Ever hear the expression “You can’t take back a first impression?”
Well, it’s definitely true, but my guess is you have no idea just how quickly first impressions are made, or why it’s critical for anyone who wants to make more friends, get more dates, or do better at work.
So here’s the real deal of first impressions:
Whenever you look at someone, ANYONE, even someone you pass by in the street, your brain gets an instant snapshot of that person and immediately tries to categorize him or her into 1 of 4 categories. The categories are:
1.Indifferent 2.Friend 3.Enemy or 4.Sexual Partner.
In this initial process, your brain is trying to decide in split-second timing if this person is someone you should run away from, try to impress, or just walk by without giving a second thought.
“In this initial process, your brain is trying to decide in split-second timing if this person is someone you should run away from, try to impress, or just walk by without giving a second thought.”
That’s right! First impressions don’t mean the first meeting, first date, or first conversation. It means literally the first impression– the first nano-second your eyes set their gaze upon a person.
Let’s do a run-down of what the different categories mean:
With 7 Billion people in the world, you will have to be indifferent to most everyone or you won’t be able to get anything done. That’s why 99.9% of the time, we will place people in the “indifferent” category. This means that our brain scanned the many clues in their appearance including: posture, grooming, dress, facial expression etc. and didn’t see anything “out of the ordinary”- not potentially dangerous, and not interesting enough to stop for. Translate: you can keep on with your day.
A “friend”, as far as our brain is concerned, is either someone we recognize outright (we know them and have had multiple pleasant encounters with them), or people we categorize as “good potential” to become a friend. How do we know if someone has good potential? We use clues in their appearance. Relaxed shoulders, a smile, open arms (not crossed tightly over our chest) and other body signals all tell us that we can safely categorize this person as a potential friend. Obviously if you are looking to make more friends, learning which body motions signal friendship is important. While we may not act right away by walking over and inviting them for dinner, what is important is we have categorized them as someone to potentially become friends with. Perhaps if we see them again, we will initiate a friendship. If we had categorized them as “indifferent”, we could see them every day and never even notice them.
“Obviously if you are looking to make more friends, learning which body motions signal friendship is important.”
Probably our brain’s most important mission is to discover and avoid threats as quickly as possible. Like with friends, this will include both people you have already categorized as dangerous, and strangers whos body language communicates “potentially dangerous”. Even subtle signals, such as tight-knit eyebrows or fidgety fingers, will sound an alarm in your mind. You might feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and get a bad feeling. This is your mind at work, letting you know it has noticed some clues that could point to a dangerous situation.
Last but not least, at every moment of the day your brain is also searching for people that have the potential to be a good sexual partner. In other words- someone to mate and have children with. Obviously, this isn’t the rational part of the brain that remembers if you are already in a relationship or not, and it doesn’t mean that you will act every time you find someone that fits the bill. What it does mean though, is that your mind is always, at every second, categorizing all the people around you into 1 of the 4 categories, and many times it will categorize people into the “potential partner” category. For this, it will look for more clues- is the person healthy, the right age, social status and gender, etc. If getting into a relationship is your goal, you’ll definitely want to be categorized as potential partner as often as possible!
“If getting into a relationship is your goal, you’ll definitely want to be categorized as potential partner as often as possible!”
Yes, but can I change how people categorize me?
So by now I can practically hear you screaming- HOW?
How do I make the first impression I want to? How do I take control of how people categorize me? Is there ANYTHING I can do that will encourage people around me to put me into the category of my liking?
The answer is- of course there is! If there wasn’t I wouldn’t have wasted your time in explaining these 4 categories. But first you have to appreciate the fact that EVERYTHING relies on being in the right category. Once you have identified WHAT you want to be categorized, then we can discuss HOW to change our mindset and body language to achieve that goal.
But that is for another post….. Hopefully coming very soon….
Please leave comments below! I’d love to hear from you- what category do you think you are put into? What category would you like to be in more often?