First impressions matter. I’m sure you’ve already heard of Grant Kessler. He’s the eighteen-year-old man who dressed in a suit and tie to go to the hospital to meet his new niece for the first time.
When asked why he was dressed in a suit, Kessler told USA Today “While everyone was dressed casually, I was wearing a suit. I do think that first impressions matter a lot and I wanted Carter (his new niece) to look back on that day with photos and see the attention she was getting.”
Words that immediately come to mind when I think of this young man are sweet, thoughtful, respectful, proactive. Aren’t these the characteristics of all the best first impressions?
It’s Twice As Hard To Change a First Impression
Think back to the last time someone gave you a bad first impression. Whenever this happens to me, it’s always difficult to let go of that initial impression and form a new one.
We’ve been conditioned as a society to “trust our gut”. So letting go of a bad first impression and forming a new one goes against most people’s instincts.
So what does this mean for you and for me? How can we ensure that our first impression is a true representation of our character?
1. Be Presentable, Always
While it’s true, there may be times when you know you will be meeting someone for the first time, there are plenty of other times when you are unexpectedly introduced to a new person.
Always be presentable. You don’t have to be in full Instagram makeup, but be presentable, even if you are just running to the grocery store, or dropping off a child at school.
If you get into the habit of making yourself presentable on a daily basis, you will always be ready for what life throws your way.
2. Don’t Downplay a Compliment
Let’s say that you are dressed nicely, accessorized, perfumed, made-up, and coiffed and you happen to run into either an acquaintance or you meet someone new (woohoo! you look amazing!).
Because most people are unaccustomed to seeing a person look amazing outside of church or the office, she will most likely say something along the lines of “Oh my! You look amazing!” or some other compliment.
Do NOT downplay a compliment. You KNOW that you look amazing! You are the one who set aside extra time this morning to ensure that you look amazing, so don’t say something silly like, “Oh, this old thing.” or “Well, I had to use extra eye cream for the bags under my eyes this morning”.
Smile your dazzling smile, say “thank you!”. And then move on to another topic of conversation. Accept the compliment graciously.
3. Don’t Apologize For Your Appearance
Now let’s say that you are caught unawares. (Oh, the horror!). Whatever you do, do NOT apologize for your appearance. When you apologize for a sloppy appearance, you only make the other person uncomfortable.
You know how it goes, you say something along the lines of “Oh, I don’t normally look this sloppy! I was in a rush this morning.” The other person then has to say, “Oh no! You look great! I wish I looked half as great as you!”
You know that the other person is lying. The other person is annoyed because you basically just forced her to lie. Your initial bad impression (from your sloppy appearance) just got even worse because of your self-deprecating remarks.
So, what do you do when you are caught looking less than your best?
4. Even If Your Appearance Isn’t Perfect, Smile and Sparkle
If you are caught looking less than your best and you run into anyone, even someone new, smile and let your personality shine!
Be polite, be inquisitive (ask the other person about herself), be witty, smile, smile, smile! By the end of the conversation, the other person will have most likely completely forgotten what state of dress she caught you in, and only remember your caring and sincere attitude.
To sum it all up, first impressions matter. But first impressions are not only about physical impressions but also about emotional connections. If you present yourself as a confident, caring person, that is what will be remembered.
If you present yourself as an apologizing, self-deprecating, self-absorbed person, that will be remembered, along with the appearance that you continued to draw attention to.
Do your best to always be presentable, and you won’t have to give a second thought to running into someone while you are out. But if you are caught looking less than your best, let your personality shine, and you will be just fine.