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First impressions count. It takes less than a minute to make a great first impression and 20 positive subsequent impressions to correct a bad one. Even if they're wrong, people really believe their first judgments and that ends up influencing the way we relate, listen and communicate with others.

But let's look at first impressions in a more audacious way. If you're a movie buff, you know that the moment the character walks onto the screen, you're reacting. You're taking everything in - the way the character walks, the clothes she wears, the way she smiles or grimaces - and making a decision before the character says a word. To get a film moving, the director and the writer use shorthand messages so the audience can relate to the character almost immediately. The costume designer, the lighting designer, the wig maker, the makeup artist all work together to control your perceptions so that it takes less than a 60 seconds to understand the character's importance to the unfolding plot.

Well, guess what? It's the same thing for you and me. We're starring in our own movie. We're writing the script, directing the action, selecting the costumes, applying the makeup and going out there and creating plots, subplots, dramas, comedies. As the leading character in your film, you have the power to control the perceptions of others. By presenting yourself as self-confident, stylish and emboldened with ideas, you are creating a "short hand" message to your accomplishments and attributes.

With less than a minute to be effective, how can we make that initial encounter positive?

  • Smile. Smiles establish instant rapport and openness.

  • Stand up straight. You have to be confident to have good posture.

  • Initiate a handshake standing up, looking into the other person's eyes long enough to determine their eye color.

  • Your first comment should be about the person you're meeting. Say something positive about them. Be sincere. If you're meeting with a superior, be sure to acknowledge the firm you're working for.

  • Try to stand at an angle leaving enough physical space between you and the speaker.

  • Match the speed of the other person's conversation style. If they're a slow talker, talk slower; if they're a fast talker, pick up the speed. By matching your partner's speaking style, you'll indicate you're on their wave length.

  • Listen more, talk less. Remember that the best conversationalists are the listeners, not the talkers.


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