Trust me, standing in front of 1000 people I can assume (I hate assumptions) that at least 10% of the audience doesn't like me before I open my mouth. Never had that experience? Well, how about meeting a blind date for the first time hoping that you don't do or say something stupid? Never had that experience either? OK, how about waiting for an interview for a job you need to get for any number of reasons and you just hope they will approve of you and your resume, experience and yes, the color of your hair, the shoes you are wearing and how tall or short you are?
I know you might think I'm being a bit silly or even paranoid but believe me these and many more experience like this happen every day. Want proof? If you have never read any of my articles or books and are reading this one, I'll guarantee you have already made a judgement – to keep reading or click on something else. Am I right? Well, if you are in the second group you haven't even made it this far.
The basis or foundation of all impressions is simply that a person sees something, meets someone, experiences anything and their first reaction is a – No, Yes or Maybe. In other words, whenever or whatever comes into our life from any source we will on first reactions – resist it, accept it or decide to consider it.
As a global speaker I have watched thousands of people in my audiences have one of these three reactions. Why? Why do we react the way we do? I'll keep it short and sweet. Let me explain.
There are over 300 billion brain cells / nerves in your head. Every one of them has 5000+ neural connections and as a result there are over three trillion chemical reactions / responses every second in your brain. And what are these? Well first do the math – a big number of stuff going on in your head while you jog, read, watch TV, attend a staff meeting etc.
In other words – every thought you have ever had, every experience you have ever had, every memory you have ever had – get it? It's all stored in that small device in your head – everything since your birth.
So, you meet someone new – during the first 10-30 seconds your brain is searching through literally quadrillions of facts and memories trying to decide how to react to this person. And guess what – even if you have never met them before, know nothing about them – whatever – within 20 seconds you will form an opinion and a reaction that is not grounded in the present reality but years of past experiences and memories.
So, your opinion of this new person has nothing to do with them but your interpretation of them based on similar historical events, people or situations.
I know you probably didn't want this much information and I'll bet that if you formed an opinion before you got this far you have no idea what I'm talking about now cause you stopped reading a few paragraphs up – deciding that you didn't like where I was going, you didn't agree with it or it was making you feel uncomfortable or it wasn't what you were expecting based on the title.
In other words, getting a second chance at a first impression is not you giving me another chance to be perceived better by you but you giving you a second chance to change your mind based on new information that is added to the mix of your history, therefore permitting you to see things differently, better or more relevant.
For those of you who want a simpler approach I offer the following.
There are ten primary areas that contribute to first impressions of others and often even lasting ones. They are; your words, your actions, your decisions, your attitudes, your example, your congruence, your consistency, your integrity, your values and your beliefs. I'm not going to delve into each of these – if you want to make better impressions on others – do the research, but I would like to cover briefly what I feel are the five most important ones.
Your congruence – Congruent is simply where two things mean the same thing or are consistent or in harmony with. For example – if you say you will meet me for lunch at noon and you show up at noon – you were being congruent. If you said you would and you got there a half hour late – you weren't congruent.
If you keep saying one thing and keep doing something else – well – sooner or later first impressions will plague you for a long, long time.
Your words – Words matter. When you say I will always and you deviate just once – always means nothing and so your words no longer have value.
Your attitudes – Attitudes are a reflection of beliefs, values and conditioned experiences. We feel and think what we do and then express these with a variety of – yes, no or maybes – attitudes. What's an attitude? It's simply a consistent way of thinking about something and then responding accordingly. For example, if you are a liberal – conservatives get on your nerves because they have bad attitudes and vice versa. If you are twenty and are having a serious discussion with someone in their eighties, I'll guarantee that before the conversation is over sooner or latter one of you will get on the other one's nerves and blame it on – you have an attitude issue dude !
Your consistency – I'm not going to explain this one as I'm sure you know what this word means. All I want to say is that when you lose consistency in serious matters you lose credibility and often respect which contributes to poor impressions. Don't believe me – look up the acceptance level of the average politician.
Your example – Notice how all four of the previous examples are related? Well, they are – deviate or swerve form any one of them and the other four are impacted – therefore your image and the impressions you make or continue to make.
Want to make better impressions – first of all you will never get the same reaction from different people on the same behavior because everyone's mental barometers or expectations are unique. So, stop trying to please everyone – it's a waste of energy, time and life.
The answer is – be who you are not who others want you to be, expect you to be, demand you to be. Period – stop working for other people's approval – again – a waste of time and energy. Yes, we all need to keep getting better, wiser and smarter but until we are perfect we just need to chill, be and let other's attitudes, expectations, rules, needs etc. be them and not us.
I was not put on this earth for your approval so get over it. If you don't like me or approve of me – OK, but I am not going to change me to satisfy your expectations of me and as a result, lose myself in the process.