We all want to make a good first impression, and aside from the basics of good personal hygiene and suitable choice of clothing, there are many symbolic tools we can use to enhance the impression we give. Unfortunately, we live in a world, where most the time, we are judged on our external appearance whether we like it or not.
What you say and how you act is always going to hold more weight than how you look – but the initial, gut instinct, the first impression will be made within just a few seconds… formed by the reptilian aspect of your brain, where its reticular activating system will scan the person and their accessories to make inferences.
This primitive self-defence mechanism where we subconsciously sum up who the person is puts our brain is in such a state of hyper-vigilance; that we notice everything – from the stray nostril hair poking out to say hello, to the shininess of the person’s shoes, their perfume or lack thereof, and level of tan. All these tiny bits of minute detail are computed within a split second to calculate who this person is; similar to a credit score, our brain will score this person against a set criteria as to their value in any given context; be that dating, business, or self-defence.
In reality, most people aren’t superficial and materialistic to the point they would judge a person’s value on such external indicators – but this human instinct to judge a person and make conclusions within the first few seconds based on their external appearance is fundamental across all people.
This article suggests three ways you can use external symbols to create an impressive first impression within a business context.
In the Western World, material items such as the car you drive are symbolic indicators of your success, and to a point, your ‘value’ as an individual. Whilst, in reality, material things like the car you drive don’t make any difference to your actual ability or your intrinsic value as a human being; inferences are made by others, and these symbols of status can strongly impact the impression you make on others. You may remember the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” where Will Smith is trying to get a job as a stockbroker, and is challenged due to getting the bus to a meeting, rather than having a fancy car.
If you are looking to make a good first impression, but don’t happen to own a fancy car, or a car at all, then you can hire a premium car for the day, or even for just a few hours if you live in a big city like New York or London. This way, you create the necessary impression of prestige and success without breaking the bank.
BUSINESS CARDS AND STATIONERY
If you’re meeting someone for business, then having a nicely designed business card on premium paper, subconsciously increases the perceived value of whatever it is you and your business offers. Just like how a good suit creates a good first impression, as it infers the person wearing it has high standards, in terms of his personal appearance – which is the extrapolated into other aspects of his character, such as his professionalism and trustworthiness.
There is an abundance of online business card printing companies that can print your business card, at a reasonably low cost. The cost is found more in the design process, particularly if you are to go with a design or branding agency. If you’re on a budget, there are however, a number of Adobe Illustrator training classes available, where you can learn the skills necessary to create your own logo and business cards.
Shoes have always been a significant status symbol throughout history, known to indicate or represent one’s financial position – hence the popularity of shoe shining. Your shoes are often the most overlooked part of your fashion ensemble; yet, the common notion of judging a man by the shoes he wears, suggests people often look to your shoes in order to get a true picture of what type of person you are.
If you have a perfectly crisp suit, but scuffed, worn down shoes – it could suggest your “high standards” are of an aesthetic rather than holistic nature, which might make some people lose trust in the authenticity of what you are offering. Shoes, whilst seemingly unimportant and barely noticeable are an important symbolic representation that needs to be considered.
So, hopefully this offers some food for thought when trying to make a good first impression. Remember, of course, to take care of your appearance – and be particularly mindful of the power of your scent; as whilst it is a good idea to wear a pleasant smelling aftershave, you need to keep this within safe limits, as you don’t want to overwhelm the person you are meeting, no matter how nice the scent may be, as too much of a good aftershave results in an olfactory overload.
MR LEE FRASER