We’ve all heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  But how important is that initial impression?  Science shows that our first impression of a person is often hard to dislodge.  Many studies have shown how quickly first impressions are formed and also how difficult they are to change even when conflicting facts are presented.  The bad news is many of these first impressions are strictly based on appearance, but the good news is we do have some control over our destiny.

In the August 2016 session of SE University, Annie Kao, PE, gave a presentation on Effective Communication Skills for Workplace Conversations and Meetings.  Annie talked about the importance of first impressions and what we can do to be in control of our own impression on others.

First, our voice has a huge impact on how others perceive us.  In 2014, a study at the University of Glasgow showed that participants largely agreed on their initial impressions of audio recordings of men and women saying the word “hello.”  Participants overwhelmingly agreed on sorting the voices to have various personality traits, such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance, or warmth.  Knowing this, we can be more aware of how our voice may be affecting our relationships, especially if you work in an office that does much of its correspondence over the phone.  Controlling our tone and intensity and conveying a pleasant attitude through our voice can be effective tools, especially in difficult conversations.  Annie recommended listening to this TED talk by Julian Treasure which addresses the use of our voice and its effects on others.

Not only does our voice help form an opinion, but our body language can affect the opinions of others.  If you are talking with someone who is very energetic and passionate, you tend to feel more passionate as well.  On the flip side, if you are taking to someone who seems uninterested and yawns, it tends to make you feel tired as well.  This phenomenon is caused by “mirror” neurons in our brain that cause us to mimic the energy of those around us.  We can use this to our advantage to help elevate our initial impression on others.  Speaking with confidence and passion can inspire those around you and leave a positive impact.

Using these skills, we can do our best to improve our initial encounter with others.  Confidence, whether fake or real, can convey competence and strength to those we meet.  It is important to practice these skills daily, especially when conversing by phone, as initial impressions begin with “Hello.”  Make that first word count, and you will be on your way to making a great first impression!