January 8, 2013

Are you making the best first impression?  What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.  Naomi Takeuchi - Leadership Development

“There can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis.” – Malcolm Gladwell, Blink:The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Think about how all five of your senses are engaged when you meet people.  Too often, we focus on just the spoken word when we work to become a “Communication Powerhouse.”  However, the unspoken word and the things we do that engage the other senses are just as important.

A friend of mine who competes in humor competitions told me that your jokes and humor need to punch in the first seven seconds.  You need to get the audience to like you immediately.  Similarly, when people meet you for the first time, you are being assessed in the first seven seconds.  There are several clues you are giving to others before you even say a word.

1000 Cranes, LLC  Naomi TakeuchiPowerhouse Tip of the Week:  Let’s discuss some issues surrounding specifically around “Sight” and “Smell” which happen before you engage the sense of “Sound”.  We’ll discuss in future blog posts about Taste and Touch and how engaging those senses can be important when becoming a “Communication Powerhouse.”

Sight

You will often hear about people dressing for the job they want, not the job they have. Dress appropriately to the occasion.  If you’re not sure what the dress code is, find out!  It makes a better first impression if your attire is closer to the audience you are meeting when you share your ideas.

When I meet people for the first time, I typically wear a business suit or “business professional” outfit.  I found this works in most situations.  However, I attended two different meetings at very prominent companies where the dress code throughout the company was khakis and polo shirts.  One company was a pharmaceutical firm that did this deliberately to indicate that all members of the company are treated equally.  In the other company, it was more practical as the primary business was tire manufacturing  Most employees work best in comfortable clothes.  In these two cases, I was far overdressed when I arrived in my business attire, and the audience did not relate to me as well.  I was clearly the outsider, and I didn’t fit in.  The next time I met with these groups, I wore khakis and a polo shirt.  It made everyone more comfortable!   Before saying a word, if you are dressed as an outsider, people will not be as open to what you have to say.  Remember, before you communicate your message, you are already communicating who you are with what you wear.

Smell

When I worked as a manager at a nonprofit telecommunications company, one of my recent hires in my department was a native of Russia.  She did meticulous work and understood programming really well.  She wore professional business attire and from your initial interactionwith her, she looked like a professional.  What she didn’t realize culturally was that her body odor was offensive to others around her.  Several complaints came to my desk after she began working for the company, and as a new manager, it was one of the hardest conversations I had to have with her.  Fortunately, it was an easy situation to remedy, and had she known that this was offensive to others, she would have made a better impression if she had looked at her hygiene.

Sometimes the opposite is true where a man or woman may apply cologne or perfume.  Depending on the scent, this may be appealing to others or in some severe cases may make them sick.  The thing about scents is that these are distracting.  If you are going into an important meeting, freshen up but don’t go overboard with scents.  Do you want your audience members in the front row (or beyond) wondering, what is that smell?  Instead of hearing your spoken message, you have instead, created curiosity with a completely different topic.  Unless you are a celebrity promoting a new perfume line, keep the scents limited.  Sometimes a fragrance free deodorant, hand cream or hairspray, may be the perfect accessory to keep you polished.

  • What do you notice when you meet someone for the first time before you have started a conversation?
  • Have you analyzed your morning routine before you go to an event and are you tailoring this to your audience?
  • What do you do to engage the senses of sight and smell and are you making this intentional?

I look forward to your thoughts.

People will assess you immediately when they see you.  So what are you doing to make the best first impression before you even say a word?