It's not something we like to admit. But it's true. Within seconds of meeting someone new, humans make snap decisions about that new person's competence, trustworthiness, and likeability. It happens during a brief hello, a handshake, or a nod. In fact, a recent article in Psychology Today reveals research from Princeton University that shows we judge another person's trustworthiness the fastest, within just 100 milliseconds.
Psychologists have long studied the impact of a first impression. And business leaders have often written and spoken about how to make a great first impression--with confidence, a firm-enough handshake, and adequate research and preparation. However, it's my belief that the second impression is much more important than the first. And, here's why.
To start, most of the research focused on first impressions relates to things we don't have much control over. We may not possess the facial features, the physical presence, or the voice tone that psychologists deem necessary to leave a positive first impression.
I, for example, am typically not dressed like a professional. I typically need a haircut. And, I'm not extremely tall or short, so my physical presence isn't noteworthy. Add to that list the fact that I'm not chatty when I meet people. So, at best, I probably make a marginal first impression. But, that doesn't mean my potential to make a great impression is shot. In fact, I think it creates the opposite opportunity--to create a powerful second impression because people aren't expecting you to blow their mind.
As a little exercise to prove my point, consider the people in your life who you really trust, like, and respect. Luke, for example, understands your passion to get the project right so he stayed late to help out. Hannah had your back when office politics got heavy. Claudia did extra research to try and help you find a solution to a problem. Do you see a common thread? The people who impress us most don't look or talk a certain way. They don't possess certain traits. Instead, they act a certain way. They do things that impress us.
The same is true with mind-blowing second impressions--actions speak louder than traits. Here are few tips I've learned that can change the way you approach all new relationships.
Listen during the first impression rather than talking. Most people trying to make a good first impression often talk about themselves rather than learning about the person they just met. Smart people may pick up on your intent listening.
A few years ago I was reminded by former Walmart CEO, Bill Fields, how powerful listening can be when he told me, "You don't talk enough. So you know a lot about us but we don't know anything about you."
Bill was right. I had collected information on everyone in the room--trying to understand why they were there, and what they wanted out of the meeting. During your first impressions, your goal should be to ask more questions, make fewer statements, and gather as much information as you can to prepare for your second impression.
2. Take action on their behalf
Years ago I had the opportunity to sit one-on-one with the late Dr. Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. During our conversation, I asked Dr. Covey what job seekers could do better to get attention from potential employers. I recall Covey's answer like it was yesterday.
"You don't need permission to do something valuable for someone else," he said. Then he continued to talk about how many of us get wrapped up in the process of getting a job, making a sale, or making new friends instead of just taking action on the other person's, or company's behalf. He's right. If you want to make an impression, take action to create value for them.
3. Actually care
The impact we can have on other people is often overshadowed by our own concern about what others think of us, or how we might benefit from a relationship. But research shows that sincere appreciation of the people in our lives is a major factor of any relationship--whether you just met, or have known another person for a long time.
While one workplace study shows that 79 percent of employees who quit cite a lack of appreciation as a key factor for leaving, another study shows that 83 percent of women considering divorce cite lack of appreciation as the primary factor. Actually caring about the people we meet, who they are and their goals, will change your impression of everyone you meet, and if you express your appreciation for others, it will surely change their impression of you.
While first impressions are important, second impressions make a lasting impact on the people you meet. Listen more to learn more. Create value for others. And, honestly care about the people you meet. Oh, and please, remind me to get a hair cut if we should ever meet face to face. The mere fact that you remember will, undoubtedly, blow my mind.