How To Embed Your First Impressions

 

First impressions can be a real bitch.

It not just that you don’t always have time to prepare for them, and it’s not the fact that the repercussions of a bad first impression can last a very long time.

What really sucks is that if you don’t make a good first impression, you missed out the only opportunity you’ll ever have to tell your new acquaintance – no words necessary – who you are and what you’re all about. What a loss! It came and went, just like that! Snap, whoosh!

The only thing you can do is prepare yourself to make positive first impressions so that you’ll do so reflexively, without needing any preparation.

What makes a good first impression?

There are a few major things you want to convey when meeting new people.

1. Who are you?

It can take a long time to get to know someone well, and that’s good; you want to have depth. Being able to explain who you are to someone – possibly from across the room, or maybe with just a few words exchanged – is important, though, because you want to make others curious enough to find out more.

Think of it like a movie trailer: you want to give a juicy enough overview without spilling the major plot points and storylines.

Take a look at this trailer for The Watchmen real quick and you’ll see what I mean:

This trailer uses very little dialogue to tell a story. It’s not the story of the movie, but instead a tale the relates what kind of movie it is. The brooding music builds suspense while the dramatic special effects say that this is a movie with a lot of bright lights and action. The nature of the visuals and drama of the pauses and camera panning indicate that this is not your parent’s super hero movie, despite all the costumed people running around.

It’s very clear to anyone who watches this trailer what The Watchmen is all about, even though we know nothing about the characters, their stories, what the conflict is or anything else that makes the movie special.

If you can make your first impression like a good trailer for who you are, you’re on the right track.

2. What do you do?

One of the first questions that most people ask at parties in Los Angeles is ‘what do you do?’ I’ve gotten so accustomed to this that I am constantly bringing it up in places where what you do professionally isn’t quite so important (or at least not the first thing on everyone’s conversational agenda). I find myself back-tracking quite a bit to avoid a social faux pas.

“Good to meet you! What do you dooooo…ing here? What are you doing here? In Buenos Aires? Ahem.”

If you play your cards right, you can eliminate the need for other people to ask this question by giving off a certain professional vibe; again, the point is to make them want to know more, but to paint a clear enough outline that they know the broad picture.

This can involve more talking than just showing who you are, but your posture, your poise, how you dress and your facial expressions can also play an extremely important role in an accurate first impression.

Take a look at this intro from the TV show Dexter for some inspiration:

Here’s a normal guy, going about his regular morning routine, but every action is laced with menace. From Michael C. Hall’s facial expressions (he’s the guy who plays Dexter in the show) to the close-cropped shots of his breakfast being cooked and devoured, you know that he is probably a serial killer, despite the fact that he does all the same things everyone else does.

It’s incredibly menacing without being literally threatening at all. There’s some whimsy in there too, which is also a big part of the Dexter character in the show.

It’s the WAY he does these normal things it that make an impact, and the same goes for you. When you go about your day you’ll doing all the same things that everyone else does, but how you do these standard things is what makes you stand out.

3. What do you stand for?

It can be incredibly difficult to express your views, especially controversial ones, to people around you without either labeling yourself as an extremist of some sort or earning the ire of the very people you’re trying to make a good impression with.

The best way to make sure your thoughts are heard, but to also not put up your new- acquaintance’s defenses, is to be subtle but pointed in your support.

Take a look at this award-winning PSA for an idea of what I mean:

How would you feel if you had to get other people’s permission to marry the person you love? This is a clear message of support for the legalization of gay marriage – a super-controversial issue – but it doesn’t demonize anyone, play upon any stereotypes or make any efforts to shock the audience into paying attention. Instead, it’s well-produced and written, the actors play roles that mimic the intended audience, and the message is presented in a logical and clever way.

You should try to do the same with anything you feel strongly about. This will allow you to stay true to yourself without needlessly antagonizing everyone who doesn’t believe the same as you (and maybe even some of the people who do!).

And If You Fail…

A good first impression is something to aim for, though they won’t always go as planned.

When this is the case, all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off and prepare to make the best second, third, fourth and fifth impressions possible.

31 comments

  1. Haha! Have you seen the guy at the end of the Watchmen trailer? So random.

    One of the more overlooked elements of a first impression, I think, is the make-them-curious-for-more. Glad you addressed that here.

    Nice post, Colin!

  2. Haha! Have you seen the guy at the end of the Watchmen trailer? So random.

    One of the more overlooked elements of a first impression, I think, is the make-them-curious-for-more. Glad you addressed that here.

    Nice post, Colin!

  3. Hey Colin!
    Very cool post. I’ve seen Watchmen sitting on the shelf in the video store but havent rented it yet. Going to take it out this weekend :)

    I love Dexter, was actually watching season 3 again last week. It is kind of disturbing in a way. It is filmed in such a way that you actually think what Dexter does is right.You feel compassion for him while he is actually murdering people (albeit very bad people of society).

    Keep well!
    Diggy

  4. Hey Colin!
    Very cool post. I’ve seen Watchmen sitting on the shelf in the video store but havent rented it yet. Going to take it out this weekend :)

    I love Dexter, was actually watching season 3 again last week. It is kind of disturbing in a way. It is filmed in such a way that you actually think what Dexter does is right.You feel compassion for him while he is actually murdering people (albeit very bad people of society).

    Keep well!
    Diggy

  5. The first impression is an art. One I really have trouble with. But your post sums it up pretty well.

    I think I need to practice a little bit more but at least I have more clue about what to do. Thanks for the insight Colin!

  6. The first impression is an art. One I really have trouble with. But your post sums it up pretty well.

    I think I need to practice a little bit more but at least I have more clue about what to do. Thanks for the insight Colin!

  7. Nice. First impressions are certainly important, and I feel like I’m not great at making good them. I don’t make a bad one, but it’s just bleh. I think it’s because I’m VERY quiet and can come off as shy. Maybe I just need to be more prepared with what to say? Lots of great points for me to think over in this one, so thanks!

  8. Nice. First impressions are certainly important, and I feel like I’m not great at making good them. I don’t make a bad one, but it’s just bleh. I think it’s because I’m VERY quiet and can come off as shy. Maybe I just need to be more prepared with what to say? Lots of great points for me to think over in this one, so thanks!

  9. Hey Colin,
    When I think of first impressions of people who became friends—I usually recall some weird story were something confusing, accidental, random drew us together. Is that just me??
    I think the true *first impressions* are when everyone is off *best behavior* and you see the real them–good or bad!
    Take Care, Jill

  10. Hey Colin,
    When I think of first impressions of people who became friends—I usually recall some weird story were something confusing, accidental, random drew us together. Is that just me??
    I think the true *first impressions* are when everyone is off *best behavior* and you see the real them–good or bad!
    Take Care, Jill

  11. That PSA is excellent. I hadn’t seen that one before.

    The Dexter intro is good, though it rubs me the wrong way with the continuity being so off. The first thing he does is shave, yet throughout the rest of the intro, he’s unshaven.

    That first impression didn’t ruin the whole show though. It is such a high quality show that this little first impression doesn’t bother me that much :-)

  12. That PSA is excellent. I hadn’t seen that one before.

    The Dexter intro is good, though it rubs me the wrong way with the continuity being so off. The first thing he does is shave, yet throughout the rest of the intro, he’s unshaven.

    That first impression didn’t ruin the whole show though. It is such a high quality show that this little first impression doesn’t bother me that much :-)

  13. Good wireframe here Colin. The first impression makes an impact, not one you can’t change later but it’s exponentially harder….the element you left us hanging with is how…how do I make a good first impression…or how do I leave the first impression I want to…do I want to be james bond? an intellectual? interesting but mysterious? the thing about first impressions is just that…they are first impressions…take the james bond example for instance…when you first meet him, you think wow cocky son of in a suit…but through the movies through the character development you realize a whole lot more about him…sure he’s still cocky and wears a suit but there’s more there. the first layer we present in meeting someone is something we have a small variance of play with…salesmen know this more than most…but does everyone know we are all salesmen?

  14. Good wireframe here Colin. The first impression makes an impact, not one you can’t change later but it’s exponentially harder….the element you left us hanging with is how…how do I make a good first impression…or how do I leave the first impression I want to…do I want to be james bond? an intellectual? interesting but mysterious? the thing about first impressions is just that…they are first impressions…take the james bond example for instance…when you first meet him, you think wow cocky son of in a suit…but through the movies through the character development you realize a whole lot more about him…sure he’s still cocky and wears a suit but there’s more there. the first layer we present in meeting someone is something we have a small variance of play with…salesmen know this more than most…but does everyone know we are all salesmen?

  15. I love this post because you take a different look at the science of a real, authentic first impression. Summed up perfectly, for anyone to make the perfect first impression, they must know the 3 things you gave…..

    Who you are, What do you do, and What do you stand for. When you know this to heart and actually live it, you a confident person with a purpose and a mission. Not only will people sense it a mile away, they’ll be attracted (in different ways of course) by it.

  16. I love this post because you take a different look at the science of a real, authentic first impression. Summed up perfectly, for anyone to make the perfect first impression, they must know the 3 things you gave…..

    Who you are, What do you do, and What do you stand for. When you know this to heart and actually live it, you a confident person with a purpose and a mission. Not only will people sense it a mile away, they’ll be attracted (in different ways of course) by it.

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  18. This is very well said, I agree with you. I agree most of all that your first impression is always done best when it’s “reflexive” as you say and requires no preparation – just be ready to have your elevator pitch about yourself or whatever ready to go, and let your natural eloquence shine. If, uh, you have natural eloquence. If not work on it.

    Also, nice picture of a robot using a computer…?

  19. This is very well said, I agree with you. I agree most of all that your first impression is always done best when it’s “reflexive” as you say and requires no preparation – just be ready to have your elevator pitch about yourself or whatever ready to go, and let your natural eloquence shine. If, uh, you have natural eloquence. If not work on it.

    Also, nice picture of a robot using a computer…?

  20. @Alan: Yeah, I wish I could clip that dude out, but this was the highest quality trailer available….grumble grumble. In any case, as you say, leaving that tidbit unexplained is vital, otherwise you’re just giving everything away without an equal exchange with the viewer. Muy importante.

    @Diggy: The Watchmen is REALLY well done. I recommend you check out the graphic novel, too. Different ending, believe it or not. They do a really good job with Dexter, too…really make you think about right and wrong. They made serial killing cool, somehow. Oh Michael C. Hall….

    @Alejandro: Thanks Alejandro! Let me know how things turn out…like anything, the best way to up your game is just practice practice practice (and self-awareness…knowing what you want to tell people with your personal brand).

    @Nate: There’s nothing wrong with being quiet, but being able to cultivate a certain attitude or visage around that quietness is the goal…make people think ‘Ah, still waters run deep’ rather than ‘Ah, he can’t think of anything to say.’

    @Jill: Very good point; sometimes it’s the strange situations, when things don’t go according to the plan, that really bring us together. Fortunately, having a strong brand in place even helps here, because your responses will be ingrained and reflexive. That being said, it’s true that sometimes the REAL deal-sealer is when everyone involved is in their PJs, bad hair day, spinach in their teeth, worst case scenario all around. In my experience, though, those moments are much better AFTER you’ve established that base-line..then even the not-so-great moments are taken in the context you’ve already set up.

    @James: I LOVE that PSA. Really smartly written and shot. I hadn’t noticed the inconsistency with the Dexter intro, but yeah, now that you mention it, a little strange. Maybe he was just shaving his neck?

    @Robert: Good point. The first impression is important, but without substance underneath it, to support that impression, it will wear aware pretty quickly. If you go for James Bond but have no game and only wear flannel and parachute pants, people will see through you and you’ll come across as a fake. Determine what your first impression should revolve around by figuring out what it is about you that is appealing/attractive/memorable. Refine that and focus it. First impressions are just one component of personal branding, and though important, are not ALL you should worry about!

    @molly: I know! Being able to convey a complex idea simply is such an amazing gift. The people who put ‘Permission’ together have that gift.

    @Casey: I do! Thanks a lot! Many of the illustrations are from old sketchbooks (I scanned them in before I destroyed the books for my Shred Party). I’m glad you liked the eBook, too! Tell your friends!

    @Ronnie: Definitely. Well said!

    @Don: Amen to that. Would that more people felt that way.

    @Royce: Word! Haha, the illustration was picked from my old archive because he looks like he might be embedding something on YouTube or some such. Kind of a stretch…really I just like robots :)

    @Jonny: Hahaha, maybe that title would have brought in more readers? That IS my robo image..thanks!

  21. @Alan: Yeah, I wish I could clip that dude out, but this was the highest quality trailer available….grumble grumble. In any case, as you say, leaving that tidbit unexplained is vital, otherwise you’re just giving everything away without an equal exchange with the viewer. Muy importante.

    @Diggy: The Watchmen is REALLY well done. I recommend you check out the graphic novel, too. Different ending, believe it or not. They do a really good job with Dexter, too…really make you think about right and wrong. They made serial killing cool, somehow. Oh Michael C. Hall….

    @Alejandro: Thanks Alejandro! Let me know how things turn out…like anything, the best way to up your game is just practice practice practice (and self-awareness…knowing what you want to tell people with your personal brand).

    @Nate: There’s nothing wrong with being quiet, but being able to cultivate a certain attitude or visage around that quietness is the goal…make people think ‘Ah, still waters run deep’ rather than ‘Ah, he can’t think of anything to say.’

    @Jill: Very good point; sometimes it’s the strange situations, when things don’t go according to the plan, that really bring us together. Fortunately, having a strong brand in place even helps here, because your responses will be ingrained and reflexive. That being said, it’s true that sometimes the REAL deal-sealer is when everyone involved is in their PJs, bad hair day, spinach in their teeth, worst case scenario all around. In my experience, though, those moments are much better AFTER you’ve established that base-line..then even the not-so-great moments are taken in the context you’ve already set up.

    @James: I LOVE that PSA. Really smartly written and shot. I hadn’t noticed the inconsistency with the Dexter intro, but yeah, now that you mention it, a little strange. Maybe he was just shaving his neck?

    @Robert: Good point. The first impression is important, but without substance underneath it, to support that impression, it will wear aware pretty quickly. If you go for James Bond but have no game and only wear flannel and parachute pants, people will see through you and you’ll come across as a fake. Determine what your first impression should revolve around by figuring out what it is about you that is appealing/attractive/memorable. Refine that and focus it. First impressions are just one component of personal branding, and though important, are not ALL you should worry about!

    @molly: I know! Being able to convey a complex idea simply is such an amazing gift. The people who put ‘Permission’ together have that gift.

    @Casey: I do! Thanks a lot! Many of the illustrations are from old sketchbooks (I scanned them in before I destroyed the books for my Shred Party). I’m glad you liked the eBook, too! Tell your friends!

    @Ronnie: Definitely. Well said!

    @Don: Amen to that. Would that more people felt that way.

    @Royce: Word! Haha, the illustration was picked from my old archive because he looks like he might be embedding something on YouTube or some such. Kind of a stretch…really I just like robots :)

    @Jonny: Hahaha, maybe that title would have brought in more readers? That IS my robo image..thanks!

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