First Impressions Last?

If your daughter came home and told you she was dating a boy who had a skinhead haircut and lots of tattoos, one of which was a picture of Jack the Ripper, the masked murderer from London in the 19th century, what do you think you would say? No chance!

What if the reality is this chap is handsome, well liked, well respected and has no problem finding girlfriends? However, you would have to get over the first impression, if that was the description, to find this part of his personality. How many times have you not given somebody a chance because of what you thought from your first impressions?

There is a whole science behind how to create a good first impression and a whole host of books and training programmes to teach people how to get that edge. For many years it was believed that it took 30 seconds to form that first opinion, however, nowadays it is believed that first impression happens inside the first second! Your whole posture, expression, appearance, subtle tell-tale signs of confidence or anxiety are all processed by a person’s subconscious in that first blink of an eye, which then forms a signal to the nerve endings, which then produces a ‘gut feeling’ that people so often talk about.

Other studies have shown that once we have our first impression of someone, then subconsciously we look to find proof that we were right, despite evidence to the contrary. No-one likes to be wrong! My friend’s first impression of her husband was that he was intelligent, wealthy, humorous and attractive, with a full head of thick dark curly hair. One out of four isn’t bad….he still has a full head of hair!

High profile managers are trained to produce the required presentation to achieve optimum first impressions. This can often save or earn companies millions when negotiating supply or sales contracts with their counterparts.

Sometimes though, it is important to put your brain into gear first when you want to create a lasting impression. Like the Managing Director on his first day in his new job who went down on to the shop floor and saw a young man hanging around, with his hands in his pockets. Determined to make a strong first impression in front of all the factory workers he asked the young man, “How much do you earn a week?” “€200,” he replied. The M. D. pulled out his wallet paid him the €200 in cash and said, “Take this money and leave the premises immediately – your work is finished here!” Smirking, the young man took the money and left. The M.D. turned to the factory workers and asked, “What work did that joker do here anyway?” A junior operator replied, “He was the pizza delivery man!” That wasn’t the first impression he wanted to create.

I’ve done lots of training and trained lots of people on the importance of first impressions. In my life-coaching classes I explain to people what they are projecting and we explore how that compares with what they want to project. More often than not, people have no idea of the real image they portray to the outside world. It is really important in all walks of life – whether that be a shopkeeper, waitress, bank clerk or estate agent – that we are aware of the first impression we create….as important as the first impression we make of somebody else, even if they do have Jack the Ripper tattooed on their arm!

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