Remember the last time you met someone for the first time? Now assume they never spoke. You still learned something about them, right? You form judgements about everything including:
- Social status
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
At the same time, you’re creating this picture about who the other person is, your target is analyzing you. And all of this happens within just a few seconds!
All relationships — personal and professional — begin with these first impressions. A poor first impression is an unfortunate start not only because it results in a negative reaction, but psychologists tell us that first impressions are permanent and cannot be overcome.
Most of the data that you acquire during those initial moments is analyzed sub-consciously. What goes into making a first impression? Here are a few factors:
- Clothing: The colors and styles you wear certainly play a factor. Looking at the photo you can see the difference in appearance of the man wearing a red tee shirt versus a doctor’s lab coat. Though subtle, quality is another consideration in clothing selection. Even if it is subconsciously.
- Jewelry and accessories: Are you wearing a wedding band? For jewelry what messages do small gold studs send versus large silver hoops? Any handbags, belts, or shoes will have similar effects on your appearance.
- Body modifications: Scars, piercings, and tattoos are part of the image you’re sending to those around you. While piercings and tattoos are usually a decision, scars may not be, yet when people see them they become part of your “image quotient.”
- Grooming and hygiene. Look at your fingernails. Are they smoothly filed and free of hangnails, bare or polished? This is just a small part of your body; consider the effects of grooming and hygiene on your body.
- Comportment and posture: Comportment is how you carry yourself. Remember your mother always said, “don’t slouch.” When you stand straighter not only do other perceive you as more confident, but you’ll become more self-assured.
- Body language: Gesturing with your hands and how you move your body says a great deal about how you feel regardless of the words coming out of your mouth. Yet these movements often occur subconsciously. Becoming more aware of your body language can improve your relationships with others.
- Speaking: In the extreme, lisps and stutters often have the effect of making the speaker appear less intelligent. Vocabulary, diction, and vocal pauses are less apparent but just as important when presenting yourself to others.
If you’re serious about attaining your goals, learning how to control these factors is an important skill. While it may initially seem overwhelming and time-consuming, simply becoming aware and learning a little at a time goes a long way. Some helpful skills and steps to take:
- Color Analysis: Wearing the colors that complement your natural coloring will make you seem healthier and more energized. A certified color consultant can recommend the best colors for you to wear based on your skin, eye, and hair colors. Make sure you choose a consultant who sees you in person to capture the subtleties of your complexion. If your last color analysis was more than 10 years ago, more sophisticated color systems are now available. Also, your personal coloring will change with age, and so will your best colors.
- Body Analysis: Recognize your current body size and proportions. Use clothing and accessories to accentuate your best features and minimize figure challenges. Reevaluate whenever you experience considerable body changes (e.g., weight fluctuation, postural changes, surgical alterations).
- Poise, Posture, Comportment, and Etiquette: Standing straight is a major indicator of confidence. A personal trainer can help you to improve muscle tone and posture. In addition, an image consultant can work with you on how you walk and body language.
So we’ve already discussed a few consultants that can help you to upgrade your image. Here’s a list of various advisors who you should consider as part of your “image team” and how they can help you achieve your goals.
- Color Analyst: provide you with a range of your best colors for clothing, accessories, jewelry, and makeup
- Image Consultant: provide a variety of services including recommendations on clothing styles, body language, comportment, and public speaking
- Hairstylist: suggest hair styles and colors that enhance your face, fit into your lifestyle, and on trend with current fashion
- Aesthetician: can improve your skin health and teach makeup application skills
- Personal Trainer: will help you to improve your strength, stamina, flexibility, and agility
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Learn the skills to improve and control your image. The greatest outcome from this investment in yourself is that your confidence and self-assurance will soar. When others note this in their first impression of you, they will reciprocate. And in turn, other aspects of your life will likely undergo significant improvements.
Do you have first impression experiences of your own? Please share them or ask questions in the comments below.