What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see yourself as others see you?
Psychologists tell us that it takes just seven seconds to form an impression of someone based on their looks, facial expression and body language. Even with people we have met before, the strength of the external signals we give to others in the way we present ourselves often eclipses the subtleties we imagine for ourselves.
OK, so you don’t need me to remind you to present yourself in a smart and professional manner. But good impressions are not just about your well-chosen outfit or new hairstyle. When you look in the mirror, are you aware of how your behaviours come across to others?
“John had never had to negotiate a contract at this level before and he was feeling nervous about the meeting. He’d been told how important it was to secure a good margin. Wanting to sound more confident than he felt, he decided to cut to the chase, loudly and proudly proclaiming the quality of the service his company would provide and demanding top rates.”
Looking in from the outside it is easy to see that John’s behaviour might come across to others as pushy or aggressive. The impression he is giving is not likely to help him with any long-term relationship he might be hoping to build.
Just like John, we all have our vulnerabilities. Particularly when we are lacking in confidence or when there is a lot at stake, there is a natural tendency to overcompensate for what we are feeling on the inside through the way we present ourselves on the outside. As a result, others may make less favourable judgements about us. What is more, in my experience, when such behaviours go unchecked they can become a self-protecting habit that shields us from our feelings and can limits our performance for the long term.
So try this: Next time you are preparing to head into a situation that is outside your comfort zone, take a minute to think through how you would like to be perceived by others. When you look in the mirror, remember, that all-important first impression isn’t just about the suit, and don’t allow you unwitting behaviours to affect your performance.