7 Seconds Matter: Hacking the Formula ForGood First Impressions

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

You only have seven seconds to make a great first impression. So, if connections are the lifeblood of any business, then networking is the currency. So, if you’re out and about meeting people, you better be sure you are presenting yourself in the proper light.

A bad first impression makes for an uphill battle, according to a new study recently published in the journal Social Cognition. In five experiments that studied first impressions, researchers from the University of Chicago concluded that “People require more evidence to perceive improvement than decline; it is apparently easier to become a sinner than a saint, despite exhibiting equivalent evidence for change.”

In other words, once you’ve internalized that someone is “bad,” it takes a lot to change your mind. In fact, researchers believe it takes more than it takes to decide that someone you previously believed to be a good person is actually bad.

Naturally, you might be second-guessing yourself now. Maybe you were late for a meeting or showed up in a wrinkled shirt. Whatever that case may be, don’t sweat it. While you may not get a second chance to make a first impression, you can hack the formula for putting your best foot forward every time. Here’s what researchers have to say about the science behind first impressions:

  • Practice eye contact. Those who have mastered this skill are perceived as more credible and earnest—as well as more confident and well adjusted.
  • Loosen up. If you want to appear more approachable, focus on your posture and how you walk. Believe it or not in one British study, researchers found ” looser gaits are associated with extroversion and adventurousness.”
  • Smile and perfect your handshake. Not only can it increase the positive effect toward a favorable interaction, but it also compensates for a negative one. Sometimes social situations are awkward and things don’t go as planned. A simple handshake can help to offset some of the damage. Think a mix of firm, confident and friendly.
  • As far as dress, meet the person where they are. When you dress similarly to the person you’re meeting—whether casual, business casual, or professional—you’ll seem warmer and more likable. No one wants to feel like they’ve been one-upped.

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