You Have 7 Seconds to Make a Good First Impression. Here’s How to Do It.

June 22, 2016

When the first humans roamed this earth, they were mostly non-verbal creatures, with no shared language. Therefore, they had to make quick judgments of strangers based solely off the stranger’s body language, to conclude if they were friend or foe.

All these years later, despite the advent of language, those instincts have not left us. Science bears that out, as studies have found a person will make a decision of a stranger within seven seconds, based off their body language.

Think about the business implications of that. Within seven seconds of meeting someone, a person will conclude if you are confident or weak, interested or aloof, friend or foe – based solely off your body language. Obviously, that’s going to directly affect your ability to get leadership buy-in, close a sale or just make a friend.

So what should you do in those seven seconds to make a good impression? Body language expert Carol Kinsey Goman, in a course on LinkedIn Learning, explained there are six body language rules you should follow whenever you meet someone new. Following those six rules will signal to the person that you are confident and welcoming, and ensure you make a good impression to each new person you meet.

What are those six rules? They are:

1. Adjust your attitude.

Ultimately, your body language is going to reflect your attitude, Goman said. So, before meeting any person for the first time, make a conscious decision of the attitude you want to embody, and your body language will likely follow.

For example, if you want to be seen as approachable and friendly, consciously decide to adopt a friendly and approachable attitude before meeting a person. Conversely, if you walk into a meeting bored or insecure, your body language will inherently reflect that.

2. Get your posture right with this exercise.

Your posture has a tremendous impact on the way people perceive you. To get your posture right, Goman suggests doing this one exercise: Raise your shoulders toward your ears, roll them back and then drop them down.

That shall cause you to stand up straight, your head to be held high and your shoulders to stay back. Not only will this posture project confidence, it’ll make you feel more confident, Goman said.

3. Smile in this specific way.

Our brain is hardwired to respond positively to someone who is smiling. Goman suggested smiling in this specific way when meeting someone for the first time, as it will cause them to immediately like you: Start with a small smile when you enter the room, and then widen it as you look at the person.

4. Make the right amount of eye contact using this method.

Strong eye contact is a way to transmit openness and energy. To make the right amount of eye contact, Goman suggested doing this: When you meet someone for the first time, make a practice of noticing the color of his or her eyes.

That will cause you to look at a person’s eyes for the right amount of time, which will make them feel like you are truly interested in what they have to say.

5. Use your eyebrows wisely.

When greeting someone new, you can use your eyebrows to make them feel welcome. Goman suggests doing an eyebrow flash – i.e. a brief eyebrow raise – when meeting a new person while opening your eyes slightly wider than normal, which is a signal of friendly recognition.

6. Lean in, while maintaining the right amount of space.

Sheryl Sandberg might not have been literal with the title of her book, but Goman is when it comes to body language. Literally leaning in to a person when talking with them makes them feel like you are truly engaged in what they have to say.

That said, Goman recommends keeping the right amount of personal space between yourself and the person, which varies from country to country. In Brazil, for example, people tend to get closer to each other, whereas in the US, people like to have two feet of space (as Jerry Seinfeld can attest).

That’s it. If you do those six simple things, every person you meet will immediately have a good impression of you – which is an excellent way to start any interaction.

*Image by Death to the Stock Photo

The following article details just one lesson from Goman’s LinkedIn Learning course, Body Language for Leaders. To watch the entire course and be incepted with all her body language wisdom, click here.

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