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Three Psychological Tricks to Make a Great First Impression on Anyone

Posted by Jenna Baskin on 23/09/2016
Jenna Baskin
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You are being judged. How to make a good first impression?

Before you state your credentials, hand over your CV or sit down in the conference room chair, your abilities are being assessed. Research has shown that within one tenth of a second, your likeability, competence, trustworthiness and aggressiveness are being evaluated.

Lasting impressions are formed at impressive rates. Students who rated teachers within thirty seconds of meeting them didn’t change their opinions all that much when asked to appraise that same teacher at the end of the semester (Ambady and Rosenthal, 1993). Similarly, yearbook photos of top American law firm partners were judged to be successful --- before they even started their careers and went on to earn high profits. Rule and Ambady (2011) point out that this relationship between facial features and success persist for years.

Books have been written on the importance of grooming your first impression; whether for a business meeting or romantic encounter, the way you present yourself dramatically influences others’ opinions of you. There are important aspects to how to make good first impression psychology. Make the most of those first moments by honing in on these essential points:


Eye contact

At our core is an animal instinct to quickly assess threats and determine whether we should fight or flee. Malcolm Gladwell describes a process known as thin slicing: the ability to form an entire scenario based upon a small fraction of data. This creative processing happens quickly, and can be surprisingly accurate --- in fact, even more effective than thorough, time-consuming analyses. By maintaining warm, friendly eye contact, you immediately convey trust, approachability and confidence.



It isn’t just eye contact that sends messages of strength. If you arrive to an appointment on time, you’re more likely to maintain composure and posture (if you have ever arrived to a meeting frazzled, you know that unnerving feeling that can rattle even the most polished of speakers). A firm handshake and genuine smile boost strangers’ impressions of you.



Your clothing fit and color, the shoes you wear, and personal grooming and hygiene enhance – or detract – from your body. Not only does body language affect other’s perception of you, it can also affect your opinion of yourself. Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk to learn some of the postures that boost the brain’s testosterone and cortisol levels.

With so much research surrounding appearance and first impressions, it’s worth taking photos of yourself, rehearsing your speeches with a video camera or working with a coach to identify your areas of weakness and elevate your confidence. At MCI, our Career Advisor helps students improve skills commonly used in interviews and presentations. Even if you believe your networking or negotiation techniques are lacking, we will work with you to make sure you have what you need to make a great first impression.

Check out Amy Cuddy's TED Talk



Ambady, Nalini and Robert Rosenthal (1993). “Half a Minute: Predicting Teacher Evaluation From Thin Slices of Nonverbal Behavior and Phsycai Attractiveness.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 64 (3): 431-441.

Rule, Nicholas and Nalini Ambady (2011). “Judgements of Power From College Yearbook Photos and Later Career Success.” Social Psychology and Personality Science. Accessed online:

Topics: Article, MCI Live

By Jenna Baskin

Jenna Baskin is the CEO of MCI and has over 11 years’ experience in the training and education space. She was responsible for the creation of the MCI's online consumer division, the MCI Institute, and the transition of the organisation into the digital learning landscape. This includes platform partnerships across North America, unique content development, and the introduction of virtual reality learning methodologies.