Want to Make a Good First Impression? Here's What to Do

Going on a job interview or meeting with a new client, you want to put your best foot forward and make this person want to work with you. Understand how different behaviors affect first impressions, and use them to your advantage.

(Photo Credit: Nicola Corboy/Flickr)

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has amassed a plethora of research on first impressions. People may decide whether a new acquaintance is trustworthy in as little as one-tenth of a second. First impressions matter.

Eye Contact and Intelligence

People who make eye contact are perceived as intelligent. Best to maintain some eye contact while you are both talking and listening. This may give the impression that you are using your intelligence to think about what the other person is saying, which may inspire confidence.

However, don't force constant eye contact. Dr. Robert Hare, an expert on psychopathology, writes about "the psychopathic stare." Don't scare new acquaintances into thinking you are a psychopath by locking eyes with them. Be natural. 

Speech and Competence

Experimental research published in Language and Speech in 1975 found that speaking more quickly increased the perception in others that the speaker was competent. In other words, if you speak a little faster, people will think you know what you're talking about. This particular study continues to be referenced in recent publications.

Don't rush through your words, but when you know what you want to say, speak without hesitation. Avoid long pauses and don't say, "um." People who say "um" and "ah" are perceived as not knowing what they are talking about.

Think before you speak, but then speak at a good pace. Others will be more likely to see you as capable, competent, and good to work with.

Gait and Personality

This next one is amusing because the first impressions that our walking styles give others about our personalities do not hold true. The BPS discusses research that concluded people who walk with a loose, expansive gait are seen as adventurous and extroverted. They were also assumed to be trustworthy and warm. Questionnaires indicated that the study subjects' personalities did not actually correlate with others' impressions, based on their gait. 

People who walk with a slower, more relaxed style were seen as having low neuroticism. While you may wish to use this information to make first impressions, again, walking style and actual personality traits were not correlated.

Handshakes and Conscientiousness

You knew that we were going to include handshakes, of course. BPS's data on handshakes is only relevant to men. One may wonder if this is because, historically, women have been shaking hands for a limited period of time. Perhaps in time, people will develop first impressions based upon a women's handshake.

In the meantime, a firm, but not too firm, handshake connotes conscientiousness in men.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think first impressions are usually accurate? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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