A great deal has been spoken and written about the importance of first impressions. In my view most of what is said about first impression is actually second or third impression e.g. clothes and hair. Yes, we may notice those things within seconds of meeting someone, but we have already noticed so much more within nanoseconds of seeing them for the first time. Virtually instantaneously we noticed: -
1.) That they are a human animal,
2.) That they are male or female
3.) That they are or are not an immediate threat to our personal safety.
So once our mind has established that we are dealing with another human animal the first thing we notice is not clothes or looks but gender.
No matter how much we try to convince ourselves that society should be equal and that both sexes should be treated the same, our primitive animal instinct will ensure that the first thing we notice about someone is whether they’re male or female. If we see someone and we are not certain about their gender, it irks us, and ascertaining whether they are male or female becomes more important than anything else about them.
If you’re not convinced about our obsession with gender ask yourself what is the first question most people ask about a new baby?
So if you’re going to make a good visual impression, don’t understate your sexuality. That does not mean wearing a muscle shirt or a tight-fitting mock leopard skin dress. It means being comfortable with and proud of your gender. Whether you want to be perceived as a sensitive caring soul, or as a competent practical professional, people are going to see you first as male or female. If you show confidence in your gender their very first impression, no matter how subconscious, will be positive.
The other thing we instinctively check is whether the person is an immediate threat. We do that by interpreting their facial expression and their body language.
It doesn’t matter that we are in a secure and safe place and everyone is on their best behaviour. When we first catch sight of someone, our subconscious animal instincts lock in and check out gender, facial expression and body language.
I’m sorry Fashion Gurus, the Armani suit, the Jimmy Choo shoes and the Cartier watch are very secondary, no matter how much society extols their importance.
Similarly, those of you who consider that you ignore the trappings of clothes and accessories, and base your judgement on the individual’s physique and/or the way they speak, only do so after you’ve subconsciously established sex, facial expression and body language.
People seeing us for the first time are a very receptive audience for our facial expression and body language. It makes sense therefore for us to work on our facial expression and body language so that they convey the messages that we want to send out.
So if we want to consistently give a good first impression we need to be confident of and comfortable with our sexuality, capable of sending out positive vibes from our body language and familiar with how to use our facial expressions to make others feel good about us.
The best way of developing these skills and monitoring our progress is by working on our image and reviewing the results until we can instinctively manage and control the image we present to others. There is no better way to do this than to practice having your photograph taken in a reactive photo-shoot, discovering the angles and expressions that work best for you, and learning how to reproduce them on an on-going basis.
Or with due deference and apologies to Kipling and his admirers: -
If you can give to others positive assurance
By the way you look, and hold your head and hands
If they can see that you are confident of your own image
And not afraid to show that you are woman or a man
If you can face the camera looking certain
Sending it a message with your eyes
The first impression of you will be pleasing
And you’ll be photogenic, everytime
Bob Jones, September 2009