Archives for posts with tag: first impressions

  

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The other morning I sat down at breakfast and noticed a little old man sitting next to me. I smiled and let the moment pass not thinking too much about it and not expecting much more from it.

A few minutes later, a little old woman join him. Having seen many old people eat breakfast before, I barely gave it a second thought. But, when the woman sat down I couldn’t help but overhear her talking. Then I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Almost as soon as she sat down she started complaining. This was not the average bitter old woman! I heard her say “That stupid bitch!” Immediately I was shocked. Everyone at my table must have heard it because it got silent. No one knew what to say. I mean how crabby can this old lady possibly be?! They must have said “stupid bitch!” about 5 times in a row. And it turns out she was mad because there was a lady in front of her at the omelette bar holding up the line because she didn’t know what she wanted. Whoa! I was floored! This lady was so old and crabby that the omelette line set her off.

A couple of minutes passed, and the old lady started talking to me. Well, to my friend. Apparently, this lady noticed the college shirt my friend was wearing and had something to say about it. I had no idea where or how this was going to go. I didn’t doubt my friend had just heard the omelette story. And I knew she would not deal with this lady’s attitude…. so here it goes… what will happen next…?

It turns out the old lady used to live in the same state as the college mentioned on my friends’ shirt. She was very fond of the area and that broke the ice to a casual conversation.

As it turned out,  I was celebrating my birthday. The lady and her husband were celebrating his birthday. As the conversation went on, I learned that the lady had survived breast cancer – twice.  She was proudly wearing pink T-shirt and advising all women who would listen to get checked out.

She had served in the Navy and was somewhat of a pin-up girl who became popular when she was caught on camera smoking cigars with some ranking officers.

When she was younger, she used to own a ’58 Chevy. She told us how she used to play chicken on the road and run from the cops. She got so illuminated when she was telling these stories. And she had no time for the guys who thought she couldn’t hold her own.

We reminisced about some college parties she used to go to after the football games.

It turns out she wasn’t bitchy at all – she was feisty! She was quite the character and a great random person to chat with. You never know who will cross your path or what story they have to tell.

Two lessons here:  1) Never underestimate the story of strangers. 2) Live your life as to have a wonderful story to share with others.

I was speaking with a friend last night and we got on the topic of first impressions. And they asked me “do you really think clothing affects first impressions or is that people just being shallow?”

I responded, Unequivocally, yes, dress matters – and here’s why:

Years ago a study of “cop-killers” was done. The interview went to prisons and spoke with people who had been convicted of killing a police officer. There was numerous things the study wanted to inquire about, but one surprising lesson came up about dress.

One of the inmates told the following story:

He said he woke up angry one day. He sat up in bed and told himself “You’re gonna kill a cop today.” He decided that the first police officer he came across, he would kill.

So, he said he got dressed and got on with his mission. He left his home for a walk, determined that he would kill the first police officer he saw.

They asked him if he carried out that plan, and he said “yes and no.” He went on to explain that the first officer he saw was directing traffic. The inmate reported that he stood at the corner of the intersection and watched the officer for about 10 minutes. He said there was a lot of opportunities when the officer had his back to him.

But as the inmate watched the officer, he saw that the officer had his uniform pressed. His shoes were shined. He appeared to be in good shape. The inmate said he got the impression that this officer was serious. He had his sh*t together. He appeared very professional. The inmate said that he felt that if he engaged in a shoot-out with this officer, the officer would react with his professionalism and seriousness and clearly win…. So he walked away. The officer never even knew he was there.

But the inmate said he continued on his walk. He came across an officer that was clearly out of shape. His uniform didn’t fit. He said it looked like he just didn’t care. He engaged THAT officer, and killed him.

Now, who knows if the first officer would have won. But that story illustrates the power of impression.

Care about your appearance, at least your professional appearance. Own the room, meeting, interview, sales pitch, etc when you walk in. Impression are made fast, and often times far before you will have the chance to explain your resume and personality.

Dress the part.

First impressions are made fast. One study I read said 90% of one’s opinion of someone else is made up in the first 90 seconds of meeting them. That’s fast! But test it out, sit somewhere at do some people watching. See how fast your mind makes up a story (good or bad) about the people you see. And it will
all be based on you simply seeing them, no conversation, no back story – just a quick size-up.

So upon meeting someone, you have your visual presentation of yourself, some very brief conversation skills/ openers, and the always underrated handshake. A lot can be told, and should be known about handshakes. There have been entire books and industries created around body language. But here is some basic info for you to start with:

The awkwardly loooong shake:

This greeting isn’t necessarily a problem if you are spending 5-10 seconds catching up, giving an extended thank you, or on sincere terms with the recipient. Otherwise, the recipient is probably wondering why you are standing there staring at them..

Pulling in:

This motion gives the puller the essence of control over the recipient. As the receiver gets pulled in closer, they are pulled off balance. Naturally, if you don’t have a strong stance or aren’t expecting this as a receiver, you tend to automatically stumble forward.

Palm vertical (each person’s hand is karate chopping the air):

This is the most neutral of all handshakes. It shows equality. It takes out all the possible misunderstandings of body language. When I see this I tend to think that person is being straightforward. You get what you see.

Palm down (forces your palm to face up):

This action is also known as a controlling behavior. It is basically the person saying (and literally demonstrating) that they are above/ over/ superior to you.

Palm up (forces your palm to face down):

This allows the receiver to automatically have a sense of control in the situation. It can be read a sign of humility and graciousness. I’ve seen men attempt to shake a woman’s hand in this manner. It is a professional yet gentle way of shaking hands. However, some powerful women will be immediately turn their hand vertical or even flip the scenario over to demonstrate their superiority.

Wimpy/weak hand:
(Or as my dad calls it; “wet toast”)

Unless there is some medical condition or extremely dainty-ness you are worried about, don’t do this. Stiffen up and put some effort into it. Otherwise it will be read as extremely low interest in the situation or extremely low confidence.

Left handed:

What?! Yes, lefties are out there. And they are forever adapting to our right-handed world. However, in many cultures it is very disrespectful to offer your left hand. That’s because is some cultures that is that hand you use for…uh hmm.. well wiping yourself. So know your audience, but that’s a good rule always follow!

But having said that, I usually use my left hand if I am going to incorporate a hug with my right arm. It gives that “great seeing you/working with you WITH a touch of “hey we’re buddies too ya know!”

Hand in hand:

This is when someone shakes your hand with one of their hands and covers the whole execution with their other free hand. It’s used as a sign of sympathy and caring, and extreme thankfulness, if you will.

…And last but not least (and newest):

Knuckle/ fist bump:

There is a coolness and casualness to the fist bump. Its very informal, but becoming more and more popular. I wouldn’t advise it in a professional situation unless the ties are loosened and the sleeves are rolled up. But in some circles its extremely acceptable and simply replaces the traditional handshake because of germs and grime. I’ve also done the “elbow bump” for those types of situations.

So be well! Crack your knuckles inconspicuously ahead of time, wipe your hand on your pant leg, and start to pay attention to people’s body language. It’s definitely not all-inclusive but it can tell you a lot about a person.