How can you make a good first impression?
Most advice on the subject is defensive, just telling you how to not offend. How can you strategically make a good impression?
From the outset, frame the conversation with a few well-rehearsed sentences regarding how you want to be perceived. This will end up being the structure the other person forms their memories around.
The take-home point is that having the appropriate schema or context for encoding information helps us understand and recall this information, but only if we get the schema at the outset… If you start out with a few well-rehearsed sentences about why you are the right person for the job, this first impression can help set the tone for your interview and for what is taken away from the meeting… Schemas determine how this new information is stored and what is actually remembered.
And keep in mind that whenever you’re speaking emotionally, the words you use almost don’t matter at all. Voice tone and body language are far more important.
One often quoted study (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) found that of all the information conveyed to another person when we say something that is emotional (not informational), only 7 percent is contained in the actual meaning of the words we use.
What makes us click with other people?
In Click: The Magic of Instant Connections Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman (authors of the interesting book Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior) explore how people connect and give some solid insights.
They discuss a number of the more obvious causes of connection like proximity and similarity but what struck me most was their emphasis on vulnerability.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection. When you both make yourselves vulnerable from the outset and are candid in revealing who you are and how you think and feel, you create an environment that fosters the kind of openness that can lead to an instant connection — a click.
How can you improve any relationship?
Just try. Put a small amount of conscious effort into trying to be a better friend, spouse, whatever. That’s it. Sounds ridiculous but:
- Improving any relationship is as easy as actively showing interest in the other person or sharing with them.
- Pretending time with a romantic partner was a first date makes it more enjoyable for you and for your partner. Why? On first dates we make an effort to impress.
- Racists actually make a better first impression on minorities than non-racists do. Why? Because they have to try to not act racist and the effort makes them come off better than someone who doesn’t have to try.
- Worried that all this is fake and contrived? Relax. Putting your best face forward actually reveals your true self.
How do you win over someone who doesn’t like you?
1. Give Honest Compliments. It may not be easy, especially if the person has been distancing themselves from you for a while. But if you’re objective, they probably have some qualities you admire. If you take a positive action and compliment them, it may well break the ice and make them re-evaluate their perceptions of you.
2. Ask for Their Advice. Cialdini notes this strategy – which involves asking for their professional advice, book suggestions, etc. – comes from Founding Father Ben Franklin, a master of politics and relationship building. “Now you’ve engaged the rule of commitment and consistency,” says Cialdini, in which they look at their actions (giving you advice or a book) and draw a conclusion from it (they must actually like you), a surprisingly common phenomenon in psychology. “And suddenly,” says Cialdini, “you have the basis of an interaction, because now when you return it, you can return it with a book you think he or she might like.”
How do you keep relationships strong over time?
Remember 5 to 1.
From Richard Conniff’s interesting book, The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:
It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…
More on strengthening friendships here.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Assume everyone already likes you and they probably will.
- Mistrust is self-fulfilling.
- Name-dropping doesn’t work. Flattery and mimicry do.
- Trying to seem smart makes you seem stupid.
- What you say about others says more about you.
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