You have heard the appeal not to judge a book by it’s cover- maybe in a perfect world right? Unfortunately, you don't possess the ability to peer into someone's mind and heart before you come to a conclusion about their character. As admirable as the anti-book cover appeal is, we have no other choice but to make assumptions and form opinions based off first impressions. It is just how we are wired.
Popular author Malcolm Gladwell, highlighted human snap-judgements brilliantly in his book, Blink. One of the most intriguing case studies was when a group of students took a course with a teacher for a whole semester and then were asked to give an evaluation. The second group did not have to take the whole course but instead watched a video of the professor for one hour. Both evaluations turned out the same. The researchers did not stop there, they showed another group half an hour of video- same results. Another group were shown five minutes, and again, same evaluations. The researchers then showed a group just 2 seconds and with the sound turned off. They were stunned to find out their evaluations matched the ones of students who went through an entire semester! Indeed, Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov have concluded that judgements are based upon one-tenth of second of meeting another person, and do not change even as the encounter progresses.
Whether we like it or not, we are bound to a world that judges books by their covers.
So, be it a work interview, a blind date, or a business meeting, the way you present yourselves is absolutely crucial for success. Snap judgments are being made. The key question then, is how do you use this to your advantage? How can you leverage these visceral appraisals in your favor?
Here are five ways to dominate first impressions:
Dr. Vivian Diller is a psychologist who studies the role of beauty in contemporary culture and has pointed out that of all human facial features, it is a person’s smile that elicits the most positive and immediate reactions from others. Leading up to any meeting with a person, make sure you have your ‘pearly whites’ all lit up and ready for them to be won over.
2. “Peak State”
Tony Robbins succeeds by going into what he calls a “peak state.” Using incantations, which are positive affirmations together with body movements- like an athlete psyching themselves up before a match. This is your time to get rowdy and throw your arms up in victory like you have just won Olympic gold. Once the heightened state has been reached, only then does Tony advise anyone to walk into a meeting.
3. Dress to impress
Get out that GQ suit or the killer dress you have dreamed about. Jennifer Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist and author of You Are What You Wear, notes the direct correlation between your emotions- your state of mind, and your outfit. If the way you dress affects your state of mind, and your state of mind is projected to others, then it is crucial that you dress to impress. Put on the outfit that will make you feel like walking down the catwalk.
4. Mind Your Posture
You are a walking billboard. Amy Cuddy, in her Ted Talk titled, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, with over fourteen million views, uncovers the fascinating relationship between your body posture and not only how it influences your own feelings and perceptions, but also how it influences other’s perceptions of you. A submissive posture will result in submissive emotions and feelings. Stand up straight and walk tall. Not only will you experience the empowering effects but so will the person you are about to meet.
5. See it and Believe it
The power of visualization has received immense credibility in light of recent developments in the field of Neuroscience. The brain does not differentiate between an image that is imagined in the mind and what plays out in reality. This explains why so many athletes are coached to mentally rehearse something in their mind before they physically engage in it. Before your meeting, play out a successful meeting in your mind, see yourself as that confident, smiling person that is absolutely and impressively off the charts.
First impressions do not just last, they are done fast. More importantly, they are crucial for winning people over. Rather than getting frustrated in whatever shallowness there is to a book-cover-judging society, learn the rules and dominate. Be sure to apply these five tips to leverage your next meeting.