The Power of a First Impression
We all want to make a good first impression, and we all have some idea of the lasting importance of those first few seconds in both a dating and business context.
Unfortunately, today, we live in such a fast paced world where few people make the time to truly get to know anyone nowadays, and in a dating world of “swipe left, swipe right”, we are judged by the first impression our external appearance provides, whether we like it or not.
In many ways, that’s the main challenge with dating. We aren’t even able to get our foot in the door anymore. Once upon a time, you had a whole meal to charm someone with your wit, intelligence and conversational prowess - or at least 30 minutes over coffee… then, we had the phase of speed dating, which made a lot of men (and women) feel under immense pressure to package themselves positively and create a great first impression within a few minutes.
Today, however, we don’t even get chance to speak to people.
They literally look at your photo and dating profile, as if you were some commodity in a catalogue, where they work out in just a few seconds whether you have potential or not; it’s judgemental to the core and nobody, today, at least in the online dating world is given a shot unless they have the right look and create a favourable first impression with the few words they have to convey themselves in a nutshell.
Now, in the real world, what you say and how you act is always going to hold more weight than how you look - but even then, that initial, gut instinct, first impression will be made within a few seconds.
This gut instinct response is formed by the reptilian aspect of your brain known as the amygdala which is responsible for our fight of flight defence system and is home to our reticular activating system which will scan the person to make inferences on who they are, and whether they have value to us in any given context.
This primitive psychological defence mechanism where we subconsciously sum up who the person before us is puts our brain in a temporary state of hypervigilance that notices everything from the shininess of the person’s shoes, to their dental hygiene, and even their physical condition of fitness.
All these tiny elements of detail are computed within a split second to calculate who this person is; almost like a credit score where our brain will score this person against a set criteria depending on the context. Your brain is very intelligent and extremely context aware, so it will be looking for different things when in a dating context vs. a self-defense or business context.
This is the power of first impressions. We all have them. We can’t control this gut instinct summationl of a person. We can however, be mindful of it, and use it to our advantage.
Some people carefully manicure their appearance, and whilst this can work on some people, the majority of people are attuned to spot someone wearing a mask, and therefore creating a good first impression isn’t about trying to be something or someone you are not.
Your body language will give it away, for a start, and there will be a number of incongruences that the other person’s reticular activating system will pick up on, and bring to their attention.
For instance, have you ever met someone that claimed to be homeless, asking you for bus fare in order to get home… yet, without even being consciously aware of it, you could sense, this person was just scamming you?
This will be due to the inconsistencies you spot, there’s so much that your subconscious brain is absorbing from tonality, body language, attire, vocabulary, accent, and so on… and this is what people are doing when they meet you for the first time. They are subconsciously assessing you.
This article now suggests three ways you can use external symbols to create an impressive first impression within a business or dating context.
In the Western World, material items such as the car you drive are symbolic indicators of your success. Whilst, in reality, material aspects like the car you drive do not make any difference to your actual value; inferences are made by others, and these symbols of status can strongly impact the first impression you make.
Someone offering you a ride in a brand new, but filthy car that has takeaway cartons all over the backseat gives off a very different vibe to the person with an older and more beaten up car, that is clean and tidy.
Your wardrobe and the clothes you choose to wear reflect who you are on the inside, yet it’s not just your clothes, it’s your physique. You can wear a design t-shirt with a ripped body, and truly look the part, but if you wear the same snug t-shirt whilst being overweight, the impression you give off will not be the same.
In business, a decent suit and a clean shaven look tends to create a good first impression, as it infers the person has high standards with regard to his personal appearance - which is then extrapolated into other aspects of his character.
In a similar vein, shoes have always been a significant symbol of status throughout history; hence the popularity of shoe shining. Your shoes are often the most overlooked aspect of your fashion ensemble; yet, there is a very common saying that describes how if you want to know what a man is truly like, then judge him by his shoes, not by his other clothes - because this is the area he thinks nobody notices.
Ultimately, if you have a perfectly crisp suit, but scuffed, worn out shoes - it would suggest your “high standards” are purely for show, and deep down, you might not be as authentically polished as you are making out. Shoes, whilst seemingly unimportant to one’s look are an important symbolic representation that need to be considered.
In summary, first impressions count; they are extremely powerful and play a huge part in both dating and business.