The Importance of First Impressions

Mar 29 / Richard G. Jones, Jr., PH.D.

The old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good impression,” points to the fact that first impressions matter.

The Importance of First Impressions

Think back to your last job interview? Did you plan ahead for what you were going to wear? Did you do research on the company and the position? Did you think about the questions you might be asked and practice some responses? 

Based on your answers to these questions, I could form an impression of your professionalism and competence. But would that perception be accurate? Would it match up with how you see yourself? And perception, of course, is a two-way street. You also formed impressions about the person interviewing you based on their appearance, dress, organization, intelligence, and approachability. The impressions that both interviewer and interviewee make during that first meeting help set the tone for the rest of their interactions.

The Brain’s Role in Interpreting First Impressions

The old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good impression,” points to the fact that first impressions matter.

The brain is a predictive organ in that it wants to know, based on previous experiences and patterns, what to expect next, and first impressions function to fill this need, allowing us to determine how we will proceed with an interaction after only a quick assessment of the person with whom we are interacting.

Studies show that people are generally able to predict how another person will behave toward them based on an initial interaction. People’s accuracy and ability to predict interaction based on first impressions vary, but people with high accuracy are typically socially skilled and popular, and have less loneliness, anxiety, and depression, more satisfying relationships, and more senior positions and higher salaries.

So, it’s not only important to know how to engage in impression management to be perceived positively, but also to be able to analyze and predict how interactions will go. All of this requires communication competence in a variety of skill sets.

The Take Home Message

As we perceive others, we make impressions about their personality, likeability, attractiveness, and other characteristics. Although much of our impressions are personal, what forms them is sometimes based more on circumstances than personal characteristics. All the information we take in isn’t treated equally, so be conscious of how you are perceived and how you perceive others and don't waste a chance to make a good impression.

Join us at the Communication Leader Academy to learn more about impression management and other important skills to help you become a more effective and inclusive communication leader.

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