“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” undoubtedly you’ve heard this phrase. But is it actually possible? Can we look at look someone (or something) for the first time without making snap judgments? The short answer: yes. Using proven social hacks, you can bypass people’s traditionally quick decision-making when it comes to making first impressions. Many times when we meet new people, we spend hours debating the exact attire to wear, the type of handshake to give, the kind of business cards to hand out, and even the perfect words to say. BUT it all boils down to this:
- Do you know how to really stand out in people’s minds?
- Do you know how to take advantage of perception and context?
- Do you know how to become the person you want to be in ANY social situation?
Using these three strange but effective psychological techniques, you can eliminate many of the typical concerns we have when meeting people for the first time. And in the process, you’ll make amazing (and lasting) impressions on everyone single person encounter. 1) The Halo Effect Whether or not you’ve been aware of it, you’ve probably experienced this form of psychological bias. For example, have you ever met someone new, thought “Wow, they were really nice!” and then assumed they were other things, such as kind and intelligent? In reality, you knew very little about this person. To really see this effect in action, think about some of the celebrities you might follow or look up to. Often times, we assume based on their acting skills and good looks that they must be other things like intelligent, altruistic, and benevolent. Now that’s not to say they’re not these things, but in most cases, we don’t actually know. Behind the scenes, your brain was using the Halo Effect to draw conclusions about the person’s other traits. Rightly or wrongly so, your brain makes assumptions like this: “He/She is really nice; therefore they must also be intelligent, funny, and good with people…because those things go hand-in-hand.” It rationalizes to simplify the situation. When it comes to making a great first impression, understanding this effect is all-powerful. Many times when meeting someone new, we feel like we have to be perfect from the get-go. We think every word we say must be carefully thought out, we need to look our absolute best, and make artful comments. That’s a lot to focus on. And while those things are important, the Halo Effect shows us we only need to be great at one thing at a time. The person you’re meeting then infers the rest about you. So you can focus on having good energy, being positive, or what to say…but you certainly don’t have focus on everything at once to instantly intrigue or impress them. 2) The Power of Perception and Context The Washington Post conducted an experiment where one of today’s finest classical musicians played some of the most elegant and artful music ever written on a $ 3.5 million dollar violin. What’s the big deal about that? Here’s the catch: the musician did this during rush hour traffic, next to a trash can, while wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap. Normally, he played to an auditorium full of thousands of people, each paying upwards of $ 100+ per seat. But on the day of the experiment, this master musician earned a measly $ 32.17. Yes, some people even gave him pennies. Hundreds of people walked straight by him, assuming he was a common street musician. Psychologically, what’s happening here? Because of how, when and where he presented himself, people concluded the music he produced was at an average-to-below-average level. But at a venue in his total garb surrounded by the symphony’s prestige, he was given absolute attention and respect. We can use this technique to make great first impressions. Here’s how: Often times, we worry that people judge us harshly based on our actions, looks and ideas, from the past and present. In reality, this is simply not true. The way that we present ourselves in the moment determines how people think of us. You can flip people’s perception just by presenting yourself in a different way. Just like how the musician instantly flipped people’s perception by choosing what characteristics to bring to the forefront. If you’re dressed appropriately, speak properly and act professionally, people will naturally be impressed by you. They won’t assume that you don’t fit in—like we so often feel when meeting others. 3) Get into Character In one of the most unethical experiments of all time, researchers at Stanford created a mock prison simulation with several volunteers. For example, some volunteers were told to act like guards, whereas others were told to act like prisoners. The end result? The individuals told to act like guards became overtly authoritative enforcers, at times even beating the prisoners. On the other hand, the individuals told to act like prisoners accepted the abuse and became very rebellious. Now this is not an endorsement for the experiment, but it does give us an interesting insight into human behavior. Here’s the lesson: we can change our behavior and, over time, become the person we want to be just by thinking a certain way—“getting into character” so to speak. Often times, we view who or how we are right now as fixed and never changing. However, this experiment shows us our brains (and personalities) are much more malleable than we think. We can change for different social situations—if we want to. Now, you don’t need to go off and change everything about yourself, and, in fact, you shouldn’t. But if there’s any trait you desire to display when making first impressions, you can literally rewire your brain to bring those characteristics to the forefront. Add these techniques to your conversation and first impression tool belt, and you’re virtually guaranteed to start your next relationship off on the right foot. Robert Allen is a communications and influence coach who runs the blog KickstartYourDreamLife.com . He helps introverted young professionals be more charismatic so they can get the recognition they deserve for their hard work (from their bosses and colleagues) without being loud or extroverted by showing them how to skillfully talk to anyone with ABSOLUTE confidence and without fear of ever running out of things to say.
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