Positive first impression
Creating a Positive Impression

No do-overs! Make the most of your one chance to make a positive first impression.

Did you know you are pre-programmed to think a certain way when you first meet someone? You have four options for how you view them:

  1. As a friend, which triggers an approach response
  2. As a foe, which triggers a retreat response
  3. As a fellow “tribe member”—someone who looks like you, talks like you, dresses like you, and generally feels familiar
  4. Indifferent—not triggering much of a response at all

So what’s the pre-programmed response? It’s No. 4, indifferent. You are pre-programmed to be indifferent your 7+ billion fellow humans—and they to you! That’s the hurdle you need to overcome to make a positive first impression. And you have a mere seven seconds to do it. That’s all it takes for people to make a judgment about someone they’re encountering for the first time.

Knowing how people size each other up from day to day has significant implications for identifying and subduing implicit bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. We like to interact with people we can understand, with whom we have enough common ground to have a conversation. The thought of new ideas and new people can be exciting — but they can’t be so different that we feel unsafe with them.

If you were determined to always create a positive impression the first time you met someone, what would you need to do differently?

Before the meeting

Approach meetings mindfully. Prepare by understanding the situation and how you want the person or people to feel and think upon first meeting you. What impact do you want to have on them? How will you look and dress to make that impact? How will you greet them? What questions will you ask?

Every little thing matters when you interact with people.

During the meeting

You want to make the other person/people feel comfortable in talking to you. That starts by being attentive. You want to be interested in them first and interesting to them second.

Show your interest in them by listening first! People want to be heard, feel dignified (because you are listening and respecting them), and know you care about what they have to say. You want to prove to them that you can be trusted. You are becoming a friend (not a foe or indifferent).

Then, to be interesting to them, use what you heard. Find a commonality by picking up on something they said and then reinforce it to keep that connection going.

After the meeting

Close the encounter effectively: “It was really nice meeting you.” “Thanks for all the good insight.” “This was so helpful.” Be mindful that you want to leave a positive impression.

You have the power to create the impression you want, anytime, anywhere, in any situation. Own the impression you make on others.

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