Hala Taha: [00:05]
You’re listening to YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, where anything goes, if it makes you grow. I’m your host Hala, and this episode is all about first impressions and cultivating a consistent personal brand, being good at first impressions and in general, being a more likable person, can help you profit in life because you’ll always benefit from having people on your side.
Hala Taha: [00:31]
Episode 1 we’re YAPping about first impressions, coming up with an understanding of who you are as a person. This is an inside out process. These tools have different purposes like a toolbox, not one tool fits all situations, but for all situations there’s a tool that’s going to fit and then you make sure through being strategic that the rest of the world gets it and that they understand the value that you have to bring.
Hala Taha: [01:06]
The human race is built to size each other up quickly. First Impressions happen fast and they’re stubborn. Research says it takes anywhere from four seconds to two minutes for a person to make their initial impression about you and once an impression is formed. It’s very, very hard to change it even after multiple encounters with that person and presented with lots of evidence to counteract that initial impression and while you might wish opinions about you or based on your intelligence or experience, most studies show that first impressions are shaped by what can be seen or heard in those first few initial seconds.
Dr Jack Schafer: [01:39]
First impressions are very important because what first impressions form is a filter through which we see that person again and again.
Hala Taha: [01:49]
That’s Dr. Jack Schafer, a former FBI agent with a specialty in behavioral analysis and author of one of my favorite books, the like switch an ex FBI agents guide to influencing attracting and winning people over.
Dr Jack Schafer: [02:04]
Yeah. One of my jobs in the FBI was a counter intelligence officer. My job was to identify spies and then figure out ways to catch him and part of catching a spy what we try to do is get that person to double back or work for us against their country and what we have to do is find ways to convince that person to do that. And what we do in behavioral analysis is we get all the information we can on that person, we will look at that person’s personality and we look for flaws and weaknesses in the personality and based on those vulnerabilities, we develop strategies that will increase our probability that that person will either confess or work with us. And what I did was I converted those tools, basically into personal relationships. So normal people can now use these tools to enhance their relationships with other people.
Hala Taha: [03:00]
Okay. So let’s go back to why first impressions are so important. Dr. Jack Schafer was talking about the primacy effect or the primacy filter, which is a pretty well known phenomenon in the behavioral science world that basically says that people tend to remember the information that they hear first rather than the information that they hear later.
Dr Jack Schafer: [03:21]
In other words, if you form a good impression, anything you say or do the person you meet is going to see you through that good filter. And if you meet somebody and you have a bad first impression than anything you say or do is going to be interpreted as bad.
Hala Taha: [03:42]
Impressions of others are based on all the information that we know about that person. In other words, it’s based on their traits. The primacy effect says the timing of learning these traits is also important. Essentially the order in which we discover someone’s traits makes a difference to our overall impression of that person, so starting on the wrong foot when meeting someone new could do a lot of damage, but then I get to thinking people are smart, right? We have empathy and logic. Why don’t we naturally want to give people the benefit of the doubt?
Dorie Clark: [04:17]
The fundamental attribution error is a phenomenon that is well known and well documented in psychology, and again, it goes back to the fact that that humans are a little bit lazy when it comes to understanding and assessing other people.
Hala Taha: [04:34]
That’s Dorie Clark, who the New York Times describes as an expert at self-reinvention.
Dorie Clark: [04:39]
I’m the author of entrepreneurial you reinventing you and stand out and an adjunct professor for Duke University’s Fuqua School of business.
Hala Taha: [04:47]
She’s about to give an example of the attribution effect, which is the tendency to believe what people do, reflects who they are and defines their character instead of considering what might be impacting them from an external perspective. Said simply when we see someone doing something, we tend to think it relates to their personality rather than the situation the person might be in. This is especially true when the behavior is negative.
Dorie Clark: [05:11]
It would be nice if we could rely on other people to be very thoughtful and rational and generous when evaluating us. And you know, if we, if we came into work one day and you know, we were in a bad mood and snapped at somebody, wouldn’t it be great if they said, Oh wow, she must just be having a terrible day. Maybe something happened, but instead, that’s usually not how it works. Especially if you’re first getting to know somebody. Odds are the person who’s going to say, you know, wow, you know, what a, what a jerk. You know, who is, who is this, uh, this person that’s storming through here. She must be moody. And, you know, of course, if someone has a longitudinal basis, if they’ve known us over time and they know that that’s aberrant behavior, then they will be able to, to judge that and put it in context. But a lot of the time, uh, especially when people are first forming impressions, they, they aren’t going to take the time for that. They’re, they, they are going to in many ways assume the worst and they’re going to assume, oh, well, you know, she’s uh, uh, this, this one incident happened, that’s negative. She just must be a bad person. She just must be a mean person. And that’s a tough thing to overcome.
Dr Jack Schafer: [06:31]
So it’s very difficult to override the negative primacy of filter because people always are, number one, they’re less likely to see you. They’re less likely to be around you because they have negative feelings towards you. And the other thing is it takes time. You have to constantly meet that person, demonstrate to them that you’re not, you know, the, the, the person that they’ve, they’ve thought they first met. So it takes time over and over and over again. And eventually what happens is the person says, oh, when I first met you, I didn’t like you, but you know, after being with you and doing things with you and getting to know you a little bit better, you’re not such a bad person. You’re not that bad person. I thought you were, and when I met you and I like you now, but that takes a lot of time. It’s a lot easier to have that good first impression where the person says, you know, I met you for the first time and I really liked you. I didn’t know much about you, but I liked you. And then once that occurs, that person is seeing everything you say and do through that good first impression.
Hala Taha: [07:39]
Clearly, first impressions make a difference. People are the gatekeepers in life and the more good impressions you make, the more likely you’ll build healthy relationships that can bring you closer to your goals and while it might seem overwhelming to have to think about being strategic when meeting new people. After studying the topic and talking with incredible experts like Dorie and Jack. I realized it really all boils down to just three main elements. The first is presence. This is really about your physical being, your demeanor and approachability, the cues you give off with your body language and your clothes. The second is the likeability. How well can you make a connection and can you make it last? How quickly can you get someone to like you? And the third is authenticity. This is really about delivering a consistent impression to the world by understanding who you really are and where you want to be, and then working to close that gap. It’s about being and acting like who you’re trying to be. And while that might sound phony in reality, that’s one of the only ways you can grow. Now, let’s unpack all of this and hear what the experts have to say. Starting with presence, namely your body language.
Dr Jack Schafer: [08:54]
When we approach one another, we tend to, we will eyebrow flash each other. So if I approach a person, they’re going to eyebrow flash, I’m going to return that eyebrow flash. The eyebrow flash is a 1/64th of a second quick up and down raising of the eyebrows, and that just tells. It’s a long distance signal that tells that person I’m not a threat. The second friend signal is the head tilt. When you tilt your head to one side or the other, you expose your carotid artery and when you you’re telling that person, basically I trust you enough to expose a very vulnerable part of my body. So that’s sending a friend signal and a lot of people who own dogs will recognize this when they enter the home, after they’ve been gone for awhile, the dog will sit there and tilted head or the dog will flip over on it’s back and expose its underbelly and those are just friends signals that their dog is telling the owner, you know, I’m not a threat because they’re exposing their vulnerable parts of their body.
Dorie Clark: [10:00]
In body language. There are some standard principles. Ultimately confidence is a winning emotion to convey in almost any circumstance. People like to be around confident people, they relate to them better. It will, it will serve you better as you build a relationship. And so marks of confidence include things like having an open body posture, you know, not having your body hunch down, not crossing your arms, but maintaining, uh, a pretty, uh, pretty open frame with your shoulders back.
Dr Jack Schafer: [10:39]
So the last one is the smile. Smile is very important because if you smile at somebody and they smile back, they receive an endorphin shot of endorphins. Endorphins make us feel good about ourselves. So if I smile at somebody and I’m getting a shot myself of endorphins, so I feel good about myself, but more importantly, I’m making that other person feel good about themselves. So these combination of friends, signals are what, how we communicate initially before we even open our mouth. And it’s critical that we do these things, uh, to let the person know that we are in fact not a threat to them. Uh, there’s a lot of variations of a smile if you want to look intelligent and less friendly, you smile, but you kind of half smile. And that gives the impression that you’re intelligent and competent, but if you want to look friendly, you give people full smiles so you look more friendly, but a bit less competent
Hala Taha: [11:45]
To recap when meeting new people, we want to send friends signals that show that we’re not a threat. According to Dr Jack Schafer, this includes an eyebrow flash, a head tilt, and a smile Dorie Clark mentioned portraying a confident body language, but that’s easier said than done. There are, however, tricks that can help you get in a confident mood. Take for instance, power posing. So I want to start by offering you a free no tech life hack and all it requires of you. Is this, that you change your posture for two minutes.
Dorie Clark: [12:31]
So power posing became a very popular concept a few years ago as a result of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, uh, at the time she was a Harvard Business School professor; um, very popular, well known, wrote a book called “Presence”. And her talk has become one of the most popular and most watched ones in TED history. She described research that she and her colleagues did about so called power posing, which is where you assume a posture of essentially sending signals of, of dominance or power in some way. So there was a, there was the superman where you have your, uh, your legs, shoulder width apart, and you’re, uh, you’re flexing your biceps, there’s the, there’s the wonder woman where you’re again standing with a strong stance and you have your arms crossed powerfully in front of you. Uh, and so her research showed that if you hold a pose like that for two minutes, that there were demonstrable signs both in terms of the participants reported sense of feeling power and also in terms of neurochemicals that were being transmitted.
Dorie Clark: [13:46]
So there are levels of cortisol, the stress hormone declined and their levels of testosterone which is tied to, uh, to, to power, uh, and, and, you know, feelings of, of dominance or aggression that increased. And uh, so that has become a very popular concept. One postscript, you know, kind of kind of a caveat of quasi caveat is that there’s been a lot of Hullabaloo recently about the fact that Amy Cuddy, and her colleague’s research has not been able to be replicated, but apparently in terms of participants perceived sense of power and confidence, that seems to be a steady thing. How about the way that we should dress, what are the best practices when it comes to our clothing?
Dr Jack Schafer: [14:30]
So you want to do is to try to match the clothing that the other person is, is wearing. So they’re wearing a suit. You better wear a suit if they’re wearing cutoffs and a tee shirt, you wear cut-offs and a tee shirt because it’s like you me, same, same as kind of the rule of thumb because we like people that we share common ground with. So I look like you. It’s more likely that you’re going to like me because you see the common ground between us.
Dorie Clark: [15:00]
Some general rules of thumb: you always want to at least try to match or relate to the other person’s dress. Now there’s, there’s power cues involved in this. Um, but I, I would say in general, it is a safe bet to try to dress in a similar way as them, if you know that they’re going to be business casual, uh, it’s, it’s good for you to be business casual, otherwise it sends signals that you might not otherwise intend. For instance, if you know they’re going to be a little bit dressy and you deliberately dress down, they may interpret that based on other cues such as, you know, your, your age or social status. They might, if you’re younger and less powerful, they might view it that you just don’t have a clue, you know, oh, she doesn’t understand the norms here. She’s out of touch. You know, why did she dress in this radically casual way when everyone else knows this is a serious business environment. So I think you’re, you’re often far better just trying to meet the other person where they are when it comes to how they will be dressing in a given environment.
Hala Taha: [16:19]
Here’s a fun fact. According to a psychologist at the University of Kansas, you can accurately judge a person just by looking at their feet. The study found that people were able to correctly judge a strangers age, gender income, and other important traits with 90 percent accuracy by looking at the person’s shoes. So if you had to choose just one item to upgrade in your wardrobe, go with your kicks. Now you have some clues about the type of presence you want to give off when meeting someone for the first time. Let’s get into the second element of creating a good first impression, your likability or how well you can make a connection and build
Hala Taha: [17:00]
a lasting relationship. So can you talk more about the importance of making people feel good about themselves and why that’s so important when trying to build relationships.
Dr Jack Schafer: [17:12]
If you want to get people to like you, this is one of the few techniques that works 100 percent of the time. If you want people to like you, you make them feel good about themselves because what happens is, is if that person feels good about themselves, they’re going to want to come back and meet you again. They’re going to want to come back at sales meetings or a dating situation. To get that same good feeling again, so when you want to get people to like you, you put the focus on them and you take it off yourselves
Hala Taha: [17:47]
and I know that one of the easiest ways to get
Hala Taha: [17:49]
somebody to like you is by paying them a compliment. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Dr Jack Schafer: [17:54]
Well, compliments can be dangerous because number one, they have to be true because if somebody compliments me, I know if it’s a good compliment or not, especially when I’m a professor, let’s do a walk in my office and same as you know, Dr Schafer, you’re the best professor I’ve ever had. The next thing out of their mouth is, can you do this for me? Can you give me a break? Give me an extension. Give me a higher grade. So I know that that’s not sincere. The best way to allow it to flatter people is to allow them to flatter themselves. The golden rule of friendship is we always want to make that other person feel good about themselves. We can do that with empathic statements. Empathic statements are nothing more than putting the focus on that other person. You’re going to take what that person says, what they do or how they feel.
Dr Jack Schafer: [18:48]
You’re going to use parallel language and then you’re going to mirror that language back to them and that keeps the focus on them and they feel like that you truly do understand what they’re saying and how they’re feeling because you’re reflecting it back on them. A good way to construct empathic statements is so you so you feel this way, so you’re happy. So you’ve done this. That keeps the focus on the other person. And when you get good at keeping the focus on the other person you want to, then you know you could get rid of the “so, you” and I practiced this, you know, all the time. If I’m getting on the elevator at school and I see a student that’s very happy, I’ll just look at the student, say, “ah, you’re having a good day “. And they typically will respond. Yeah, I studied real hard for a test and I passed it. And then you could use another empathic statements. So your hard work paid off and what you’re doing is two things, the empathic statement which lets the person know that somebody is listening to them and also you’re allowing that person to flatter themselves. They’ll say, yes, I did work really hard on that, and they’ll give themselves a sleigh, pat on the back and they feel good about themselves just with that first you know 30 second encounter and then they will like you. Because of that,
Dorie Clark: [20:15]
when you first meet a new person, job, one is establishing commonality with them. In my book “Stand Out”, I interviewed Robert Cialdini, one of the leading thinkers about influence and persuasion, and he said that this is the most important first step that you can take because fundamentally people when they meet you are filtering you into a category of “us” or a category of “them” and you want to be an “us,” right? You want make a connection. You want them to feel like, this is somebody I can relate to. This is somebody I can do business with. This is someone like me and so if you can find some way that you have something in common, even if it’s not a profound thing in common, maybe it’s that you live in the same neighborhood, maybe you’re from the same state originally, maybe you went to the same college, maybe you both like a certain sports team, maybe you both have dogs. Whatever it is, if you can identify something as quickly as possible that bonds you together. That becomes the start of your ability to form a deeper relationship and a deeper connection.
Hala Taha: [21:30]
And what do you say is the best way to practice without sort of embarrassing yourself?
Dr Jack Schafer: [21:40]
Well, I go into sandwich places and I talked to the people making the sandwich, you know, I noticed if they liked me and I speak with them and, and you know, use empathic statements, I get a bigger sandwich. That’s how I practice. You want to practice where you can get a reward because people generally don’t practice these things unless they get a reward for it. So you can get upgrades for your cars, you can get upgrades on your meals, you can get better service, you can get upgraded from coach to business or first class when you’re, when you’re flying an airplane, you can look, you know, like, like I do a on the elevator, just see somebody, it looks happy, so you’re having a good day. So these things can be practiced anywhere through life. And why is that? Those are the things that normal people do when they try to develop relationships.
Hala Taha: [22:32]
So what’s your perspective on building and maintaining relationships past that initial first impression?
Dr Jack Schafer: [22:39]
Yeah, the friendship formula is the basically there’s four elements and all friendships and that’s proximity, frequency, duration and intensity. In order to even have a relationship, you have to have proximity with the person and then you have to be frequently with that person and also you have to have duration of time you spend with that person. And I think the most important element is that intensity. That’s where we share those verbal and nonverbal cues to let the other person know that we want to intensify the relationship. And so what you can do is you can look at a relationship, if your relationship is floundering for some particular reason, then you could look, am I spending enough time with that person? Proximity, am I spending enough frequency? Am I seeing that person often enough? And then you say, well, if I see the person often that’s what’s my duration of, am I seeing them for 30 seconds or two minutes or 20 minutes or a or is it going to be a longer duration? And then of course, what’s the intensity of the relationship? So basically you can identify relationships that are going bad and you could actually fix them and using these four elements of relationship.
Hala Taha: [23:56]
When it comes to likability, you want to use empathic statements to focus the conversation on the other person and make that person feel good about themselves by providing an opportunity for them to flatter themselves. In addition, you want to try to establish common ground. This helps us spark your relationship and we can practice these things in everyday settings until it becomes second nature. When it comes to lasting impressions and maintaining relationships, we can follow the friendship formula, which includes proximity, frequency, duration, and intensity. We can evaluate relationships based on these levers and increase areas that may be weak to improve the health of a relationship. And now onto the third element for good impression management. Authenticity. This is about being consistent with the impressions you give off to the world, and the only way to do that is by understanding who you are and who you want to be. Let’s hear what Dorian Jack have to say about this.
Dr Jack Schafer: [24:55]
Yeah. The other thing first impressions can do is they can. They can hurt you through a third party. So what you want to do is you want to make sure you make good impressions with everybody because if a friend walks up to me and says, you’re going to meet this person and I don’t like that person, he’s not a good person. He’s not very trustworthy. So when I finally meet that person, my friend is already set up that primacy filter as a negative. So when I see that person, I’m already going to have a negative impression of that person, but if that person comes to me first and says, “you’re gonna, meet this person and they’re friendly, they’re gregarious, you know, you’ll go really liked them.” When I finally meet the person, I’m going to have that primacy setup. That is going to be a good first impression. So anything that person says or does, I’m going to see it through that filter. So it’s, it’s important that you make good first impressions on all people because they could act as your ambassadors.
Hala Taha: [26:00]
Why do you think it’s so important to understand yourself and you know your goals and who you want to be and where you want to go in order to make a good first impression?
Dorie Clark: [26:14]
Well, as the saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, then any destination is fine, right? So if you, if you’re unsure of your goals and you’re just sort of wantonly moving in different directions, then people are going to get a kind of random perception of you and you know that that might be good or bad, but, but odds are it’s, it’s going to be challenging for you because if you are sending mixed messages, it’s no wonder that they don’t really understand where you want to go in your professional life because you don’t either.
Hala Taha: [26:59]
Now, if I understand this all correctly, first of all, you need to make a consistent impression on everyone you meet because people can act as your primacy filter and indirectly influence the way other people perceive you. In order to give a consistent impression, you need to decide who you want to be and how you want to be perceived, but in order to strategize how to shift the impression you give off, you need to know how you come off right now in the first place and what areas you might need to improve. How do we explore that?
Dorie Clark: [27:31]
It is very hard for us as individuals to really have a sense of how we’re coming across to other people. Um, it’s, it’s a, it’s a big blind spot because we fundamentally can’t see the world through other people’s eyes. So there are however, workarounds where you can get hints about what other people see. One is to get feedback from your friends and colleagues. Now it might sound a little intimidating, but I actually in my book reinventing you have a, a kind of quick life hack version that’s pretty low key and that’s something I call the three word exercise. And basically what you do is that over the course of a few days, you reach out to about half a dozen colleagues and you ask them a very simple question, which is, if you had to describe me in only three words, what would they be? And you listen, you, you write them down so you don’t forget them.
Dorie Clark: [28:30]
Um, but guaranteed you’re going to start to see patterns as you get the fourth, the fifth, the sixth person telling you about yourself. And odds are it’s not going to be shocking, surprising information. You know, you’re, you’re probably going to hear words that make sense to you. Uh, it’s, you know, things you might’ve thought about yourself, but the interesting part and the reason that this is valuable, it’s not that they’re telling you something you’ve never thought about. What they are telling you is something that structurally we are just incapable as individuals if knowing which is what is it about us that other people perceive as being most unique, that’s the interesting part because that’s what they remember. That’s what stands out. How are you different from other people?
Hala Taha: [29:19]
Now, what if you get this feedback and that theme is negative. Maybe lazy comes across as a theme. What would you do then? What’s your next steps? If you find that your perception is negative,
Dorie Clark: [29:31]
interestingly, I am willing to bet that that will almost never happen and here is why. That’s not to say there aren’t lazy people in the world, but problem is almost always the reverse, which is that instead of people being frank and honest with you, they might sugarcoat it. The situation that you’re far more likely to encounter is that they won’t tell you the bad stuff. They’ll, they’ll be totally honest about the good stuff. Of course. I mean why wouldn’t they? But they might try to go a little easy on the negative traits. And so here’s the, here’s the kicker: what we need to do in order to be responsible in understanding this feedback is we have to ask ourselves of the traits that they have identified for us. You know, the, the most important words to describe us. Is it possible that you are taking any of them to an extreme?
New Speaker: [30:28]
And the reason this is the question, is it almost always our weaknesses are simply strengths over applied, right? They, they’re, they’re, they’re intimately tied in with what’s good about us. You know, you all know you’re so creative. You’re, you know, you’re such a great conceptual thinker. Well, is, is it possible that you’re so creative and big picture that you suck on details and that no one can count on you to do the little nitty gritty? Well, you know, that might not be true, but it also might. And so you have to ask yourself, so if you’re getting a lot of feedback about, oh, you’re just, you’re so laid back, you know, you’re just so calm. But is it possible that by laid back, they mean not just that you know you’re chill in the face of adversity, but also that you might be a little lazy. They’re not going to say it unless it’s somebody who’s really close to you. You have to be willing to ask the question, is it possible and grappling with, with the answer to that,
Hala Taha: [31:27]
We now have the tools to put the best you out to the world. The question is, do you have the confidence to go out and use them? I think the biggest roadblock people have is feeling like an imposter. What would you say to somebody who said that using these types of tactics and strategies are dishonest or I’m trying too hard?
Dr Jack Schafer: [31:51]
Well, you know, they’re not dishonest and it’s not trying too hard because all these things that we talked about today are things people normally do when they want to begin a relation with somebody or they want to continue a relationship with somebody. These are natural things that occur. We do these things all the time in all, all we’re trying to do is get those people that are not aware of these social cues or the social rapport building techniques to become aware of them and to use them because that’s what people naturally do, broadly speaking,
Dorie Clark: [32:29]
I don’t think that there is anything inauthentic or manipulative about having strategy in your life. If that were the case, having a career goal
Dorie Clark: [32:39]
would be manipulative, you know? Oh, where, where, where do you want to be in five years? Oh, in five years I’d like to be, you know, the vice president. Oh, so fake. So manipulative. I mean, what we’re, what we’re essentially talking about is not the caricature version, which is, oh, what is the world want me to be and how can I pretend to be more like that? That is, that is the opposite of good personal branding. What we’re talking about really is instead of coming up with an understanding of who you are as a person, this is an inside out process where you understand who you are and then you make sure through being strategic that the rest of the world gets it and that they understand the value that you have to bring it. It’s really about removing static from the channel so there’s a real message can get through and so the people are not misinterpreting you, so did they really understand what you have to bring to the table so that your talents are not overlooked to me that is the opposite of manipulation. Its the opposite of fakery. It is instead enabling people to see who you really are and see why that’s valuable.
Hala Taha: [33:56]
This concludes the first impressions episode brought to you by YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, where anything goes if it makes you grow. A special thanks to Dr. Jack Schafer and Dorie Clark for their wisdom and time. This episode was mixed by John Sparks and music produced by Harry Fraud. Wishing you the best of luck on your next first impression. Thanks for Yapping and with me. This is Hala signing off.