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First Impressions Matter

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According to New York University, Graduate School of Business, people make 11 decisions about us in the first seven seconds of contact: (1) education level, (2) economic level, (3) perceived credibility and believability, (4) trustworthiness, (5) level of sophistication, (6) sexual identification, (7) level of success, (8) political background, (9) religious background, (10) ethnic background, (11) social and professional desirability.

The way we communicate also contributes to the first impression. Some leaders believe if they are stoic and “hard to read,” it will give them a competitive advantage. However, we have recently learned through the tragic premature death of Tim Russert that authenticity matters more. If you are open and self-disclosing, you have a greater chance for credibility.

If you are not sure how you are communicating, ask a spouse, friend or co-worker to give you candid feedback. Use the following criteria:

1. Are you other oriented or self-oriented?

2. Do you dominate conversations or is there an easy exchange of dialogue?

3. Do you keep the conversation positive and optimistic or do you lean toward the negative and pessimistic?

4. Are you empathetic and genuinely interested in others?

5. Are you up on current events and an interesting conversationalist?

6. Are you expressive in your dialogue or do you speak in a monotone?

7. Do you get to the point or do you over-explain, belabor points and lecture?

8. Do you draw people out or sweat through long, uncomfortable silences?

9. Do you use open-ended questions often beginning with “How? or What?” or do you use closed questions often begin with “Do you…?”

10. Ask yourself what sort of impression you make in the first seven seconds of contact. Are you aware of the verbal and non-verbal signals you send to others?

Fortunately or unfortunately, perception is everything! You want the first seven seconds of contact to be positive. Those seven seconds may change the rest of your life.


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