People talk a lot of nonsense about initial meetings, usually along the lines of; “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, which I completely disagree with. If someone is not prepared to change their opinion of you over time, they’re probably not worth getting to know.
Our first opinions of people almost always change. Con artists, politicians and job candidates, all rely on giving a misleading first impression, which will invariably change as time goes by. What about the new ‘best’ friend you meet in your first week at university, or work and then spend the rest of your time trying to get rid of?
Then there’s the childhood sweetheart you grow to despise during an acrimonious divorce, or your football club’s new star striker who turns out to be a bit of a donkey on the pitch and a complete sex pest off it. I think our first impressions always change, but most ‘experts’ seem to believe first impressions are all-important.
In a recent article, in Forbes magazine, Vanessa Van Petten writes that most people will judge you within the first second of meeting you and their opinion will most likely never change. She says: “Making a good first impression is incredibly important, because you only get one shot at it.”
Van Petten tells of Princeton University psychologist, Alex Todorov, and student researcher, Janine Willis, who had people look at a microsecond of video of a political candidate and the research candidates could predict, with 70% accuracy, who would win the election. This implied to them that people can make incredibly accurate snap judgements in a tenth of a second.
Van Petten asks how you can ensure people judge you accurately whilst also seeing your best side. She says you need to give an authentic impression, as people can spot a fake immediately. She gives advice on how to make sure people’s first impression of you is a good one.
Vanessa Van Petten may be a specialist in social and emotional intelligence research and development, but her advice on this occasion, is essentially; “Don’t dress like a tramp and have some basic manners.” I would add; “and switch your mobile phone off in any social situation where you don’t want to be judged a rude git.”