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How to Make an Impactful Impression in the First 7 Seconds

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how to make a good first impression

Innocently making a bad first impression has happened to many of us. Not coming across as you intended can create challenges in your personal and professional life. People may mistrust you, dislike you or not even notice you. Sometimes, the fault is yours.

You know what you are feeling, what you are thinking, and you tend to believe those thoughts and emotions leaking out of every orifice of your body. You overestimate how obvious what you truly think must be and fail to recognize other people in your life are in their own bubbles, thinking the same thing about their inner worlds. This is the illusion of transparency.

Your words and behaviors are subject to interpretation. Imagine you are sitting in as an audience member and you begin staring off into space while your colleague is speaking in the meeting. Are you thinking about whether you blew the candle out before you left your house? The harsh words that you mouthed to your partner when he left you with no petrol in the car or maybe you were in deep thought about the valid example of how things need to improve in the workplace. Your colleague has no way of knowing what you are thinking in fact no one knows why you are behaving the way you are but the people around you will come to some perceived conclusion.

Rightly or wrongly, our brains are wired to respond in this way. Even more than that, people make assessments all the time unconsciously relying on your appearance, status, role and body language. Prematurely or not, the person takes it further by gathering data to make a judgement about you. The rose water colored glasses provide a lens of perception that shapes their view of you. Can they like, know and trust you?

Let me share with you 7 ways to help others draw the correct impression:

1. Project warmth

Giving the right signals early in the relationship is important. Making eye contact, smiling when appropriate and acknowledging comments, being present in conversation and listening without interruption. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Being a person of your word creates a foundation of where trust is fostered, and collaborative partnerships are formed.

“It’s pretty simple, pretty obvious: that people’s first impressions of people are really a big mistake.” – Vincent D’Onofrio

2. Overdeliver

Demonstrating how instrumental you are every opportunity is gold. Go beyond any expectation, give without being asked and detach from the outcome or wanting something in return. Have a servant’s heart.

3. We-centric culture

Building an environment where we nurture an inclusive culture, creates a strong sense of ‘us’. Celebrate the strengths and achievements of others, acknowledge the values you see in others and how the shared vision belongs to you all.

4. Revise your opinion of others

Have you ever misjudged someone by letting some kind of bias get in the way? Creating stories about why someone is behaving in a way, how wronged you have been by someone or making assumptions based on the clothes someone is wearing and where they fit in the workplace. Maybe it’s time to hit the pause button as we know that there can be a wide gap between intent and impact. Adopt a curiosity lens and come with good intentions.

5. Have proper etiquette

Your body language tells a lot about you. Sloppy time keeping, or scruffiness can be taken as signs that you are not bothered and may raise questions about your general level of commitment. Be conscientious, exude professionalism and remember you are being paid to behave in a certain way.

Handling simple expectations such as punctuality, demonstrates a level of simple responsibility. Asking quality questions and putting your hand up first to offer assistance without being asked and proposing ideas allows you to start adding value right away.

6. Show kindness

Saying thank you is so underrated. It is so important to show your colleagues appreciation when they help you out. Showing gratitude lets people know that you value their time and energy.

“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.” – Malcolm Gladwell

7. 360 feedback

It is not easy to understand how other people perceive us. We are often uncertain, confused or even oblivious of what we project. In the workplace, the lack of self-awareness can be limiting. A narrative can emerge and is often shared as advice or gossip. Getting feedback how people perceive you can be a starting point. One way can be to identify 3 key people you see you repeatedly in work situations and you know will tell it to you straight.  

Ask them directly what their general perception of you is and what could you do differently that would make a difference in the workplace. Whilst receiving feedback, manage your emotions and resist the temptation to explain, defend or justify your actions. Gathering information provides an opportunity to close the gap between how people perceive you and how you want to be perceived. The choice is yours if you want to make the commitment to change.

How do you leave a great first impression? Comment below!

Angela Kambouris used to work with high risk kids in the streets of Melbourne, now she has her own consultancy business and writes for large publications. As a leadership coach and business leader having spent over 20 years in the field of vulnerability and trauma, she has built a high-level career as an executive and transitioned into a business owner. She has spoken on stages and worked with thousands of people in self-development, leadership, mindset, human behavior and business. Love to travel, experience difference cultures and mastermind with leaders and expert authorities in personal development and business all over the world. Connect with her through her website http://angelakambouris.com/ or through her Facebook.

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What Les Misérables Taught Me About Our Values

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Who am I? The ultimate question many of us try to answer. When I think of values, I think of Victor Hugo’s 1862 book, “Les’ Miserables”. In Hugo’s book, Jean Valjean, is used as a protagonist to highlight the power in redemptive love and compassion. Valjean goes into prison for stealing a loaf of bread, entering as a simple and decent man. His time in jail seems to have an unrepairable effect, where he emerges from the chain gang as a tough, bitter criminal who hates society for what it has done to him. (more…)

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7 Ways You Can Increase Your Concentration Right Away

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In today’s world, an overabundance of information and a large number of distractions is making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on performing the necessary tasks. In this article, I propose 7 simple methods that will train your ability to concentrate, while not taking you from your usual activities. (more…)

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5 Simple Hacks to Help You Develop the Habit That Will Transform Your Life

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It’s excruciating when we know what’s killing us but we can’t do anything about it because as you know, it is not easy to pull the brake on a high way. According to Napoleon Hill, “remember this always – the best (and one might say the only) way in which old habits may be removed is to form new habits to counteract and replace the undesirable ones”. (more…)

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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