A Second Look at First Impressions

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Dan Solin

In an earlier article, I discussed the research indicating it can take as little as a tenth of a second for others to form a first impression about you.

This is critical and potentially troublesome information when meeting with prospects. What if a prospect makes a snap judgment that you are not trustworthy? How can you overcome that obstacle?

Understand the process

The power of an impression made within the first couple of seconds after meeting a person for the first time was demonstrated by a psychology student who collected a series of videotaped job interviews. Her goal was to determine if an observer could predict whether or not the interviewee would be offered a job from watching the first 15 seconds of the tape, which consisted basically of a handshake and an exchange of initial greetings. She found the predictive ability of the observers was strikingly accurate.

The proclivity of people to make snap judgments about complicated issues based upon very little input is known as "thin-slicing methodology." An example of this would be a prospect making a decision about whether or not to do business with you based on nothing more than simply looking at you.

The role of confirmation bias

One of the problems with making determinations predicated on very little information is that, once the judgment is made, our brain scans for information that confirms our initial impression, and ignores contrary data. This is known as "confirmation bias." Numerous studies have established that once we make up our mind about a person, it’s very difficult to change it.