Appearances are everything. First impressions make a huge impact on our daily lives. There are ways to salvage them when the opportunity presents itself, but considering the circumstances, wouldn’t it be better to get off on the right foot?
Lately I’ve been intrigued by not only first impressions, but how people perceive others based on appearances, mannerisms, interactions, and more. The natural place to start then was with appearances. Studies have found that we not only decide if we like someone in a matter of seconds, but that those first impressions often stick.
Moreover, according to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words, 55% of all communication is nonverbal, so appearances matter. A lot.
The entire premise of first impressions is called thin-slicing by psychologists. Thin-slicing is when we take a cognitive freeze frame of someone and assume their personal traits. We guess their competence, confidence, likability, and trustworthiness in a matter of seconds. Research points to this rapid assessment as a survival mechanism that has evolved over the ages, when things were truly a matter of life and death.
While it’s value isn’t nearly as important today, it still has a large part in how many of our interactions turn out. I did a run through the research to better understand what nonverbal cues are most prominent and how you can cater towards making a positive first impression. Here are the top 10 tips on making a good first impression.
1. Wear nice clothes that fit.
Sounds obvious, but wearing well made clothes makes a difference. Designer labels alone convey status, but more important may be how your clothes fit. Recent research has shown that if your clothes are tailored and fit well, it is perceived as wealth and success.
2. Look people in the eye.
We’ve all heard this advice. Look people in the eye, especially when you’re conversing with them. I often thought this was to form a connection/show interest, but research shows that eye contact is also interpreted as intelligence. If you want to be perceived as smart, maintain eye contact.
Bonus tip: wearing glasses also boosts your perceived intelligence.
3. Smile more.
Surprise! Smiling has a positive impact on first impressions. Not only does smiling make you happy, but it also impacts others because smiling is contagious.
Some of the latest statistics on the subject show that 72% of people think those who smile frequently are more confident and successful. Furthermore, 86% of people say they are more likely to strike up a conversation with strangers if they are smiling.
Research shows that smiling makes people remember you, like you, and want to speak with you. Unless you’re deathly afraid of social interaction, smile more.
4. Walk with some swagger.
How you walk says more about you than you’d think. If you walk with a loose freedom you are seen as more adventurous and extroverted. Instead, walking more neurotically, with a shorter, clipped gait, can be seen as neurotic.
Give yourself some freedom when you walk.
5. Shake hands with intention.
Everyone says having a firm handshake is important and while that can be true, there’s more to it than that. Research shows that a firm handshake shows dominance, while a limp one is perceived as submissive.
Beyond that, it may be better to simply match the handshake you get from others and keep things neutral. After all, handshakes are a two person game.
6. Stand up straight.
Standing up straight isn’t only good for your overall health, it also has a positive impact on how others perceive you. Good posture conveys confidence, competence, and trustworthiness.
Get away from the screens and try to stand tall.
7. Wear nice shoes, but not too nice.
Shoes talk. Wearing something affordable or stylish show that you’re agreeable or have good taste, but only to a certain extent. Rocking a pair of shiny, new shoes may take things too far. Overly nice shoes come with a feeling of trying too hard to fit in.
Wear nice shoes, but don’t go overboard.
8. Men should groom their facial hair.
Men should either be clean shaven, which conveys trust or have well groomed facial hair, which conveys masculinity and attractiveness.
Surprisingly, research shows that anything in between impacts you negatively, so avoid the stubble.
9. Women should wear make-up, but don’t over do it.
Make-up is a good thing for women. It is perceived as more feminine and attractive, but don’t over do it. Similarly, women should be aware of their accessories and what they mean as well.
For example, piercings promote an air of creativity but not intelligence, while tattoos are seen as promiscuous, but less reliable. Everything means something.
10. Everyone should mirror behaviors.
One of the best tips comes from the simple act of mirroring nonverbal behavior. Mirroring is the act of copying the actions of the person you are trying to connect with. If they smile, you smile. If they stand a certain way, do the same.
The point is that you are trying to show that you feel what they feel. That you have something in common. This gives off a good energy between individuals and only helps in making a good first impression.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
This of course only scratches the surface of what goes into making a good first impression. It’s all quite fascinating and a subject I hope to explore further, as I dive deeper into the other areas of interest related to this subject.
For now though, just be aware of these simple cues that can go a long way in affecting first impressions.