Making a Killer First Impression
‘Tis the season for resume polishing and job interview prepping. Whether you are preparing for an interview or just longing to improve your first impressions for social reasons, it never hurts to work towards portraying the very best version of yourself.
Browsing through Indigo during reading week, I came across this tiny book that immediately captured my attention with its ridiculous title: How to Make People like You in 90 Seconds or Less. Nicholas Boothman, the book’s author, states that there are two parts to connecting with other people: meeting and establishing rapport.
Apparently, it takes a total of three to four seconds to form an impression. Within a few moments, you decide whether someone is sincere, genuine and trustworthy. With this information, you make a decision about whether the person is worth listening to.
According to Boothman, there are several ways to ace the meeting, which include: using “open” body language (face your body towards the person and maybe unbutton your jacket or coat), making direct eye contact, wearing an inviting smile, and being sincerely interested in meeting the other person.
Rapport is a comfort zone between individuals that allows for smooth social exchange. Something like this is difficult to pin down, but we’ve all felt it. It’s the ease that comes over you when you realize your prof isn’t the unapproachable stickler you imagined him to be in class, but a somewhat nice guy who may be willing to answer your questions. The prize that accompanies the achievement of rapport with another person is his or her acceptance.
Boothman states: “As you meet and greet new people, your ability to establish rapport will depend on four things: your attitude, your ability to ‘synchronize’ certain aspects of behaviour, like body language and voice tone, your conversation skills and your ability to discover which sense (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) the other person relies on most.”
Boothman describes the optimal attitude to portray as kind, warm and interested. You can instantly tell if someone is interested in what you are saying by the quality of their responses, tone of their voice and body language, so don’t try to fake it.
Next, “synchronizing” your behaviour to match another individual’s is a subtle, but effective tactic. Mirroring may sound silly, but it creates immediate ease. Take on the other person’s overall posture (i.e. if they are leaning over a table, lean over the same table towards them), use similar, but not identical, gestures and expressions, and fall in with their voice tone and speed. Although many of us do this automatically, we may be blazing over this step unknowingly. Try it!
The effect is instant.
Good communication skills are tools to build up rapport. Contrary to what you may think, the foundation of communication is mastering the art of listening. Focus on understanding the other person; ask questions, clarify statements, and make eye contact regularly. It’s our nature to respond well to people who are interested in us; it makes us feel liked.
Discerning which sense an individual relies on most takes practice and, sometimes, careful examination. Studies have shown that approximately 55 per cent of people are motivated primarily by what they see (visual), 15 per cent by what they hear (auditory) and 30 per cent by physical sensation (kinesthetic).
Visual people are typically fast talkers who wave their arms around, explain with visual imagery (colours, shapes, sizes) and often look around when speaking.
Auditories typically have fluid, melodic and expressive voices, make gestures that go from side to side and respond emotionally to the quality of sound. Kinesthetics are typically slow talkers who seem to add many unnecessary details to stories and descriptions, take a longer time to translate feelings into words, and can be very hands on and touchy-feely.
Once you find out which sense a person leans toward, you can tailor your explanations and descriptions accordingly. For example, if I am trying to sell a car to a large group of people, chances are there are auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners in the crowd. Thus, I may describe the sound the muffler makes as you gun the gas, the sleek aerodynamic design of the new model, and the feel and texture of the steering wheel and seats. In this way, I am addressing the imagination of as many people as I can to elicit a mental response to what I’m saying.
Ultimately, meeting and establishing rapport with people is a skill that comes with confidence and practice. The more aware you become of cues a person is giving off, from body language to sensory disposition, the more effectively you can appeal to them. You will be surprised as to how much of a difference some of these tips can make.