A male student at Hanyang University (HYU) had a blind date. He and his date exchanged text messages before their first date. He had a good feeling this time. He thought it would work out fine. Finally, the appointed day arrived. It started like any normal blind date. They went to a restaurant and a coffee shop. They went to a restaurant and a coffee shop like an ordinary blind date. However, when he asked her out on another date she refused. Her explanation was that he gave a bad first impression.
Imagine you are on a job interview or even on a blind date. You always try your best to make yourself look as neat, outstanding, and smart as possible. You might also get up early and take your best suit out of the closet. Why do people put so much effort into how they look? It is to create a good first impression.
As shown in the given situation, first impressions are very important in today’s society. First impressions have the power to determine success on a blind date and even the success or failure of one’s future. How much impact do first impressions have on people? More importantly, how can one actually make a good first impression?
The Importance of First Impressions
First impressions are made in a fraction of a second but last a long time. According to a study by Dartmouth College researchers, it takes only 0.017 seconds to make a first impression. This is faster than the blink of an eye. Once we receive the stimulus, the amygdala body determines whether it is a good or a bad impression.
Amygdala body is a part of the brain comprised of nerve cells, which are related to remembering various emotional stimuli. Scientists can experiment on how the brain reacts to various impulses by using a medical machine called FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagine). This medical device shows how quickly the amygdala reacts to a variety of stimuli including facial expressions.
First impressions are important because they are the initial idea that a person forms about another person. Normally, people think an outstanding appearance leaves a good first impression. About 61 percent of HYU students answered that outward appearances are important.
The result of the study at Central Michigan University showed how people judged others only based on outward appearance. When given only two pictures; one of a healthy person and the other of a fat one. People psychologically judged the healthy one to be smart and the fat one to be dumb.
Moreover, according to a survey by Job Korea, when they asked interviewers “Do you consider the first impression a person makes during an interview?”, and “Have you ever degraded the interviewee because of the first impression?” 86 percent and 73 percent respectively, answered “Yes.” This means that the first impression can even play a huge factor in one’s career.
Jun Young-woo, a professor at the University of Incheon, also put emphasis on the first impression. He said, “I think when I grade the interviewees who apply to enter the University of Incheon, more than 50 percent of my decision depends on the impression the applicants give. When students walk through the door, I can just tell what kind of students they are.”
However, first impressions are not always accurate. For example, Seul Lee, a student of the Department of English Language and Literature at HYU said, “I have once misjudged a friend of mine. I thought she was very grumpy and lacked knowledge because her face did not look very healthy and she was overweight. However, after we talked to each other several times, I found out she was very clever.”
Appearance and Voice
You might ask how first impressions are made? Most of HYU students answered that outward appearance is the biggest factor. It is true that good-looking guys or pretty girls are treated better than less attractive individuals because they give a good first impression. The reason for this is scientifically based and due to the fact that bilateral symmetrical faces create a positive reaction, thereby giving a good impressions. Actually, most television or movie stars have bilateral symmetry. That’s why they might be so well received.
Plastic surgeons say many people desire plastic surgery because they want to look more attractive. People believe that receiving plastic surgery will allow them to have more confidence in themselves. That may be true, but then do only the beauties and handsome men give good impressions? The answer is no.
The story of Sinbaram by the professor Hwang Soo-gwan is very famous. He said when he was a little boy he was so ugly that he had no popularity at all. He wanted to have a friendly appearance so he tried hard to attain a good impression by laughing a lot. Now, professor Hwang brings to mind good impressions to many
Facial appearance is not the only factor that determines first impressions. People have good impressions of individuals who have a healthy and fit body. People think those healthy people take care of themselves by working out regularly to stay in good shape.
Gestures can be another factor that creates a good first impression. Body language is called the “worldwide language.” Like its nickname, gestures are very important when they are used to express one’s thoughts, especially in different countries.
There is something that most people missed. This is what only 15 out of 380 respondents at HYU students answered as an important thing; voice. Voice is often considered unimportant. People do not pay much attention to voice nor do they seem to care about voice.
However, according to the research by Professor Albert Mehrabian, a psychiatrist at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), voice occupies 38 percent among five categories in communication. In contrast, the results of this research also showed that the actual content of the conversation held only seven to eight percent importance. When the communication takes place over the phone, the importance of voice, not content, jumps to 82%.
Confidence Is the Key
If first impressions are this much important, what are some ways a person can try to make a good first impression? Having a pretty or a good-looking face might be the best way. However, for those who have low confidence in their facial appearance here are some tips.
Try to wear appropriate outfits for specific situations. This is called the TPO principle, which is “T” for time, “P” for place, and “O” for occasion. Create a casual outfit setup for a date. Also, it is usually more appropriate to go with a formal outfit for an interview or a meeting. Try using fashion items. Wearing glasses make a person to look smarter. You must remember though to be careful not to over-accessorize. Too many things might distract and could even mess up the event.
The second tip for making good impressions is to smile a lot. A smiling face always spreads a happy virus. Yang Ji-boo, a junior at Hongik University, said, “I was definitely an introverted person when I was in elementary school. One day, I figured out I was losing friends because of my personality. From that point on I decided to develop an outgoing personality and I made a to-do list for changing my personality. For example, I began to ‘Say hello first to five classmates every day.’ A year later, I became a very active and outgoing person. Now I have more friends than ever.”
Wearing appropriate outfits and smiling is important. However, more importantly, having confidence in oneself should have the most important emphasis. Park Kyung-lim, who is a famous entertainer and a female comedian, is known for her husky voice and giving a good impression. Even though her unique voice might have given a bad impression, she used her voice to create a unique feature of her personality. Her voice has actually helped her to gain popularity. Furthermore, she has even challenged herself by singing jazz. Like Park, having confidence can help people overcome their weak points and turn them into competitive strategies.
University is a place where we first start to experience social life by building human networks. If we have confidence, we can make a good first impression that will not only help people to have good relationships but also to get jobs and make friends. Now everybody, be confident, love yourself, and go out and make a good first impression.