How long do you think you have when you walk into a room before the people in there make their first impression about you?
A few minutes? As long as it takes? Until you leave?
How about less than half a second?
It takes less than a half of a second to form the first impression
The scary thing about us humans is that we have an amazing ability to make snap decisions; to judge someone’s character; to evaluate a person’s level of confidence and self-belief and much, much more in about the time it takes for a Labrador to make a dog biscuit disappear…which isn’t very long at all, I assure you.
It’s all about non-verbal communication or body language.
We actually send out signals to the world all the time. Every tiny flicker of the eye or hand gesture; every tiny muscle movement; even the speed of our heartbeat and breathing; it’s all being seen…or maybe sensed would be a better word… by those around us.
In fact, scientists believe that we send out up to 500 signals a second!
And what’s more, we are great at reading and reacting to these signals too. In fact, we may be able to read and understand up to 1,500 signals a second.
Of course, this isn’t happening consciously because our conscious mind isn’t built for that kind of task. It’s designed to help us take on the necessary tasks of coping with our work or hobbies, crossing roads and having normal conversations.
No, the non-verbal information is being processed by our unconscious mind – sometimes called our subconscious mind.
This is the part of our mind that does all the millions of little things that get us through the day: walking, keeping our balance, knowing where things are; all the seemingly simple tasks that we take for granted.
The unconscious mind is associated with parts of our brain that supply us with all the hormones and chemicals that our bodies generate: adrenaline, dopamine, endorphins, and many, many more. These are what generate ‘feelings’: feelings of fear or excitement; lust or sadness. Every human emotion is driven by these hormones.
So what happens when you walk into a room?
Everyone who sees you, even if they only see you out of the corner of their eye, will be picking up on your body language – at the unconscious level – and then their mind is assessing all this information in just the same way as an animal deals with scents, which is then translated into the hormones or other secretions that then turn into feelings. That “feeling” is the first impression.
You’ll also hear people talk about ‘gut feel’, intuition, instinct and other words used to describe how we ‘feel’ about someone, and whether we should like them, trust them, avoid them or whatever. These are just more terms for the same process of observation, translation, and diagnosis done in the blink of an eye without us ever being aware that we are doing them.
So when you walk into a room nest, remember that it’s not just your clothes that people are judging you on. They’re making their judgments based on 500 things a second that you didn’t even know you were telling them – all to generate that first impression!