Lately I have been interested in neuroscience and its application on my work field, communication. A master student is now doing research in my office. Her research is about how brains work in relation to attitude change.
Don’t be afraid, I won’t discuss it here as I am not able to explain it well. One day after an interesting conversation with her, I began to think of how our brains work in the daily life. Take first impression for example.
When you meet someone for the first time your brains send signals and mix them with your own perceptions in your mind about demeanor, mannerism, dress, body language and attitude. You put this person in a box that fits to how YOU see him/her, how you interpret his/her appearance, dress, look, body language and language use according to your own perceptions. This happens in a nano second!
Pic courtesy of Scilearn
Some reports say it takes three seconds, others say seven. No matter how long it takes, we are talking about forming a conclusion about someone we just meet for the first time in seconds. That is very fast, like a flash! It is amazing how our brains work, isn’t it?
First impression is difficult to change, not to mention almost impossible. Once you have formed it, you tend to stick with the existing conclusion. New data would be processed in our brains as a validation of the existing conclusion, not the contrary evidence.
Very aware of the first impression’s impact, I did some observations and even experimented with it. I sought for an answer for the second impression. Is it possible to change my first impression of someone I just meet.
First I applied it to new people I met in my private life. It was back in 2008. They were not my business contacts. They were married Indonesian women in early thirties who lived in The Netherlands. They fit in the party girls type description; sexy looks, party hard and shallow. In short they were something I was not (I used to be a party girl in my early twenties though). I was genuinely interested whether I could bow my first impression about them if I would hang out with them for a while.
Why I did this, I see you wondering? Because I was aware that change of first impression comes slowly. It depends of the frequency or the depth of contact you maintain after the first meeting. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Above all they were all nice to me during the first meeting.
So here I was, maintaining contact with them. I even went out clubbing once with them. However after 6 months, there were no new information I could add which could change my first impression about them. When I was hanging out with them I often thought; What the hell am I doing here. Things we had in common were only our origin, mother tongue and love for Indonesian food. After one year the contact went sour due to one thing. This is one subject I will share in another post.
Another observation about second impression I applied at work with a couple of business contacts. Strangely I could adjust first impression into more positive second impression. Is it because of the setting? At the office, I need to act professionally, I look for more data which could change the first impression. If there was not such new information, I just willingly accept as it is.
First impression is not that difficult to set. It depends on little things (smile, firm handshake), average things (polite greetings, good morning, good day, good evening) to major things (body language, dress, language use). These tips are useful for work interviews, during networking or first meetings with your future in-laws. When you reckon with all of these, you will come a long way.
Now I wonder how the first impression works online. What was/is your first impression about me? Would you share it here and give me some feedback please? Thanks a million.