Day 4: The Art of the First Impression

So… I’m pretty bad at first impressions. I’ve had multiple friends, colleagues, classmates, etc. say to me, “When I first met you, I thought you were really cold/standoffish/uppity/mean.” I was also regarded lower for a college scholarship because I was “really quiet, and didn’t seem to like the other candidates.” My MO in a new situation is to stand back and observe first, and to only enter the fray later. Walking into a new place and then immediately retreating to the wall or the corner by myself isn’t a good first impression. The problem is that first impressions often dictate how a relationship will develop (or whether it will develop at all).

I’ve been listening to The Art of Charm a lot lately, hoping to grow in this area of my life (i.e., first impressions and charm). As I was listening to Episode 406, I was surprised when they pinpointed the moment of the first impression. It’s not your first interaction with a person, which was my expectation.

Your first impression is not what you say, but when you become a blip on other people’s radar.

So as soon as I walk into a room, I’m making my first impression. What do I do? How do I hold myself? Who do I talk to? Where am I looking? What am I wearing? There are so many factors to a first impression that it’s overwhelming. Thankfully, in this episode, Jordan, Johnny, and AJ break down the four different components that go into a first impression: static, dynamic, self-presentation, and circumstance.

Static. This is the hand you’re dealt. Your genetic makeup, eye color, ethnicity, etc. You can’t really change these things. However, that doesn’t mean that we should simply ignore it. We can influence and maximize our static in three ways: exercise, sleep, and nutrition. In other words, try to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m sure I’ll touch on this more this month.

Dynamic. This is what we can control. Do we have good posture and body language? How are you feeling? Many of us allow our emotions to dictate how we present ourselves – I know I often do. However, as Jordan often says:

The mind follows the body and the body follows the mind.

We can control and change our emotions. Amy Cuddy has a well known study (that has questionable science behind it) that advocates power posing to change emotions. As I’ve become more aware of it, I’ve noticed that my body often reflect my negative inner emotions. I may have my arms crossed, or I’m slouching, or I have a stern look on my face. However, as I shift my body language, I find my emotions shifting as well. I feel more confident, happier, and simply better, in general.

Self-presentation. This is your style and grooming. How do your clothes represent you? This isn’t a matter of dressing in a way that isn’t genuine, or doesn’t reflect who you are. As Kimberly Seltzer, an image and social confidence consultant (what a title!), says,

Changing your clothes isn’t a matter of changing the package. It’s just changing the wrapping, to make it as attractive as possible.

When you give a gift to someone, you don’t want to just tape it up in whatever you have lying around. You want to wrap it in something nice. So make sure your clothes fit. Swap out your clothes from high school for something more fitting for your age. Make sure your hair is well-groomed, you’ve got your deodorant, and that you brushed your teeth. The way you present yourself goes a long way to influence your first impressions.

Circumstance. This includes the place you’re at, where you’re located in that place, and who you’re with. The type of event that you’re at influences what people think about you, right? Think about the types of people you’d expect at a football game vs. a church service vs. hanging out with your SO’s friends. The fact that you have an idea of what kinds of people would be at these places lends credence to this idea.

In that place, where are you located? The side of the room, or right in the middle? Are you hiding behind your boyfriend, or openly engaged in the conversation? People that are in the middle of the action are generally seen more positively.

Who are you with? And are you sticking to the people that you know like gum on a shoe? Are you with other people with open body language and have a ready smile, or are you all closed off, eyes lowered, with your faces buried in your drink?

And those are the four components of a first impression. I could go on at length about them (because I tend to talk too much), but I think I’ll wrap it up here. After all, it’s only day 4. I’m sure these topics will come up again in the future.

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