First Impressions and How They Affect Our Lives
Meeting someone for the first time can be a terrifying experience. Whether you are interviewing for a job, going on a first date, or teaching a new class, first impressions are an integral part of our daily interactions. We live in a world where people tend to “judge a book by its cover,” so it is important to give off a genuine vibe and not distort your own truth.
Our social intuition naturally guides us, but there are other times when certain signals can go right over our heads. To identify the traits that leave a positive impact, here are some tips that will come in handy when introducing yourself to another.
Making a Lasting Impression
Dress Appropriately. Your attire should reflect your personality and the way you want to be perceived. Make conscious choices when deciding what to wear and seek advice when you aren’t sure.
Use Good Hygiene. Even though this seems like common sense, it is still a crucial part of first impressions. This means maintaining your hair, having fresh breath, and smelling like you just jumped out of the shower.
Be Confident. Don’t be afraid to say hello to new, friendly faces. Make sure to smile and be assertive. Remember, confidence is different than arrogance, and diplomacy wins over acrimony.
Be Yourself. You don’t need to lie or brag to impress anyone. These tactics will often come off as fake and sour an innocent conversation. If you feel embarrassed about a particular topic, subtly transition into another point of conversation that is comfortable for you.
Don’t Fidget. Just Relax. Fidgeting will definitely reveal your nervousness. Don’t get too wrapped up in your own head, just relax and let your natural personality do the work. Stay calm and keep your hands by your side or on your lap.
Ask Interesting Questions. This will let the third party know that you are honestly intrigued and show their interests. Plus it’s a great way to keep conversation going and not get stuck lingering in an awkward silence.
Be Positive. Show that you are the “glass half-full” type. This will let the other person see that you are accepting, open-minded, and healthy to be around.
Talk About What Interests You. This will help the third party get to know you better. It can also be a way to see if you share any common interests with the other party too. But don’t overdo it. If you find you are the only one talking, stop and ask the person across from you how they feel.
Close on a Good Note. Reassure the person that you had a good time and look forward to seeing them again. Even if you have no intention of interacting again, the least you can do is leave a positive impression.
Are First Impressions Reliable?
Nalini Ambady, a social psychologist at Tufts University, uses the analogy of comparing a person’s personality to the layers of an onion, “The layers near the top are the easiest to pick up.” These traits can often be identified through simply observing a person’s visual cues or how they interact with others. For example, extroversion can be categorized as one of these outer layers because it is easily visible. The trait is commonly revealed by how the person presents themselves.
Many experiments have been conducted supporting the notion that people are accurate at predicting a stranger’s easily visible traits. Therefore, we might feel inclined to conclude that you can get a good idea of a person’s character based off of a first impression. Despite the results from these experiments, however, you should not always necessarily stick with your gut feelings, or your first impression when analyzing a person. We can still be distracted and swayed by certain attributes such as physical attractiveness and charisma. Frank Bernier, social psychologist at Oregon State University, supports the notion that we should be careful with being definitive about our first impressions of others, “I believe that personality is truthfully encoded within the first 30 seconds of behavior, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to accurately get all of it all the time.” Sometimes, something as simple as how a person feels that day can affect their judgments and attitude.
Because first impressions aren’t always completely reliable, it is important to let others feel secure in showing their true personality around you. John Kissell, a journalism professor at Loyola Marymount University, believes that it is his job to make other interview subjects comfortable in a first impression setting. He suggests that most interviews don’t start until after the first five minutes, “It is important to assess where the other person is at and try to put them at ease.” Making people comfortable is an essential part of getting them to open up.
Despite the fact that people have different ideas of how to approach a situation that involves first impressions, there is no denying that it is an essential part of our lives. That is why it is important to be aware of how you are projecting yourself and ensure people are seeing your authenticity.
Alexandra Zuccaro is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a B.A in English. She a strong interest in journalism and hopes to pursue a career in the field.