What do people think of you when they first meet you? Everyone forms first impressions all the time — the new team member you met in the break room, the prospect you’re selling to, the woman interviewing you for a job, the online dating match you just connected with, the conference room full of people you just presented to. How can you improve the impression you make?
How do you feel about your ability to form accurate first impressions of others? How do you know if you can trust a person you’ve just met to be a good manager, employee, business partner, or friend; refinance your mortgage; or provide care for your toddler or parent? Are you good at reading people? Is your gut reaction accurate?
This book addresses all these questions and many more.
If you’ve ever wondered why you didn’t get a callback after you thought you’d aced an interview, or wondered how a business contact could go wrong, how a “friend” could turn out to be untrustworthy, or how you could feel an instant connection to someone you’ve just met, I’ll help you understand why.
Even after years of studying, speaking, and consulting on these processes, they still leave me with a sense of awe. It’s astonishing, but research shows that when making a new contact, we decide if we like someone — and people do the same with us — within a fraction of a second. These are snap impressions. They are quick, powerful, and surprisingly accurate. We’re hardwired to give and receive them.
You might say, “That’s not enough time, I don’t make a good first impression, that’s not fair, I don’t do that,” but when you understand how snap impressions work — the factors that form them and the hundreds of nonverbal cues hidden between a hello and a handshake — you will see that snap impressions are not snap judgments. The latter are influenced by attraction, stereotypes, deception, communication styles, and habits that wreak havoc with our ability to read — and be read — accurately.
Snap impressions, on the other hand, give you an internal rudder, a map to the treasure of each person’s true self. Because we can process thousands of units of nonverbal information in less than a minute of contact, nonverbal communication can help keep us where we need to be and with whom. And because nonverbal signals are usually not under an individual’s conscious control, they are more honest and revealing than words.
Best of all, we can learn to read body language skillfully. Snap technology is something you can practice and master. As you do, you improve your ability to give and receive impressions accurately, and your personal and professional relationships become more genuine, productive, and successful.
I believe that the greatest gift we can give other people is to truly understand them, to really see them. And that one of the greatest feelings we can experience is that of being truly understood and seen. I came into this world as a result of the power of snap impressions. Before my mother was my mother, she went out dancing one evening, spied a cute blonde man across the dance floor, opened up her heart, and thought, “That’s him.” My future father looked across the same dance floor, saw a cute Blonde woman, opened up his heart, and thought, “That’s her.”
“Thought” isn’t really accurate, since the cues our limbic brain (the system of neural structures related to emotional behavior) process in an instant lead to a much more visceral sensing, an undeniable and almost indescribable knowing. This is the powerful feeling each of my parents experienced.
These two young dancers met that night, and four days later my father went out and bought a red convertible and an engagement ring. He picked my mom up for their date — with the top down on the convertible — drove her out to the beach, under a full Miami moon, and proposed to her. Clearly, my father knew how to make a great first impression. (They were married one week later.)
My parents shared this tender love story with my sisters and me when I was nineteen and taking my first nonverbal communication class. Their story inspired my many years of research into what I now call snap impressions, and a career of writing and speaking about the importance and power of these first takes in business and personal relationships.
I have been consulting and conducting research on nonverbal communication since 1982; my communication degrees emphasize nonverbal communication. I’ve taught the subject at the university level (Time magazine cited my Body Language course at Florida State University as one of the most popular college courses in the nation), spoken to government agencies and corporations, and coached everyone from executives and political candidates to people who want to improve their job interview, sales, presentation, or dating skills. I’ve worked with judges, law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and foster parents.
Nearly every week, I’m asked to appear in print and on broadcast media to comment on current events — from trials and scandals to political campaigns and celebrity behavior.
In this book, I use my expertise, including my academic background, continued research, and real-world experience, not only to give you the insights of science but also to show you how to put it all to practical, everyday use. I’ve also included stories that serve as examples of what I describe; many may strike a familiar chord. You will also have the opportunity to link to videos, online exercises, and recent research.
As you read through these chapters, through the research and descriptions, think about the last meeting you attended, your most recent experience of meeting a new colleague or date, the telephone or email exchange you had yesterday, and all the other times when impressions mattered. As you recall these experiences, you will gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and learn more quickly how to interpret and use your nonverbal skills to your advantage.
You’ll learn to:
• give the first impression that you intend to give, in a variety of circumstances
• build your likability, credibility, and charisma
• understand how power or the lack of it is communicated
• read people quickly and effectively
• understand that you are constantly forming “first impressions,” even with people you already know as you begin a new interaction with them
• discover how to get that rare second chance at a first impression
• make a good “tech impression” with today’s tech devices in today’s many technological venues
• recognize who you can really trust and how to be credible yourself
• understand other people’s actual agendas quickly
• learn to trust your more accurate snap impressions and use them to guide you
• be more confident in yourself and your ability to interact with others
The goal is to help you be — and be seen as — your best possible self while you also learn to quickly recognize and understand all the people you encounter. The result will be a more confident, courageous, and savvy you.
Let’s get started!