Are you aware of your Body Language & First Impression?
  • Maud Vanhoutte

Are you aware of your Body Language & First Impression?


Do you know that "the first impression is the last impression"


How does my communication impact my first impression if I’m not even talking? Why would people say that our body says more than our words? Why should I care about my first impression and personal appearance if I am clever enough and professional?


Focusing on first impression: what to consider?


Do you know how to define the first impression? Are you aware of what people first see about you? “A first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person. Impression accuracy varies depending on the observer and the target (person, object, scene, etc.) being observed”. Your first impression is based on a wide range of characteristics that includes your personal appearance and non-verbal signals. Some elements of your first impression are:


  • Age

  • Ethnicity

  • Cultural background

  • Language

  • Gender

  • Physical appearance: outfit, colour, accessories, grooming, hair, skin, make-up, hands & nails

  • Accent

  • Body language including posture, voice, facial expressions...

  • Handshake

...


The first impression you give to others could greatly influence how they will treat and view you in many contexts. It's no secret that your body language speaks volumes, and never more so than in a job interview. Using effective non-verbal communication techniques, including tone of voice as well as physical movements, is just as important as the actual words you will use.

The link between body language and first impression


You cannot not communicate. This sentence might seem awkward but it is only the truth. You are communicating all the time, even when you are not saying a word. Your facial expressions, postures, movements and body gestures are sharing information about your mood, energy and feelings. Let’s imagine that you are waiting for a job interview to start. Are you patiently waiting for your turn with a friendly face and an open body language? Are you feeling very nervous and trying to prepare your interview until the last minute; looking agitated and busy? Or are you showing impatience because the recruiter is late; frowning your eyebrows, shaking your leg and looking at your watch. In the 3 scenarios, you are not saying a word, still, your body language is communicating different information to whoever can see you. It seems fair to say that body language is influencing or is part of your first impression.


Can we then say that personal appearance is part of the first impression as well? We sure can! Without words, without movements or gestures, you are still offering a visual impact on people who can see you. Your appearance is part of your non-verbal communication, which is part of your first impression. If we think of the situation from the previous paragraph, your presentation is making a statement as well. While waiting for your interview, you are not sharing the same message if you are wearing the expected outfit for the role, a very extravagant one or a poorly groomed one.


Through those two examples, it is fair to say that body language and first impression are directly linked. However, before trying to develop more effective non-verbal signals, you might want to start with developing your awareness. Are you even aware of your body language as well as others’? Do you use non-verbal communication when interacting with people or do you only focus on the words? Do you really know what body language is and how different it is from verbal communication?


Introduction to verbal and non-verbal communication


If you ask someone, do you know what communication means, they will always answer “yes, of course, I do”. When it comes to getting a clear definition from them or to know how to properly do it, things get a bit more complicated. We are all communicating all day long but who attended proper communication training? Only a few of us did. We all went through the same initial school program which, unfortunately, doesn’t include communication skills and other essential soft skills. It is a pity as we need excellent communication skills to successfully go through life.


Most people will define communication as the activity of talking and listening. It’s not wrong but it’s not entirely right. Yes, we can communicate verbally, but there is more to communication than our words. We can define communication as the process of sharing a message. We can communicate this message face to face, over the phone, by email or by text. When communicating a message face to face or over the phone, we are adding non-verbal signals. Some messages are sent without words, can you believe it? If your manager is telling you something unpleasant. Your colleague who is rolling their eyes behind your manager is sending you a message with no words. This message is something like “this manager is annoying”, “I disagree with our manager”, “blablabla let’s not listen to the instruction”... You might not know exactly what your colleague would say with words but you get the main meaning.


5 Tips to make the best first impression


1. Focus on your personal branding and online presence


Do you know that your first impression often starts before people meet you? When you have a planned meeting, many people will check your digital presence before meeting you. Are you sending the right message online? Did you polish your personal branding?


2. Dress for success, focus on your personal appearance


One more time, we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, still, we do. People will form a first impression based on your outfit and personal appearance. Are you wearing bright colours? Dark ones? Do you have accessories and what kind of accessories? Do you look like what we can expect based on your profile or professional occupation? If you feel that you need help with your personal styling, simply book a consultation.


3. Watch your body language


Are you feeling nervous or preoccupied because of the meeting? Can we ‘see’ your stress in your body movements, through your sweaty hands or shaking voice? Are you bored, offering an apathetic body language? Be sure that your emotions and feelings are not overshared through non-verbal signals.


4. Be aware of others’ non-verbal cues


Stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on others. Observe people, listen to them and seek additional information and signals. Just like you, people are communicating without words, they are sharing messages and information that you can start picking when looking for them.


5. Collect feedback


Don’t be afraid to seek feedback. How good are your communication skills? What can people recommend you to do to improve your body language skills? Are people comfortable with you? If you want to get your own idea, simply record yourself in a social setting and watch your video.



Maud Vanhoutte




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