When I first started public speaking, part of my training was the constant reminder that you only have 30 seconds to make a positive impression and grab the audience’s attention. That training was about 30 years ago, and the timeframe to make a first impression has gotten significantly shorter.
I recently read that an interviewer typically knows within 10 seconds whether you will move forward in the job interview process. But wait, that window gets even smaller!
Your first impression when meeting someone in any setting for the first time is now made in about 3 seconds. You read that right, 3 SECONDS. Talk about pressure! How do you put your best foot forward in 3 seconds!?! I will answer that question shortly.
Before talking about how, let’s remember why first impressions are so important. It’s because you can’t take a first impression back. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs.
It’s like the analogy of squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Once the toothpaste is out, you can’t get it back in. There is no opportunity for a second impression. You are either reinforcing or repairing your first impression the next time you meet.
So, how do we create our best first impression? It has to do with highlighting the strengths of your natural appearance and being aware of your body language.
Image, color, and wardrobe consultant Clarisse Ringwald was a guest for one of my podcasts about this exact question.
“The direct relationship of colors and fabrics with your skin tone and eye color creates a first impression,” Clarisse told me. She went on to share tips covering various aspects of styling, body shape, and face analysis, and even the impact of your hair color. Awareness of your personal colors can really impact how well you show up in life!
What I have found most helpful about this focus on first impressions for women is that it is a natural confidence booster across various aspects of life. We feel better and more comfortable in our skin when we know ourselves better and show up at our best. Then the more confident we are, the better we are at making non-emotional decisions in our lives.
Being able to make non-emotional decisions significantly impacts the way we think of and spend money. From my financial industry perspective, think of all the money you can save by not emotionally buying the wrong colors of clothes, make-up, accessories, and so much more!
After my personal color analysis experience with Clarisse, I take my purse-sized color palette with me to save money online and in stores.
Let’s not forget about the body language aspect of first impressions and how important it is. Posture, eye contact, and handshake (pre-Covid days, anyway) all contribute to a first impression.
Slouching is a double-negative – for you physically and for the person you are meeting. Smiling and looking directly into the other person’s eyes relays that you are friendly and confident. Of course, don’t forget a strong handshake. Weak or limp hands don’t lend well to first impressions at all.
I know these are small changes, but they can make a bigger and lasting positive impression. Now let’s talk strategy.
I learned from another podcast guest, Dr. Karen Jacobson, that there are three steps required in a strategy to move forward with any change. The first step is to accept awareness of the facts. You don’t have to like the facts, just be aware of them. Now you are aware of the importance and aspects of first impressions, for example.
The second step is to adapt by making a conscious choice to change. Dr. Jacobson reminds us that the brain needs to be fully engaged for this phase, therefore breathing is key to calm the mind. Are you ready to adapt by breathing deeply to maximize your first impression?
The final step to move forward is to advance by having a written plan. This is the month of New Year’s resolutions, and we have all heard that writing down our goals makes them much more likely to happen. Although this is true, New Year’s resolutions have a poor success rate. So, I have a suggestion.
The truth is, we remember things better when we write them down. Have you ever written a grocery list and then lost the slip of paper? You likely remembered most of it anyway because you wrote it down, right?
There is something about physically writing things down that makes the information stick in our brain better. But instead of having the goal or result be the focus of what you write down, focus on one small step at a time.
We are more likely to be successful at completing one small task than a larger series of tasks. For example, if you determine that your best first impression requires a change in your wardrobe, maybe the first step you write down is to purge your closet of items you no longer wear, haven’t worn in 3 years, or no longer bring you joy (taking a page from Marie Kondo’s book) to first reduce the number of wardrobe choices.
Then you donate those items so they are no longer in your closet. Maybe the next step you write down is to do the same thing with your drawers and perhaps the step after that is to have a color analysis done.
I learned that our skin tone, for example, can sallow as we age. This then changes the colors that we should be wearing so even if you’ve had a color analysis in the past, you may need new colors as you get older. Who knew!?
The research on achieving goals reinforces the fact that we are more successful when we can break things down into small steps (i.e., can be done in 5 minutes or no more than 30 minutes).
So, to continue that theme, my 2023 focus will be on providing tools and checklists for you to boost your financial confidence. Cheers to you and putting your best foot forward in the new year!
Do you have a good or bad first impression story to share? How did it make you feel? Any tips you can share with our community? Let’s start a discussion.
At my time of life, the LAST thing I think about upon meeting new people is ‘making a good impression.’ I have lived a full-to-overflowing, successful span of time, a good life, and I am not planning to pursue a new career, impress a future boss, or ‘win new friends and influence people.’
I meet new people with a smile and happy expectations in my heart, am always welcoming, and not at all worried whether or not I have selected correct (winter) shades of blue to compliment my silver hair and my complexion (with cool undertones), all to cause a new acquaintance to think well of me.
Most people my age have better things to occupy their time than planning ways to make a good impression on the next new person they meet. If one is confident, dressed to one’s individual sense of propriety, and looking forward happily, to knowing someone new, that is sufficient. If natures ‘click,’ a new friendship could be in the offing! Otherwise, nothing is lost.
PLEASE, let us encourage older people to be more reliant on their natural and sufficient experienced selves, comfortably relaxing into this new territory of aging. There is a natural camaraderie in growing older. There is enough built into aging to concern most of us, without adding in a mandate to put our best foot forward with new people. Most of us do that naturally, and if we have become curmudgeonly in our old age, eschewing new people, so be it. We are waaay past making impressions; we need to be more concerned with making our own lives in old age comfortable and happy. .
Although I agree with you wholeheartedly, I’m still in the workforce. I’m looking to relocate, which means looking for new work. We, unfortunately, live in a society where explicit or implicit ageism continues to exist. My confidence in being hired is shaky. I’ve experienced the 3-second lookover that clearly communicated that the hiring process was over in the mind(s) of the interviewer(s). I can only hope that someone will be impressed enough with my background to look past my appearance…but flattering clothes, makeup and good posture can’t hurt!