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  • Writer's pictureCharles Cherney

35: First Impressions - Vanessa Van Edwards

I am rereading Vanessa Van Edward's book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People (2017). The book is divided into three sections:

Part I. The First Five Minutes

Part II. The First Five Hours

Part III. The First Five Days

A chapter of Part I is dedicated to how to make a killer first impression. Van Edwards notes that we are trying to answer three basic questions about a person we are meeting for the first time:

1. Are you friend or foe? (Safety check: should I stay or go?)

2. Are you a winner or a loser? (Is this person confident? A leader or a follower?)

3. Are you an ally or an enemy? (Will this person back me up?)

When we determine someone is

1) a friend rather than a foe and

2) a winner rather than a loser and

3) an ally rather than an enemy

we trust them more.

Van Edwards suggests honing three skills when it comes to meeting people and developing trust:

Skill #1 - Be a friend: Use Your hands.

• "When someone can see your hands," Van Edwards writes, "they feel more at ease and are more likely to befriend you." So keep your hands out of your pockets and above the desk.

• Shake hands firmly.

• Use your hands when you talk. (Did you know the most watched TED videos have speakers who use their hands the most?)

Skill #2 - Be a winner: Stand tall.

• People are drawn to others who exhibit a high degree of confidence.

• Body language matters: Exhibit confidence by standing tall. Keep your shoulders down and back; aim your chin, chest and forehead straight in front of you; keep space between your arms and torso; make your hands visible.

Skill #3 - Be an ally: Make eye contact.

• The best communicators make eye contact with the other person. They make the other person feel that they truly matter. Eye contact is powerful. As Van Edwards notes,"Use eye contact to build trust. Gaze to produce connection."

You only get to make a first impression once. Make it matter.


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