This is the story of a ten-year girl on a lazy summer afternoon. Since her mother had refused to give in to her demand she was sulking, looking out of the window, hoping someone came along and cajoled her. The doorbell rang and she heard voices in the drawing room. “Hmm, guests”, she thought.
Very soon the mother called out and asked her to join them. She plopped on the sofa opposite to where the guests sat, with her head down, answering them in monosyllables and occasionally glaring at her mother. After they left, the mum her a reason for the behaviour, and the girl said: “What did I do?” Her mother replied, “People come to meet and spend some time with us, do you think your behaviour was right?” The girl whined, ” I did not say anything, and replied to their questions also, I am upset and I don’t care “. Her mother said, “No one has the time to think as to why you are upset or understand that maybe you are not having a good day. What they take back with them is what they see. Can you imagine what they must be thinking about you? And our family?”
The young girl was me, and this was my primary understanding of the first impression as far as I remember. I am sure each one of you has heard this in some context or the other while growing up - Create a good impression! No one explained the real why to me, and it was always taught as a part of being a good girl and I am grateful for that.
When I got into consulting and training, as a feature of my study, I read about the research done on the occurrence of the first impression. At that point, I understood that people do make snap judgments based on the first look within 3-5 seconds and a few minutes of interaction. Now based on that perception, we either get liked or a distant treatment. In fact, our first email or a telephone conversation too works in a similar way. I believe it’s a survival instinct in us and we do it unconsciously.
So being mindful of it and being considerate, and mannerly, seems to make a lot of sense. Also being kind and considerate from a human point of view equally makes good sense to me.In fact, rather than speaking generally, let me narrow it down to work.
Managing Impression at Work:
We all know in business making the right impression has its advantages, and a good first impression helps us create opportunities to take the relationship further as we have stepped into the “yes room” of the other persons' mind. Great! Now, what happens after the first impressionable interaction is over? Most times it will lead to a series of engagements.
How do we manage our demeanour then? How do we live up to those expectations? Because now there are discussions, requests, negotiations, maybe a difference of opinion or distinctive outcomes that two people want from that interaction and operating from a principle of making a good impression may become a quest!
Also, is first impression only an external doing? I don’t think so. We may disguise our real emotions with perfect clothes and the best greetings, but what about the silent language of the physiology? I have had introductions to people where their impeccable dressing and the right choice of words have not matched the quiver in the voice, distant look in their eyes or the aloof smile. And I must acknowledge, I have been there quite a few times myself.
It is only human to want to be liked by people, but it is hardly in our control.
So instead of looking at first impressions as a curtain raiser, how about creating instants that last even after you have left the room? What if we can shift our focus to a place which is more inspiring rather than attempting to be liked? Just like a sea anchor helps the ship from drifting away, what if you allowed your true self to ground you and choose the behaviour that seems to fit you? Because, when the internal blends with the external, is when you create a memorable impact.
And how do we do that? We do that each day! building and strengthening the power within us that keeps us grounded while we show up in different situations.
The best way to make a good first impression last is to be the person you wish to be!
See you next week!