The Importance of First Impressions

Have you ever met someone for the first time and got strong feeling that this is someone you’re going to like and trust? Or, on the other hand, that there’s something about them that doesn’t feel quite right? Either way, it’s nothing you can put your finger on — just a feeling.

It would be strange if you haven’t, because this is exactly how humans are programmed to respond to anyone on an initial meeting — we form a first impression.

How We Form First Impressions

Forming a first impression may seem like ESP, but it isn’t really. All that’s happening is that your braining is very quickly noticing and processing various things about the person that you may not have picked up consciously. These may include their posture, the amount of space they’re giving you, their gestures, their expressions — perhaps even the slight, undetectable scent that comes from them.

All this is happening while you’re saying hello and how are you, and maybe introducing yourself. Your brain is comparing these observations with past experiences of how people who’ve shown those signs have turned out, and it will assume that this person will be similar. At the same time, of course, the other person is following the same process with you.

Generally speaking, we react to signals in much the same way, but there can be variations — for instance, different cultures will have different ideas of what’s a correct personal space. Nevertheless, if you want to give yourself the best chance of conveying the right impression, you’d do well to study what your body language usually conveys. Especially where your business is concerned.

First Impressions and Business

While making a good first impression may be important in many social settings, when you’re representing your business it can make the difference between securing a contract or not. Whether in a formally arranged meeting, a networking session or a chance encounter, the first impression you make is vital.

Estimates of how long you have to make that impression vary from three to twelve seconds, but everyone agrees that it’s very difficult to recover from a bad first impression. While not impossible, you have to recognise what’s happening and deliberately change the signals you’re giving out. That makes a full understanding of non-verbal communication essential.

First Impressions in Different Contexts

This is all very well at a face-to-face meeting, but what happens when you’re not in the same room as the other person? A video call is similar, although people are harder to read in a Zoom box, but both written form and phone calls have their own issues. In written form, for instance, exact phrasing will take the place of body language, but you won’t know how the other person is reacting — you just probably won’t hear from them if you’ve got it wrong.

In the case of a phone call, most of the impression you’re giving comes from your voice, rather than the words you use. This can still be extremely powerful, but it’s harder to read when you’re giving a bad impression.

Not impossible, but you need to be an expert at phoning to know how to react, which is why many business owners delegate their vital cold calling to specialists. Get in touch with the Resource Centre to find out whether we can help you assure that your business gives a great first impression over the phone.

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