Making good first impressions - a quick guide to presence cover image

Making good first impressions - a quick guide to presence

Dorian Minors • June 1, 2014

This is an archived article from our predecessor website, The Dirt Psychology. The idea there was to take psychological scholarship and turn it into wisdom. The Armchair Collective tries to go a little further than just psychology. As such, these articles live here in archive form, until they're updated.

'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

My dance teacher also made me do a lot of this. I don't know why. Good posture doesn't make your head less round. Photo courtesy of Xavier J. Peg (Flickr) My dance teacher also made me do a lot of this. I don't know why. Good posture doesn't make your head less round. Photo courtesy of Xavier J. Peg (Flickr)

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.

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):

It occurs to me, that some people might misinterpret what I mean here. 'Paying attention' does not mean 'be creepy'. Just look engaged and look into their eyes more often. Don't widen your eyes and stare. That's odd. Photo courtesy of Juliana Coutinho (Flickr) It occurs to me, that some people might misinterpret what I mean here. 'Paying attention' does not mean 'be creepy'. Just look engaged and look into their eyes more often. Don't widen your eyes and stare. That's odd. Photo courtesy of Juliana Coutinho (Flickr)

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. Thumbnail image courtesy of Michele Cannone (Flickr)

Turning scholarship into wisdom we can use at The Armchair Collective.

Questions? Comments? Comment sections are a pain to moderate. But this inbox is always read, so send an email. You'll get a reply. Your question might even get a whole article of its own.

More articles? View them all, or check these out:

Dorian Minors

I mostly do brain science. Sometimes I train honeybees. I promise they're related. I made this site because there's no reason why scholars should be the only ones to own knowledge. My special interests are interpersonal relationships, the science of community, spirituality and the brain, and the neural basis of complex behaviour. I hope this stuff is as interesting to you as it is to me. You can find out more about me here.