Like all animals, humans are also built to size each other up very quickly. A first impression is the immediate mental image we make of another person in the very first moments of our encounter. Even though we usually try our best to instantly impress people, sometimes a first impression disaster occurs. This is why.
Can A First Impression Disaster Be Averted?
Luckily, it can. But for us to be able to improve the way people see us when we meet for the first time we need to examine the most common errors made.
To begin with, according to Harvard social psychologist and best-selling author of the book ‘Presence’, Amy Cuddy, people seek to answer 2 crucial questions when they first meet you. The first one is “Can I trust you?” and the second “Can I respect you?”
Regarding these two questions, Cuddy says that most of us tend to consider competence as the more important factor. This is why we break our backs trying to prove that we are smart and talented enough to win a stranger’s trust.
However, the Professor says that it is warmth, or trustworthiness, that constitutes the most important factor in how people evaluate you. “From an evolutionary perspective,” Cuddy says, “it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”
These questions are immediately answered in the very first moments of our encounter, at the same time as we size the other person up too. These moments are enough for a first impression disaster to happen.
The First Impression Mistakes We Make
Some of the most serious first impression disasters are caused by the following behaviors:
#1. We play clever.
Even though everyone likes intelligent people, nobody likes a smartass. When we meet someone for the first time it is a good idea to leave some room for them to express themselves, to make them feel important and to hear them out before we start pretending to know everything, trying too hard to impress.
#2. We share too much too soon.
Trying to connect with others is a noble act, but with people we know nothing about it can prove to be a major trap. When you don’t know what kind of life a person leads, you may reveal embarrassing details about your own life that might offend them and you might regret later.
#3. We adopt a body language of fear or subordination.
In nature, a scared animal will hide in its shell or curl up in order to look smaller and thus, less intimidating. If you find your body language sending out this kind of message, change your posture to a stronger, more confident one immediately. Sometimes non-verbal communication may be equally important as (or more important than) the things we say with words.
#4. We try too hard.
People appreciate calmness and honesty. A person who is not calm is generally seen as dishonest too. When you put in too much effort to impress, by talking nonstop or over-reacting, for instance when a person you just met cracks a moderately funny remark and you practically break down in a frenzied burst of laughter, it’s a sign of desperation and fakery; things that don’t register well with people.
#5. We are too nosy.
When we meet someone for the first time, there is a very fine line we should not cross as concerns the things we can ask them. For example, if we meet a woman who we learn has been divorced, even though we may be dying to know why her marriage came to an end, the question is completely out of bounds. Maybe she was cheated on, or maybe she was the one doing the cheating – asking her this question will only make things awkward and she will take an instant dislike to you.
Although the first few minutes we meet someone are usually quite awkward, we can avoid a first impression disaster by being careful not to adopt these annoying or simply wrong behaviors. We may not always hit it off like a house on fire with everyone, but we will at least give them the incentive to want to know us better.