Whether we like it or not, what other people initially think about us can strongly sway how they feel about us from then on. This means later opportunities, collaborations, and employment can all depend on the early judgments others make of us during our first interaction with them.
Substantial research says these judgments are based off numerous things -- one 2011 study, for example, finds that limp handshakes make you appear overly passive, while a 2009 study suggests that factors like posture and clothing style also affect the type of impression you leave.
There are a lot of opportunities, it seems, for you to make a mistake or to do wrong during an initial meeting. But if you're feeling down about your first interaction with a potential acquaintance or colleague, have no fear. All hope is not lost.
New findings published in Psychological Science (a journal of the Association for Psychological Science) reveal that you probably make better first impressions than you may realize.
Authors Erica Boothby, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, and Gus Cooney, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, explain: "Our research suggests that accurately estimating how much a new conversation partner likes us -- even though this a fundamental part of social life and something we have ample practice with -- is a much more difficult task than we imagine."
According to this new study, after having conversations with new people, our conversation partners actually "like us and enjoy our company more than we think."
Study authors describe this as a "liking gap," and believe it can be a serious obstacle for the development of new relationships. During one study, researchers noticed that participants seemed to be "too wrapped up in their own worries" about what they should or did say. This made it difficult for them to see or recognize behavioral signals from others indicating interest and enjoyment.
And, one study author notes, we also tend to be "self-protectively pessimistic" and "do not want to assume the other likes us before we find out if that's really true." This can also explain why we sometimes don't feel so great about our first impressions.
Overall, first impressions can mean everything for your personal and professional life and you won't get a second chance at a first impression. Luckily, considering these new findings, you won't need to worry about wishing for a re-do.