Good vibrations – why first impressions count

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Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt an immediate connection or felt totally uncomfortable with them straight away?

Researchers from New York University found that we form opinions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting so first impressions really do count.

Whether we agree on principle or not, people do judge books by their cover and even if we say we don’t the truth of the matter is you can’t override your biology.

It’s not just about ego, puffing out your chest or wearing the best suit, it’s simply a natural response to survival. When a stranger sizes you up, whether consciously or not, their brain determines whether you are approachable or need to be avoided – whether you are friend or foe.

So what kind of image and vibe do you send off when people meet you for the first time?

Poised perfection? Friendly and familiar? Down to earth and approachable? Smart and sophisticated?

Does that match the image you want to present? Are there any small fine tuning tweaks you need to make to ensure you are giving the right impression first time?

Earlier in my career I experienced the impact a first impression can have on your ability to build rapport and trust in business relationships. It happened one Melbourne Cup Day when being my fun loving self who loved any excuse to dress up and wear accessories, I decided to wear a hat to work.

My team thought it was great and I got a lot of positive comments around the office from those that knew me.

Then I made the fatal mistake that you could call a career limiting move. I had a meeting with one of a couple of our senior executives and some external stakeholders to which, of course, I wore my hat.

The startled look upon their faces as I entered the board room said it all. Death by first impression.

There was uncomfortable silence, and then a smart comment or two and pretty soon the entire focus of the meeting had been derailed before it even began or I had been introduced.

Several minutes later after retiring my hat under the table, my red face still glowing the external party continued to direct their questions and comments to my male counterparts ignoring me as if I was window dressing.

Lesson learned.

I had not considered the audience I was meeting with or the sensitivity of our agenda before bounding in there with my fashionable hat on.

And while wearing hats is actually part of my unique style in this instance it was definitely a case of wrong fit for purpose.

The first impression stuck and while I managed to regain my footing with my peers and counterparts due to a longer term relationship, the external stakeholders would forever consider me “that girl” I am certain.

Bernard Ross’s book about influence stresses the importance of aligning your body language and verbal communication to build trust and come across as sincere and likeable. When these elements are not aligned it can have a negative impact on the people we meet.

“When you’re on the receiving end of this clash, you experience a phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance”.

We can never underestimate the importance of our appearance and body language.

Your facial expressions, gestures and posture can be the lynchpin that ensures the way you intend to come across is actually how you are perceived.

Be aware of your body, clothing and signs to ensure they are giving off the message you intended. Oh and be careful to choose the right hat for your situation!

Lastly, enjoy this video about how making eye contact to help make a good first impression!


Heidi xx

CEO, UQ Power

Heidi Alexandra Pollard

As a workplace futurist and company culture hacker, Heidi Alexandra and her team are the secret super power for Australia’s most innovative cultures and brands. Heidi Alexandra created a simple model, called The UQ Powerhouse, that codifies what makes healthy, happy and productive workplaces for the future. She believes it is possible for businesses to balance people, planet and purpose with profit and that together we can end workplace bullying, depression, anxiety and suffering. Find out more at

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