Making a great first impression can be game-changing in life's big moments
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and unfortunately, it isn't even fully in your control. An individual's personal beliefs and assumptions can get in the way. First impressions count disproportionately whether we are talking about job interviews or a first date. Who hasn't heard of love at first sight? The notion is completely phoney, but that flutter in your stomach is as real as it gets. Dating apps like Tinder have taken this to the extreme. Though I wouldn't necessarily recommend using your best Tinder pick-up lines in public, some of the psychology behind Tinder can apply more broadly. Being able to make a statement when first meeting someone is a valuable skill both online and offline.
First impressions are disproportionately important to perceptions
So you are on your way to the interview. Heart pounding. Palms sweating. Pits drenched. You wipe your palms on your pants. All your clothing feels a bit tight but you could swear you haven't gotten any bigger since this morning. You shake hands with the interviewer. Fuck how are your palms still sweaty? You clasp hands. They smile. You gurgle a little and say hi.
There it is. An awful first impression. You know it. They know it. We've all been there. No way are you getting that job. Apparently first impressions account for the majority of an employment decision - which is to say if it goes south you're going down.
But on the plus side, it's all uphill from here.
There are many ways to make a first impression. Handshakes are one. A smile and a nod. A seedy stare across a dark room. Take your pick. The recipient will subconsciously size you up in under a second. Your age, height, race, posture, all of it is absorbed. Off the back of that judgement calls are about your very nature. Frankly, it is pretty unfair. Unfortunately, it is how we are hard-wired as humans.
The importance of first impressions is completely disproportionate. No reasonable person can say they know someone from a first impression. People are complex. Nevertheless, first impressions have considerable influence over how we perceive and treat others. How we treat others then goes on to influence how they treat us back, potentially reinforcing our assumptions. Treat someone like they are a bad person and behold and lo they will be nasty to you.
Being different from what people expect can make first impressions more memorable
First impressions are perceived through a variety of lenses. Our cultural, religious and personal beliefs all play into it. Are you impressed by someone wearing a suit? If you see someone wearing a cross, how does that influence your views? Our background and upbringing influences our initial judgement and should be kept in check to remain open-minded. Media too plays a significant role in shaping our views. How many of us are intimidated by someone with tattoos? It's no surprise when many of Hollywood's tough guys are painted with tats.
This is going to get a little tricky. The variance from what is expected is critical when making a first impression. Which is to say, if you really want someone to remember you, do something unexpected. A double somersault is a lot more memorable than a nod. This is an extreme example but subtle deviations from the norm may be all that is needed to make a great first impression. When trying to snatch that job offer, the variance can play in your favour. If dozens of others are simply giving the interviewer a handshake, try cracking a joke to standout.
Most of this probably sounds a bit whacky and perhaps I am overthinking it. Unfortunately though, as people, we do tend to judge a book by its cover. First impressions count, regardless of whether or not that's fair. Making a memorable first impression can be a game-changer. Sometimes, it can be the surprising or amusing first impressions that stick in your mind. Particularly in important circumstances, first impressions are worth thinking about a bit more carefully.