will take care of itself, if you take care of your work.