People make snap judgments about you within the first minute of meeting, based on how you look and behave. Luckily, you can learn to make your first impression a true and lasting one. Here’s how.
Research from the University of Glasgow says that you have just half a second to make a good first impression on someone. So how can you use those milliseconds to your best advantage? We asked Dr. Gail Davies, one of the UK’s leading mindfulness practitioners and co-founder of Mindlab to share her insights for getting a first impression right.
‘Science shows that we spend much of our lives on ‘automatic pilot’, not fully present, in effect living mindlessly. If we are mindful we are more in control and better communicators, both verbally and non-verbally, and so are likely to make a better impression’ she says. So how can we do it?
Set an intention
Before you even get to a meeting, you can prepare yourself by setting an intention: consciously stepping out of automatic pilot, focusing on who you are meeting and your expectations, and getting into the right mindset. Dr. Gail points out: ‘Setting an intention allows us to deliberately reduce our ‘unconscious bias’ which can be a barrier when meeting people for the first time’.
Connect with your own body
If you’re a bit nervous before a meeting, your body’s stress response will give you physiological signals, such as shallow breathing, sweaty palms, and knots in your stomach. ‘These are perfectly normal,’ says Dr. Gail, ‘acknowledging these emotions arising will ‘turn down’ their impact and you will be better able to control them. Connect to the sensations of breathing for a few moments; this will get you out of your head, stop you ‘overthinking’ and calm the stress response’.
Also, be aware of your posture. Believe it or not, it affects how you behave and think, and conveys non-verbal messages to other people. If you stand tall with your head up, you appear more confident and approachable than if you hunch over apologetically.
It’s all about the other person
Make a great first impression by leaving your ego at the door and focusing solely on the other person during the meeting. Talk to them about themselves and really listen to the answers. ‘Communicating mindfully builds relationships and reduces misunderstandings’ says Dr. Gail.
Be a brilliant conversationalist
Unfortunately for many of us, as author Fran Lebowitz pithily said, ‘The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting’. To make a great first impression it’s important to really listen to the other person, paying full attention. Dr. Gail adds: ‘This includes letting go of thoughts, stories, what has happened and is about to happen, and not rehearsing in your head what you want to say next while the other person is talking’.
Be lovely to absolutely everyone
No matter who you meet - business colleagues, guests, waitresses, children, spouses, the cleaner, even the dog - acknowledge them equally with kindness and respect. After you’ve gone, they’ll be talking about ‘that lovely person’ – you. Not only will you have made a great first impression, you’ll have made a lasting one, too.
Dr. Gail concludes: ‘You can practically use mindfulness to make a good impression at any time. Pause, deliberately come off automatic pilot and be fully present’. Let it all flow naturally and just enjoy the meeting for what it is. After all, if you try to make an impression, that is the impression you’ll make.