“People sometimes talk about the power of first impressions, and believe me, there is truth to it.” -Ann Brashares, My Name is Memory
Before I do a dive into the matter of first impressions, I want you to picture yourself at the airport, in line at the boarding gate as they call the sections to board…
You luck out, though not in first class for this trip, you’re in the first group called to board. Sweeet!
You get walk toward the ticket agent, he scans your phone with your boarding pass, you head on over to the walkway to board the plane. You walk past the folks already seated in first class, find your seat, put your carry-on into the overhead compartment, then get comfy in your seat.
Then you notice the other groups boarding…of course. As each person passes you by you hope and pray they’re not seated next to you….c’mon, we all do it, especially when we see the “too happy to be on this plane” person, the parent with the two wailing toddlers, the guy talking really loudly on his phone because we all need to know how important he is. We take just a few seconds to take in a first impression of complete strangers and even go to the extent of hoping, or not hoping that they are seated next to us….even on a quick flight from Boston to New York, New York to DC, or any other short distance. What’s my point?
First impressions are absolutely significant.
I’ll admit, there are times that they just don’t matter as much…I’m watching my neighbor walk out in his pajamas (no lie) in our New England 21 degree wether with flip-flops on. Quite frankly, I think the President could walk up to him right now and he just wouldn’t care what impression he was making…he’s just trying to put out the trash. But when it comes to the fabulously fierce and our focus on proactive personal branding, even when it doesn’t matter, it just matters that you’re owning the impressions you make.
By now, you know I’ve got some tips and tricks around all of this. So, let’s go!
To me, the process of managing first impressions requires that we:
- Define what is we want others to pick up about us upon immediate interaction or even just simple observation. According to Forbes, researchers from NYU found that we make eleven major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting. That’s it folks-seven seconds to make an impression of good, bad, or indifferent. So the first thing we have to do is decide what it is that we want others to “see”. Is it confidence, genuineness, beauty, intellect, creativity, authenticity, warmth, a killer smile? Base your decision on what is most true to your core, who you are, who you see when you look in the mirror.
- Align our presence with our targeted impression. If it’s confidence we want folks to see, we don’t dare walk into any room with our head hanginglow, not looking people in the eye, and lacking assurance in our voice.If it’s authenticity, just be you, don’t put on airs or operate in mimicryof someone or something else. We have to focus not only on the practice of “showing up” but on understanding the “feel” of our presence. Does our confidence, genuineness, intellect, beauty truly rub off on others? Can they perceive it?
- Identify some things that will reinforce our targeted impression. For instance, if it’s intellect, the impact of a dapper pair of glasses goes a long way. Creative? Why not wear some funky jewelry, especially if you made it!!! Some thing things are hard to impress, totally get it but you can get some reinforcements that serve as “commercials” that get others to ask for more, then giving you the opportunity to convey your impression. Here’s an example: One of the characteristics that I really want to convey is the characteristic of genuineness. Now besides a smile, that can be something difficult to convey, but I also looooooooooove traveling and love items from faraway lands that serve as conversation starters. So, when someone is compliments a scarf or my bangles from India, a ring I got in Italy, or something of the sort, I genuinely thank them and if I’m allowed, share a bit about my experience that let’s others know that that’s just part of who I am.
- Prepare our power introduction. If we make it past the seven seconds, we will have the opportunity to introduce ourselves and maintain our power in this by preparing how we want to introduce ourselves. Of course this will be tailored for every interaction. For instance, I’ve had to learn that when I introduce myself, I should just share my first name because for some reason, saying Farah Bernier sometimes confuses folks. More often than not, I see the look of “wait, did you say Sarah? And what’s your last name…burn-ya-ear, burned-ear, burn-i-yay.” Yeah, so I focus more on getting folks to just get Farah especially since nine times out of ten I get, oh nice to meet you Sarah. This way, I don’t create any more confusion in the first impression stage, I just focus in getting them to know my first name because one might meet a number of ‘Sarahs’ over time, but the few ‘Farahs’ you meet, you will always remember (yes, I know I’m going to hear about this from all the ‘Sarahs’ in my life…I love you…hehehe). I am really laboring this point because preparing your introduction is really powerful. This is why we spend a good deal of quality time on it in my workshops. So, if nothing else, please take time on this one.
Finally, in managing your own first impressions, I also encourage you to manage your first assumptions of others. Seven seconds can be really powerful or really detrimental for the impressionist and the person observing the impression. Sometimes, we can miss opportunity to connect with other fabulously fierce because we don’t get to second eight or stop at second three because we’ve already made some assumptions. Now, we all donor, remember the plane example I share…we’re human. “Let’s just give each other a bit of a break and more of a chance as we all grow in managing our first impressions.
Soundtrack of the week: An oldie but goodie, En Vogue’s Time Goes On