How to make a good first impression

In a world of Facebook, Twitter and Tinder, so many of our first impressions of each other are formed online and it’s relatively easy to present yourself in a certain way. But how do you impress someone when you meet them for the first time in person?

You might think you have a while to make a good first impression, but science says it only takes seven seconds for someone to make up their mind about you. So whatever the reason you’re meeting someone, you’ve got to act quickly. Here’s what the experts say to do:

Smile

Research from Princeton University says that people decide whether you’re a trustworthy person or not after only 34 milliseconds of looking at your face – and your facial expressions can influence those judgments.

Simply put: “People judge smiling faces as trustworthy and angry-looking faces as untrustworthy,” Peter Mende-Siedlecki, a postdoctoral researcher in the psychology department at NYU, told BuzzFeed Life, so make sure you’re smiling when you meet new people.

Give a good handshake

Although people often recommend a firm handshake when you meet someone new, it can be hard to get it right. Research from the Beckman Institute has found that it enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behaviour on the evaluation of social interaction.

For anyone wanting to make a good impression, researcher Sanda Dolcos said: “Be aware of the power of a handshake. We found that it not only increases the positive effect toward a favourable interaction, but it also diminishes the impact of a negative impression. Many of our social interactions may go wrong for a reason or another, and a simple handshake preceding them can give us a boost and attenuate the negative impact of possible misunderstandings.”

Maintain eye contact

If you want people to remember what you said after you’ve finished speaking, maintain eye contact. This was the finding of a joint study between the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling.

Participants were put on a video call with another person and researchers found that eye contact increased retention of what was said on the call – and it didn’t even require that much eye contact, just 30 per cent of the time making eye contact led to a significant increase in what participants remembered.

Watch the body language

Interestingly, research from Princeton University found that facial expressions can be ambiguous and subjective when viewed independently and a lot more is learnt about how someone feels by studying their body language.

“We find that extremely positive and extremely negative emotions are maximally indistinctive,” study leader Alexander Todorov said. “People can’t tell the difference, although they think they can. The message of this research is that there is a lot of information in body language that people aren’t necessarily aware of.”

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