You already know that in the luxury hospitality business expectations are high and first impressions of your property, promotional materials, or office are crucial. But did you know that the impact you make, personally, in the first 7 seconds of meeting someone is also crucial for making the connections needed to grow your business?
7 seconds is all the time it takes for a potential business partner to assess your confidence, competence, status, likability, warmth, and trustworthiness. First impressions are superficial and often made unconsciously — but first impressions stick because we are psychologically programmed to see what we expect to see.
Once people have labelled you as trustworthy or deceptive, powerful or submissive, friend or foe, they will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to hang onto their initial judgment. They will take note of behaviours that reinforce that initial opinion and ignore or downplay behaviours that are contradictory.
While you can’t stop people from making snap decisions – the human brain is hardwired in this way – you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favour.
Because you are being assessed in so little time, first impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal cues than verbal cues. Here are nine simple but powerful ways to make is a positive impact:
- Adjust your attitude. People pick up your attitude instantly. A study at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging discovered it takes the brain just 200 milliseconds to gather most of the information it needs from a facial expression to determine a person’s emotional state. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom, or step onstage to make a presentation, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.
- Smile slowly. A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and approachable.” A slow onset smile leads to even more positive reactions. So, begin with a slight smile and let it grow organically. (Also note that when you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way.)
- Stand tall. Pull your shoulders back and hold your head high. Good posture affects how people perceive you by sending positive signals of energy, confidence, and self-esteem. Good posture also makes you more resilient. A joint study by the USC Marshall School of Business and J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, found that by simply adopting open and expansive postures people felt in control and more able to deal with stressful situations.
- Make eye contact. Eye contact is most effective when both parties feel its intensity is appropriate for the situation. This may differ with introverts/extroverts, men/women, or between different cultures. But, in general, greater eye contact — especially in intervals lasting four to five seconds — almost always leads to greater liking. Looking at someone’s eyes when you first meet transmits energy and indicates interest and openness. (Try making a practice of gazing long enough to notice the eye colour of everyone you meet.)
- Raise your eyebrows. Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the “eyebrow flash” that is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgement.
- Lower your pitch. You’ll have them at “Hello” if your voice sounds warm and inviting. Don’t let nervousness take your voice into its higher range. Before speaking, take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth. (If you are unobserved, make a soft “ahh” sound.) Doing so releases the tension in your throat and helps to keep your vocal tone relaxed and lower.
- Shake hands. Touch is the most primitive and powerful nonverbal cue. We are programmed to feel closer to someone who’s touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. It’s a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond. In fact, research shows it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with a single handshake.
- Lean in slightly. Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and interested. But be respectful of the other person’s space. Although there are cultural differences, in most business situations you should stay about two feet away until the relationship has developed and you are invited to move closer.
- Begin to mirror. Subtly synchronise your body language to mirror your partner’s. Assume their stance, arm position or facial expression. You may not realise it, but you do this naturally with people you genuinely like or agree with. It’s a way of non-verbally signalling that you are connected and engaged.
You’ve got just 7 seconds to make an impact – but if you handle it well, 7 seconds are all you need!
Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international keynote speaker who addresses business audiences in 25 countries. She is the author of “THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LEADERS: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” For more information, contact Carol by phone: +1-510-526-1727, email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com, or through her website: https://CarolKinseyGoman.com