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5 Scientific Ways to Make a Good First Impression

5 Scientific Ways to Make a Good First Impression
Credit: Saklakova/Shutterstock

Have you ever heard the phrase "snap judgment"? As it turns out, it may be a whole lot more than an expression.

In fact, it takes people only one-tenth of a second to make a judgment about another person based on his or her facial appearance, according to a 2006 study from Princeton University. Because other people will make quick judgments of you based on your appearance, it's important (especially in a professional setting) to put forth the image that you want others to see. This means following the age-old advice of dressing appropriately for the occasion, and making sure you look put together and well groomed.

But aside from the obvious — dressing the part — how can you make a better first impression? Here are five scientifically proven ways.

Watch your tone.

"Watch your tone" may sound like a command from a frustrated parent, but it's actually very important advice for making a good first impression. Just as people will make a snap judgment of you based on your face and appearance, your tone of voice can have a huge impact on what others think of you.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland recorded 32 female undergraduate students and 32 male undergraduates saying the word "Hello" and then played the recordings for 320 different students. Students listening to the recordings were "asked to rank the voice according to 10 personality traits, including trustworthiness, dominance, attractiveness and warmth," ScienceMag.org reported.

Women who alternated the pitch of their voices as they spoke were considered more trustworthy by listeners, as were men who raised the tone of their voices, researchers found. And men with lower voices were considered dominant, as were women with higher voices.

Perfect your handshake.

You've probably heard this advice before, but shaking hands is such a common activity that you may not realize just how significant it can be. A handshake is usually the first physical interaction you have with another person, so it's important to make sure that your handshake is on point.

A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that a handshake can make you seem more approachable and give off a more positive vibe.

Sanda Dolcos, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois' psychology department and one of the researchers behind the study, said people should "be aware of the power of the handshake."

"Many of our social interactions may go wrong for [one] reason or another, and a simple handshake preceding them can give us a boost and attenuate the negative impact of possible misunderstandings," Dolcos said.

But not just any handshake will do — it's important that your handshake be firm, confident and friendly, the researchers found. [10 Body Language Mistakes to Avoid in Job Interviews ]

Avoid a video meeting.

If you have the choice between having a meeting or interview in person or through video, you should always choose to meet in person. Why? Because the impression you make over video may automatically be more negative.

A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that, although people who met another person over video were able to assess their personality traits as accurately as they could when meeting them in person, the impressions they got from watching videos were much more negative, Science Daily reported. The study had participants meet each other either during a 3-minute speed-dating-style interview or by watching a video of the other person.

"If you want to make a good impression, it is critical that it is done in person," Jeremy Biesanz, one of the researchers on the study, told Science Daily.

So, if you really want to get a positive reaction, avoid sending a video résumé or application, skip Skype and try to meet in person first if possible.

Let the other person speak first.

Part of making a good first impression means establishing that you're respectful and trustworthy. So how do you quickly convey that you're worth trusting?

According to social psychologist Amy Cuddy, one way to show that you're trustworthy right away is by letting the other person have the floor first. A great way to encourage this is by asking the other person a question, she told Wired

"I think people make the mistake, especially in business settings, of thinking that everything is a negotiation," Cuddy said. "They think, 'I better get the floor first so that I can be in charge of what happens.'"

When you take over and go first, others may feel like you don't understand them and that you're not a warm person, Cuddy said. It can be difficult to take a step back, especially if you're naturally a leader or a dominant person, but doing so may be the key to a better first impression.

Make eye contact while speaking.

Making eye contact sounds like pretty obvious advice, but you may not realize just how important it is in evoking a positive reaction from the people you meet — and not just because failure to make eye contact can be perceived as rude or give off the impression that you're shy or introverted.

As it turns out, making eye contact while speaking is one of the keys to making others think you're smarter. A study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found a significant correlation between people looking while they spoke and how others judged their intelligence. 

Interviews and public speaking engagements are nerve-wracking, but if you can look up and make eye contact, it can totally change the way others see you — no pun intended.

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.

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