This week I’ve been thinking about first impressions. Even though most of us like to think we don’t judge other people, our brains automatically form an opinion within the first few seconds of meeting someone. In our digital world first impressions are often formed by reading an email, a tweet or looking at a profile picture. Once we have the first impression we then need to decide whether we want to take that next step to include that person within our business or social circle. So what is it about someone that makes a good or a bad first impression on you?
Let’s take a profile picture. What makes you want to click on that ‘accept’ button or, more interestingly, what makes you click ‘ignore’? If you are looking to make business contacts, do you only accept those who look the part? Would you decline someone wearing a t-shirt and shorts on their business profile? Are you put off by anything? I tend to take a dislike to photos where someone is really close to the camera looking like they want to sell me a used car. Is that really a good reason not to accept someone? Probably not.
How about that first message? Do you automatically dismiss anyone who has sent a generic message like the standard LinkedIn ‘let’s connect’? Are you put off by a sales’ pitch? As someone with an English teaching background, I can’t help but judge people’s writing. I can forgive some spelling errors etc, after all the sender might be dyslexic, but I do take issue with professional emails sprinkled with text speak and no punctuation (see my previous blog on that very subject).
There is so much advice out there on how to make a good first impression are we really seeing the real person or just the facade they have created in order to ‘please’ us? I think it is more interesting to consider what does please us. What are we looking for in someone when we meet? Recently I’ve heard the phrase ‘people do business with people’ quite a lot. So what kind of people do we want to do business with? It’s also said that it takes at least six points of contact for someone to make the decision to do business with you so how important is that first impression? Is it more about the second, third, fourth or fifth impression? I would suggest that a bad first impression is hard to recover from. As a species we like to think we give second chances, but I think it only happens if forced upon us. We don’t seek to give them out. If someone told a joke you found offensive at a business meeting, I would be very surprised if you sent them a LinkedIn invite. However, if at the next event they came over to speak to you, 99% of the time you would make polite conversation even though that initial negative opinion still remained. They would just never know about it. I guess the moral there is – if you can’t make a first impression good, at least don’t make it bad!
So are there any dangers here by judging people too quickly? Could we be missing out? Should we be trying to connect/meet/socialise with everyone just in case we let the wrong person get away? Or is that equally dangerous? Too many connections and you can’t possibly keep in touch with them all in a meaningful way. So we’re back to that first impression. I’d like you to take a minute to think about what would ‘please’ you and what would make you hit decline. Are you more focused on appearance, voice, ability to write, firm handshake or what they actually say?
I invite you to share what makes a good impression on you and what makes a first impression a last impression.
In part two I will look more closely at what some of those things might be.
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