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How to Make a Killer First Impression

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Two seconds are what people need to form an opinion about you. A group of Harvard researchers wanted to see if there was a link between a person`s teaching skills and their non-verbal cues, so they asked strangers to watch a muted 10-second video of some Harvard professors and asked them to rate each teacher on different scales including warmth, optimism, and professionalism.

The researchers then compared these ratings to the evaluations given by the Harvard students of their professors and surprisingly, they were similar. The professors who used non-verbal cues of confidence and likeability, were perceived to have better teaching skills than their peers. After shortening the videos and presenting them to the same group of participants, the research team concluded that it takes only two seconds for people to make a good or bad impression about each other.

Now, the question is: How can you make a good impression in two seconds or less? According to bestselling author, Vanessa Van Edwards, we usually ask three fundamental questions about a new person during the first few moments of an interaction:

  • Are you friend or foe?
  • Are you a winner or loser?
  • Are you an ally or an enemy?

Your job is to use your body and facial language to give the right answers to all three questions.  Here`s how:

Make people see your hands

After studying hundreds of TED Talks, Van Edwards and her team found a link between the talker`s hand gestures and the number of views the talk received on the internet. Less-popular talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures whereas the likes of Simon Sinek, and Jane McGonigal used more than 600 gestures in just eighteen minutes to hook their viewers. So what to do? Don`t keep your hands in your pocket. Instead, use them to make your points stand clear. It will give you credibility and get people to lower their guard.

“Confidence comes from discipline and training.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Trigger Oxytocin

Oxytocin is the hormone your brain releases when you`re comfortable around someone. If you can spike it in other people, they will trust you. One of the things that trigger Oxytocin is skin-to-skin touch with someone which is something you make happen when you give the other person a handshake. Your skins touch and Oxytocin flows everywhere.

For that, experts suggest that you should never replace the handshake with a high five, a wave or a fist bump.  You should also make sure your hands are dry and squeeze the other person`s hands as though you`re pressing a peach to see if it was ripe. Firm enough to give an impression of confidence, but not so firm to hurt their hands.  

Radiate Confidence

150 years ago, William James, Father of American Psychology, created the Act-as-if principle stating that if you adopt the attitudes and mindset of successful/confident people, you will eventually behave and be like them. This is precisely how you should carry yourself everywhere you go, especially around new people.

According to one study by Carnegie Mellon University, self-confidence affects your first impression more than good manners and professional reputation. Luckily, you can reach this result by controlling your body language and state.

Jordan Belfort, the real Wolf of Wall Street, said in one interview that he never gets on the phone with a prospect without first taking the power pose to make sure his words and tonality carry conviction and confidence. Similarly, many companies ask their representatives to smile on the phone so that prospects believe they are friendly.

You too can have similar effects by doing two things:

1. Borrow the mindset of confident people – Write down the top five mindsets that confident people use, which also resonate with your values and repeat them over and over in your head through the power of affirmation. Soon, your mind will adapt.

2. Use the right body language – In order to give the impression that you`re confident, not arrogant, experts suggest you do the following:

  • Keep your shoulders down and back.
  • Aim your chin, chest, and forehead straight in front of you or slightly up.
  • Keep space between your arms and torso.
  • Make sure your hands are visible.

“Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it.” – Stan Smith

Know What makes you feel inferior

Understanding why you don`t feel good enough is probably the most critical part of this list. Child trauma and past negative experiences usually make people either too nice or narcissistic. Public embarrassments, dreadful rejections, abusive parents and bullying friends, all can make you either so cold or a pushover.

You need to take the time to analyze what makes you inferior to people then fix yourself with mindfulness and actions until you`re free. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What situations scare me?
  • Do I feel the need to impress a specific type of person? Who are they?
  • When do I feel nervous and inferior the most? What do I do to overcompensate?

Once you know what brings out the worst in you, create some strategies to deal with your fears and use them over and over to break free.

What are some things you do to make a killer first impression? Comment below!

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