Making good first impressions - a quick guide to presence

June 1, 2014

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First impressions aren't everything, but they really help. Check this article out for some psychologically backed suggestions on how to get people feeling positive towards you from the very start.

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Unfiled: this is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology.

'First impressions are everything'; a quote you've heard by now, by some guy probably. It's not true, though. They aren't everything. I bet there are scores of you reading who spilled red wine down your significant other when you first met. And now you're together and happy. How many of you have friends you used to hate? Maybe people you didn't get on with in high-school, but now call for the occasional lunch? First impressions aren't everything. But damn, do they make a difference. If you check out that link, you'll notice that google scholar pulls up a measly 704,000 articles about that exact topic. First impressions are important things, basically. So, this article isn't going to cover the science behind first impressions, since that's a pretty big subject to tackle. Instead, I'll go through the basics of what can really help make a good impression, from a psychology point of view. Posture

Now, there's a lot out there that talks about us making our minds up about people in a couple of seconds or less. That's more or less true, we're built to take in things quickly and make a judgement. So dressing well is a must, but this isn't a fashion blog. Instead, I want to talk about posture. Amy Cuddy is a psychologist who spends a lot of time talking about 'power postures'. Basically, certain open, upright postures change not only how others perceive you, but how you yourself feel. If you don't want to watch that TED talk linked there, I'll highlight some of the easier things.

  • Walk into a rooms with your back straight, looking forward and your shoulders back and people will instantly perceive you in a positive light. Not only that, but you'll feel more confident, and be able to do some of the next things I talk about with a lot more ease. A tip? My dance teacher once told me to put my heels against a flat wall; press my butt, shoulders and head against it and then hold that position.
  • When sitting, don't slouch too often. Spend most of your time with your back straight and your head up. Keep open, don't fold inward. Legs open, arms uncrossed.

It's pretty simple. It's not only better for your confidence and the perceptions of those around you, but it'll stop you getting a hernia when your older too.

Pay Attention

Giving respect is one of the easiest ways to get respect. It's the basic principle, if not the definition of attraction, dole out positivity and people can't help but feel more positively towards you. The easiest way to show respect is to just pay attention to who you're talking to. Although this idea is quite old, scientifically speaking (I mean, whole sections of Dale Carnegie's 1936 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' is devoted to this), a couple of researchers very recently did a nice summation (albeit focusing on young people):

  • Be aware of those things they are proud of and be encouraging. Show that you admire their achievements.
  • Be gracious - don't blame them (at least to their face) for mistakes. Separate them in your speech from negatives.
  • Try to understand - don't just nod, show interest and try to delve deeper into what they're talking about.
  • Make eye contact - seriously, look into their eyes, as much as you can. I know it can be nerve-wracking but it really makes a difference.

There's more, but that'll do for now. Basically, just show that they are important to you as a person. Don't just give a distracted hello, or when talking only wait for your turn to speak, but engage and listen. Which brings us to our last point: Let them talk! Golly, people love to talk about themselves. About 60% of the time in fact. Letting people talk about themselves and their interests achieves two things. Firstly, it feels fantastic for them. On the same track as sex and drugs. People want to be heard. More than that though, it draws them closer to you and makes you both more fond of each other. So! Be presentable, dress well and hold yourself like you mean it. It'll make you more confident AND make others think better of you. Pay attention to people you want to like you, really focus on them. Not only that, but let them talk about themselves. If you do this every time you meet someone, you've got a much better chance of them walking away with a positive image of you. And even though we mentioned that you can turn it around when things go wrong, why make it harder than we have to? Planning on making a good first impression? Then you definitely want to know about three random things that make you hotter. Or perhaps you want to know the definition of attractionGiving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and 'the good life' at The Dirt Psychology.

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