When I first started public speaking, part of my training was the constant reminder that you only have 30 seconds to make a positive impression and grab the audience’s attention. That training was about 30 years ago and the timeframe to make a first impression has gotten significantly shorter. I recently read that an interviewer typically knows within 10 seconds whether you will move forward in the job interview process. But wait, that window gets even smaller! Your first impression when meeting someone in any setting for the first time is now made in about 3 seconds. You read that right, 3 SECONDS. Talk about pressure! How do you put your best foot forward in 3 seconds!?! I will answer that question shortly.
It’s Like Toothpaste
Before talking about how, let’s remember why first impressions are so important. It’s because you can’t take a first impression back. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs. It’s like the analogy of squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Once the toothpaste is out, you can’t get it back in. There is no opportunity for a second impression. You are either reinforcing or repairing your first impression the next time you meet.
Tips from an Image Consultant
So, how do we create our best first impression? It has to do with highlighting the strengths of your natural appearance and being aware of your body language.
I recently interviewed an image, color and wardrobe consultant, Clarisse Ringwald, from Clarisse Color Creations for one of my podcasts about this exact question. “The direct relationship of colors and fabrics with your skin tone and eye color creates a first impression,” Clarisse told me. She went on to share tips covering various aspects of styling, body shape and face analysis, and even the impact of your hair color. Awareness of your personal colors can really impact how well you show up in life!
Confidence is Key
What I have found most helpful about this focus on first impressions for women, is that it is a natural confidence booster across various aspects of life. We feel better and more comfortable in our skin when we know ourselves better and show up at our best. Then the more confident we are, the better we are at making non-emotional decisions in our lives.
Being able to make non-emotional decisions significantly impacts the way we think of and spend money. From my financial industry perspective, think of all the money you can save by not emotionally buying the wrong colors, clothes, make-up and accessories! After my personal color analysis experience with Clarisse, I take my purse-sized color palette with me to save money online and in stores.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Let’s not forget about the body language aspect of first impressions and how important it is. Posture, eye contact, and handshake (pre-COVID days, anyway) all contribute to a first impression. Slouching is a double-negative for you physically and for the person you are meeting. Smiling and looking directly into the other person’s eyes relays that you are friendly and confident. Of course, don’t forget a strong handshake. Weak or limp hands don’t lend well to first impressions at all.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
I know these are small changes but they can make a bigger and lasting positive impression. Now let’s talk strategy…
I learned from another podcast guest, Dr. Karen Jacobson, that there are three steps required in a strategy to move forward with any change. The first step is to Accept awareness of the facts. You don’t have to like the facts, just be aware of them. Now you are aware of the importance and aspects of first impressions, for example.
The second step is to Adapt by making a conscious choice to change. Dr. Jacobson reminds us that the brain needs to be fully engaged for this phase, therefore breathing is key to calm the mind (exactly the topic of my last blog!) Are you ready to adapt by breathing deeply to maximize your first impression?
The final step to move forward is to Advance by having a written plan. This is the month of New Year’s resolutions and we have all heard that writing down our goals makes them much more likely to happen. Although this is true, New Year’s resolutions have a poor success rate. So, I have a suggestion.
One Step at a Time
The truth is, we remember things better when we write them down. Have you ever written a grocery list and then lost the slip of paper? You likely remembered most of it anyway because you wrote it down, right? There is something about physically writing things down that makes the information stick in our brain better. But instead of having the goal or result be the focus of what you write down, focus on one small step at a time.
We are more likely to be successful at completing one small task than a larger series of tasks. For example, if you determine that your best first impression requires a change in your wardrobe, maybe the first step you write down is to purge your closet of items you no longer wear, haven’t worn in 3 years, or no longer bring you joy (taking a page from Marie Kondo’s book) to first reduce the number of wardrobe choices. Then you donate those items so they are no longer in your closet. Maybe the next step you write down is to do the same thing with your drawers and perhaps the step after that is to have a color analysis done (I learned that our skin tone, for example, can sallow as we age which then changes the colors that we should be wearing so even if you’ve had a color analysis in the past, you may need new colors as you get older, who knew!?!).
Let’s Start the Year Off Right!
The research on achieving goals reinforces the fact that we are more successful when we can break things down into small steps (i.e., can be done in 5 minutes or no more than 30 minutes). So, to continue that theme, my 2021 focus will be on providing tools and checklists for you to boost your financial confidence. Cheers to you and putting your best foot forward in the new year!
Do you have a good or bad first impression story to share? How did it make you feel? Let’s start a discussion.
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.