How Long Does it Take to Make a First Impression?

Most people might intuitively assume that they can make a reasonable first impression about someone after one encounter which may last anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple hours. After observing mannerisms and evaluating the flow and content of conversation, we should all be able to have a fairly accurate assessment of a person. Research actually shows that first impressions usually occur within a few milliseconds up to about seven seconds. Even more surprising is that these virtually instantaneous evaluations are fairly accurate at least with regard to our evaluation of the person’s competence and trustworthiness, which are important characteristics in the development of a relationship with someone. Some of the other factors that are rapidly assessed  within seconds include appearance, attractiveness, emotional state, and vocal tone and inflections.

One of the downsides of the human mind is that it is fairly resistant to changing their first impression, even when presented with plenty of conflicting data over time. It is likely our own need to be right plays a role in this. People are prone to using selective focus and will look for evidence that supports their initial impression and conclusion and ignore or discount conflicting information.

How Important is a First Impression?

When it comes to the impression others are making of you, the stakes can vary on the setting, situation, and desired outcome of the encounter.

  • Public Encounters with Strangers: Most of us like to make a good impression in general and likely desire to adhere to our own personal values of being kind and respectful.  That said, the stakes are generally pretty low in most social encounters at the gas station or grocery store. We will rarely see these people again so what they think of us usually doesn’t really matter. Hopefully awareness of this does not give you liberty to be rude or disrespectful to others.
  • Work Settings: Our interaction with a prospective employment opportunity is the job interview. Obviously, the stakes are quite high if you are hoping to get hired by the company. Making it past the interview is then facing the challenge of the first day of work when you are likely to meet your future coworkers and teammates. Although being liked by coworkers may not be vital to your continued employment, it can make for a much more enjoyable working environment and experience.
  • Friendships: Many friends come and go for a variety of reasons, and it is always possible to make and find new friends. That said, the investment of time and energy is likely worth putting your best foot forward to increase the likelihood of developing friendships. Also, getting a bad reputation can bite you in some circles or communities where word may get around and consequently reduce the selection pool of other candidates who may now be biased against you.
  • Romance: Most of us yearn for a mate to share our lives with and be intimate with. First dates and even subsequent dates are really important to get a relationship out of the starting gate. Most people recognize that attraction is a key component of making a romantic relationship work beyond a first or second date. Thereafter, most people are trying to take a deep dive into each other’s personality, beliefs, and values to assess for compatibility. More often than not the truth of a person will be found out sooner or later, but good first impressions will hopefully move things forward enough to better assess that long term compatibility.

Tips for Making a Good Impression

  • Nonverbal Communication: Tone of voice and body language account for about two-thirds of what you are communicating. Your choice of words and articulateness can easily be negated by your nonverbal communication. Being mindful of eye contact, smiling, volume of speech, tone, use of hands are things people are assessing and affect that first impression.
  • Appearance: Most people have the common sense to dress up for an interview or first date. Once beyond these points it is still important to observe good hygiene practices, be well groomed, and dress appropriately for occasions. Being disheveled sends a message about how much you care about yourself and can begin to change people’s view of you over time.
  • Communication: Having a good vocabulary, although impressive to some, is a small part of communication. Far more important is the flow and reciprocation. Many people love to talk about themselves and tell interesting stories, however, in the process they end up dominating conversation, talking over, or simply not listening. These can be big turn-offs for any type of relationship.
  • Supportiveness: Most people regardless of the nature of the relationship want to surround themselves with people who are kind, caring, empathetic, and supportive. Hopefully, they are reciprocating these same things in kind, but people are definitely aware of it in you and being judgmental, critical, or demeaning will cause you to rapidly lose the interest of others.
  • Boundaries: Most people have an unspoken sense of what is appropriate with friends, coworkers, and romantic partners often based on how long we have known them and how much trust has developed over time. Boundaries can become issues physically with personal space and physical touch; mentally with the depth of sharing of personal information or probing of personal information; and emotionally with prying or sharing too much too fast. What is acceptable can differ slightly with each person and the nature of the relationship. Violating boundaries can definitely negatively affect impressions and relationships.

If you want to work on your relationships and how your actions and behaviors may be affecting them, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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