Few things are as important as your first impression.
It can be the difference between getting an opportunity and being dismissed quickly. It can be the difference between being trusted and making someone suspicious of you. And it can be the difference between getting what you want and missing out on what you desire. A powerful first impression should not be left to chance.
It’s important to be aware that your first impression starts the moment you are seen, not when you start talking. The clock is ticking from the moment you first come onto someone’s radar because most people give you seven seconds or less before they draw a judgment of whether the like and trust you.
Being intentional about your first impression is one of the best things you can do to level up your professional game. But how do you manage something that happens so quickly and has such important consequences? You master the science of body language.
Body-language Secret #1: Be on before you’re on.
Being on before you’re on means priming yourself for the outcome that you are seeking from the interaction. It’s creating the mindset, visualizing the outcome you want and pumping yourself up to walk in with confidence that you’re going to own that space. Your mindset informs your physical presence to a strong degree, so the more you’re mentally primed, the more your body will reflect your increased confidence.
Body-language Secret #2: Take up your space.
You can increase how confident you appear by using your space wisely. Keeping an open body posture with your head up, shoulders back and feet slightly wider than your shoulders can help you feel and appear more confident. Our bodies have a tendency to take up the space we feel intrinsically we deserve, so don’t play small when you’re making a first impression. Be mindful to not shrink in on yourself or bury yourself head down in your phone when waiting for a meeting or interview. This puts you in a low-power body position and can actually make you look and feel less confident.
Body-language Secret #3: Build trust with your hands.
Eye-tracking studies show the first thing most people look at when you enter their space is your hands. Our hands are our trust indicators. By keeping them visible during those initial few seconds when someone is sizing you up, you help turn off the subconscious alarm bells in the other person’s brain that go off when he or she thinks you could be a threat in some way. If people can’t see your hands, they can’t fully trust you, and it makes it harder for you to create a great first impression. Be mindful to keep your hands loose and visible by your side when you enter a meeting, event or interview.
Body-language Secret #4: Connect with your eyes.
Eye contact isn’t just a good idea. When you do it the right way, it actually creates oxytocin, which can help someone feel more connected and engage with you more quickly. They key is to hit the sweet spot of maintaining 60 to 70 percent eye contact throughout an interaction. For most traditional American business settings, this will show you’re engaged, help you create warmth and increase your likability.
Note: Eye-contact ideals vary culturally, so always make sure you study up on local cultural norms when engaging cross-culturally.
Creating a powerful first impression is critically important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Using science-backed body-language tactics, you can easily master your first impression in any situation.