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Make a Good "First Impression"

There are two modern myths about first impressions.  Read here how to create a far better impression that will last for a lifetime.

First Impression Myth 1:

Much of what is written talks about how you should appear and act the first time you meet someone because that is where they will form their first impression of you.  That is a myth.

The first time someone actually meets you face to face is the when they will form their second, third or fourth impression of you.

First, second and third impressions may be formed this way:

In social settings

In business settings

  • Watching you across the room
  • The expression on someone’s face as they see you
  • A whisper in an ear about you
  • What you do or don’t do with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
  • What you have posted on the Internet social sites
  • What someone else posted
  • Where you are and are not
  • A comment by someone who has heard of you
  • A recommendation (hot, cold, neutral, not forthcoming)
  • A phone call on your behalf
  • A comment by someone who has heard of you
  • A Google search of your name
  • A remembered conversation
  • A rumor
  • A news article
  • Who you associate with
  • Your employment history
  • Your educational history

The “word” about who you are spreads out around you like an ever-expanding electronic and human cloud of contacts.

By the time you reach out to shake a hand or pitch your pick-up line, your target has already formed an impression as to how likely they are to believe what you are selling at that moment.  If they believe you, if your actions and history and words are all consistent, they are more likely to accept your impression as the one you want them to have.  Good.  So if you want to have people believe at any moment that you are nice, likeable, trustworthy person, you probably should have been living that way.  And that leads us to First Impression Myth 2. 

First Impression Myth 2:

The saying is:  “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

I’m going to challenge that by rewording it:  “You get only one chance to deliver your first impression but you get a lifetime to create it.” 

Everyone writing about first impressions seems to focus on how to look and act:

  • Your handshake
  • Your greeting
  • Your smile
  • The clothes you wear
  • How you stand
  • Your body language
  • Your accent
  • Your words

The problem is that these are just elements of delivery that any actor can polish and perform.  They are not you but just representations of how you are acting. People are expected or expecting to determine from these behaviors who you really are:

  • Your honesty
  • Your principles
  • Your values
  • Your personality
  • Your knowledge
  • Your skills
  • Your character

The issue is that your delivery may only give them some hint of who you are.  Yes, it is good to practice and be polished.  But, in the end, it is your daily living that creates your basic principles, values and character that will show through whatever act, however good or bad, and determine how people ultimately regard you.

 So if you want to consistently make a good first impression:

  •     Be of good character
  •     Hold yourself to high standards
  •     Associate with others who do as well
  •     Strive for continuous self improvement
  •     Listen more than you speak
  •     Maintain a positive attitude

In the end, you will not have to act to make a good first impression, either your reputation will have already made it for you or those of an astute nature will discern your character soon enough.  It has been a long time since I’ve read Benjamin Franklin’s work but I imagine that he might approve.  “You get only one chance to deliver your first impression but you get a lifetime to create it.”  S. C. Martin 2008

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