First impressions are often more important than actual results. This sounds harsh and unfortunately, it’s the truth.
I’ve meet people who I initially was put off by and I’m sure you have too. In my situation, I was fortunate to get to know some of them better because as it turned out they were not only great people, they were superstars as well; I was just too biased by my first impression to recognize it. It makes me wonder how many people I’ve dismissed because of a faulty first impression and missed getting to know. Of course the opposite has been true too…..some people who appear amazing on the surface turn out to be hollow at their core. How can you tell the difference?
The reality is that you and I are by nature judging creatures. We. Just. Do. It.
Since that’s the case and initial impressions are so important, what can be done about it? Trying to stop being judgmental doesn’t work. Remember, we are. Instead, we can redirect our awareness and judgements to five key factors, who according to Debjani Mukherejee Biswas, can make all the difference between success or failure the workplace:
- “Buzz”- a real but intangible factor of what people know about you from what they read, other people say or your background. This may be real or perceived.
- Appearance- intrinsic physical characteristics, body language, dress, style, accessories, body odor (presence or absence of), fragrances.
- Sound- voice quality, tone, pitch, vocabulary, fluency, coherence, as well as the “signature” of how you carry yourself, such as gravitas or goofiness.
- Differentiators- things that stick out and are distinctive. They may be intrinsic like hair style or body dimensions or extrinsic like credentials or dress. It’s what people remember when you leave.
- Output- this comes only after the first four have landed and may relate to content, quality, timeliness, and delivery.
Each of us have our own map for how we perceive these 5 factors and are uniquely affected by them. And it’s important to know how we are affected because they impact how we view others, where they fit and whether they are a help or a harm. They also impact how others view us. Do you know how these affect you and what judgments you’re currently making around them?
Unfortunately, we’re usually unconscious or sleepwalking when it comes to knowing how initial impressions are made as well as the impact these have on our decisions and the decisions of others. By being self-aware of the primary influencers of initial impressions, you can leverage them for the benefit of yourself, others and your organization. How?
It starts with self-awareness. First, recognize where your differences are working for you as well as against you. Second, learn to recognize your self-limiting beliefs when it comes to how differences influence your initial impression of others. Both of them may be costing you more than you know either in real-time or in opportunity .
Which of your five key first impression factors do you need to either change or leverage, while being authentic, in order to make the impact you want?
Comments are welcome, even really different ones.