The four variables that influence first impressions

first impressions

First Impressions are critical when discussing Executive Presence. We constantly make judgements about others based on spur of the moment hunches and intuition. This mechanism is part of our DNA, and can be traced back to our caveman ancestors who were on high alert every time an outsider appeared. They needed to know immediately whether or not the stranger posed a danger to them.

Judging others we meet based on very little information is a subconscious act, and we do it with everyone we meet. Needless to say, when we meet others, they judge us and form impressions on the spot. It is therefore in our best interest to try to create the best first impression we can when we meet other people.

There are four variables that influence first impressions: Likeability, Credibility, Power and Attractiveness. Let’s take a look at each one:

Variable #1: Likeability

Likeability describes our feelings toward people, their warmth and friendliness. Is this person approachable? Can we open up to them right away?

We are generally more comfortable with extroverts as they are demonstrative and expressive. Extroverts typically have great eye contact, use open and expressive gestures, and conversations are a give-and-take. For these reasons, we tend to warm up to extroverts quickly – we are inclined to perceive them as likeable people. Introverts, on the other hand, often speak softly, display few gestures and may not have great eye contact. We may read and misinterpret these as signs of deception – that the person is concealing something.

Why talk about introverts and extroverts when discussing likeability? When it comes to creating a favorable first impression, introverts may need to stretch themselves outside their comfort zones, in order to increase their on-the-spot likeability factor. Introverts can recharge themselves in solitude immediately after an interaction, as Dr. Brian Little describes, following his university lectures.

Variable #2: Credibility

Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in. There can be no bias present if credibility is to shine through. Think of Oprah; what happens when a book lands on her book list? Millions of copies are sold immediately! That is because she oozes credibility and we trust her taste and judgement.

Be careful not to focus on credibility at the expense of your warmth/likeability! (Recall our blog post a few weeks ago that discusses warmth, or likeability, versus competence?).

Variable #3: Power

Powerful people exercise influence. We recognize their authority and involuntarily feel the need to please them and receive a favorable reaction. According to Dr. Kathleen Reardon, there are two types of power, personal and positional:

Positional power has to do with how much formal power people perceive you to have. Status, visibility centrality, relevance, job cachet, and autonomy are a few common forms of positional power. Personal forms of power have to do with traits and styles of acting, such as charisma, dedication, ingratiation, and professionalism (Reardon 150).

Variable #4: Appearance

First impressions are formed in a mere 500 milliseconds, which means before we get a chance to say a word, people have formed an impression of us. Ninety-five percent of our bodies are covered in clothing and accessories, so our appearance is bound to say something about us. Note: although attractiveness may increase people’s likability factor, we instinctively consider likeable people, attractive.

There are many factors at play when it comes to creating a favorable first impression. Breaking down the variables paints a clearer picture of the areas we need to focus on, and improve upon, when it comes to interacting with others. Doing so will help to enhance our Executive Presence.

To learn more about how to enhance the first impression you make, take a look at our course on Intro to EP and First Impressions.

Works Cited

Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle.
New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Top 3 Ways You Can Instantly Improve Your LinkedIn Profile – And Why It’s Important to do So

improve-your-linkedin-profileIt’s no secret that social media has taken the world by storm in the last decade or so; the way we socialize with one another will never be the same. Our private lives are now public, and it is possible for strangers to become friends with a simple mouse click. Social media and the way we engage with the World Wide Web has also changed the way we handle ourselves as business people. One of the most significant changes was the introduction of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is so influential for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides professionals with an online platform to reach out to other like-minded individuals in their field. Secondly, it is quickly becoming an important hub for those looking for career opportunities. Thirdly, it represents a huge source of potential clients for many individuals.

All of these aspects of LinkedIn are only a few of the reasons why it is so wonderful and so important. However, in order to be able to take full advantage of the countless possibilities LinkedIn offers, one must have a top-notch profile, or risk getting completely ignored. So, what can you do to instantly improve your profile? Here are a few starting points:

  1. Use a professional head shot

If you do not have a photograph on your profile, you risk not getting seen at all! When do you not have a photograph (a professional one that is in line with your brand – not one of you and your dog please!), people are more likely to either: skip viewing your profile entirely, or read your whole profile in detail, trying to figure you out. When you have a professional head shot that is in line with your brand, people who view your profile are much more willing to trust the content of your page.

  1. Use a catchy “title”

It’s wonderful that you are a Consultant, or VP of Sales, but what kind of consultant? What do you sell? We all know that people move quickly on the web, so try using a catchy title that will grab people’s attention, such as “I can help transform your life – and your wardrobe!” in reference to someone who might be a wardrobe consultant. Try to make it fun, expressive and different.

  1. Triple-check your bio and content – and update it regularly

We know you’ve been busy, which is great! That also means that you could probably update your profile as well. The more accurate and current it is, the better. It is extremely important that you triple check all spelling and grammar, as the last thing you want is your bio littered with typos! In addition, you don’t necessarily need your 2-year serving career from your twenty’s on there – keep it relevant.

Although sometimes daunting, LinkedIn can provide a wealth of potential connections, clients,employees and careers. All you have to do to make the most out of your profile, at least as a starting point, is follow the three rules stated above. There are, of course, many more details to take into account for your LinkedIn profile – if you would like to find out more about how you can have the best LinkedIn profile out there, check out our Lunch and Learn on Virtual Communications.