It’s an old cliché that you only get one chance to make a first impression, but unlike with the opposite sex, if practice made perfect it means that all that time spent practicing amounts to dollars left on the table just trying to get it right. You can read over the volumes of thick tomes dedicated to unraveling the mystery as to what to say to make the perfect first impression, or simply be aware of the fact that a first impression of you is made even before you open your mouth – the implications this has for business are unfathomable.
A couple of compelling theories to consider
In a study out of Harvard, published in Psychological Bulletin in 1992 by Ambady & Rosenthal, it was found that there is strong evidence supporting peoples’ ability to quickly and accurately judge others. So when people tell you that they are “excellent judges of character”, statistically they are, if unwittingly, telling the truth. What Ambady & Rosenthal concluded was that you could know someone for a few seconds, or for a year, and your impression of them would be the same.
In a much less scientifically controlled environment, Art of Charm founder Jordan Harbinger explained on the Bulletproof Executive’s podcast recently, in the context of men seeking women at a night club, that a group of women will develop an impression of a man the moment he walks into the club – or as he charmingly puts it, “the moment he appears on their radar” – and not when he musters the courage to approach them.
What do these examples mean for business?
Haven’t put it together yet?
For years, a lot of emphasis has been put on the importance of, and how much you can know about someone, from their having a firm handshake. Well the truth is just about everything in business, from networking, to the job interview, to landing a major deal relies heavily on everything you do before you even shake on anything.
It was often said that a firm handshake projected confidence and self-assuredness - traits that bosses and CEOs looked for in those they wanted working for them or wanted to make deals with - but the truth is the level of your confidence has been established by others not when you first shake, but when they first lay eyes on you. That means that a job, a contract, or a major deal is signed off on courtesy of communication that is non-verbal; communication that is not interactive, or even intentional.
Networking and unlocking the secrets of non-verbal communication
As superficial as it may seem, success anywhere happens in about 10 seconds and comes down to a few exterior traits. So no matter how lovable you may be, or how brilliant your ideas are, it’s essential to at least master a few surface qualities so that these deeper traits have a chance to see the light of day.
In much the same way that a handshake was once regarded as the way to communicate confidence and self-assuredness, people like Ambady, Rosenthal, and Harbinger are now proving that what you wear, how you enter a room, and how you walk and carry yourself have the ability to project the same thing. Neglecting these facts could be the difference between a payday and planning on not making the same mistake next time.
Ten seconds. That’s all it takes. So don’t wait to work up the courage to connect because statistics show that the longer you wait the more your opportunity to make a perfect first impression slips away. Establishing contact the moment you appear on someone’s radar is just another way to project the confidence they are looking for. So don’t waste time second-guessing your lovability, or your great ideas, because you, in fact, wear those on the outside.