“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful”
― Brené Brown
Your first impression has huge impacts on your connections with others.
It takes about one-tenth of a second and you never get a second chance at making it. With a simple glance, others have judged you by your level of social status, education, and success.
Within minutes, they have also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, and confidence.
Although these evaluations happen in an instant, other people’s first impressions of you are often indelible. Want to be right, others actively look for evidence to prove themselves correct about the judgments they have made about you.
Everything they hear and see in your interaction gets filtered through that first impression, which is made when they first see you. This links back to tribal times of hunter-gatherer survival instincts.
All that came into our line of vision triggers our fight-or-flight response. In most situations, it required a split-second decision. Although times have changed, our brain still works the same way.
When you first see someone, you subconsciously ask yourself the following:
“Is this person a friend or a foe?”
“How friendly is this person?”
To answer those questions, you look at their appearance and demeanor. Your default setting is to like people who are similar to you.
If the other person is comparable in terms of clothing, appearance, demeanor, or speech, you automatically assume matching social backgrounds, education, and even values. It’s equivalent to the idea of people from the same tribe; they have an identical culture and a belief system.
Now understanding its importance, how can you make a positive first impression? Especially when you can’t speak to everyone as soon as they see you?
You do this by using nonverbal communication: your body language and facial expression.
According to scientific discoveries, humans have been around for six million years while the human language has only been used for the past 200,000 years.
To put that in a more understandable comparison, the recent language-processing abilities are equal to only 48 minutes in a 24-hour day. Nonverbal modes of communication dominate the other 23 hours.
It’s hardwired in your reptilian brain to subconsciously recognize nonverbal communication. To project a good first impression using body language, you stand in a straight and relaxed posture.
First, imagine a string pulling your head up while the Earth is a giant magnet pulling your feet down. Your shoulders are relaxed with hands by your sides while the head and chin are facing straight forward. Lastly, you want a smile on your face.
As you enter the room, everyone who sees you will most likely think you’re a friendly person.
To make this into an unconscious habit, do this every time before walking through a doorway. The more you practice; the more it becomes second nature.
This is especially critical when it’s your first meeting with a potential business partner or mate. That’s because they subconsciously make judgments of you as soon as you show up on their radar.
Even if you don’t feel confident, you can get into a positive state by changing your body posture because your physiology affects your psychology and vice versa.
When you feel great, your body naturally exhibits postures of relaxed body language.
Just as if you’re comfortable watching television at home by yourself, you will take up more space by spreading your arms and legs out. You might even place your feet on the coffee table because you feel safe in your own home.
Now that you have made a positive first impression on others, engaging them in conversations becomes relatively easy, especially when you’re coming from the mindset of giving value.
Whether it’s genuinely asking them about their day or complimenting about something they’re wearing, you’re building them up. Coming from the mindset of adding value, you’re not dependent on the outcome.
Even if they don’t respond well to your initiation, you’re still awesome.
There could a million reasons why they didn’t reciprocate; know that you can only help those who want them. For those who do respond positively, you can further build rapport by being interested in them. You ask them open-ended questions on positive topics while disclosing information about yourself.
“To be interesting, be interested.”
― Dale Carnegie
Always try to put the spotlight back on the other person as this is about them.
You can usually tell how well the interaction is going by the other person’s nonverbal cues. Mirror neurons in the brain allow you to mimic others’ body movements, posture, and speech. The subconscious mind controls this process so it’s difficult to control or fake.
For example, if you’re leaning against the wall with your legs crossed to project comfort. If you see the person across from you is doing the same, chances are high that comfort and trust are building in your interaction. Because in this imbalanced stance, the other person can easily fall with a slight push. But despite knowing that subconsciously, the other person trusts you not to do it.
There are many other nonverbal cues and they’re situational dependent.
You trust what the other person projects with nonverbal communication since it’s controlled by the subconscious mind. If there’s any incongruity between nonverbal and verbal communication, you intuitively think something is not right.
If you were to say “I love to eat chocolate!” but you have your arms crossed, looking down, and say in a low and depressed voice, then the person you’re communicating to probably won’t believe you.
How you say something with your body language, facial expression, and vocal tonality immensely impact your message because most of your communication is nonverbal while only a small percent is verbal.
The Power of Vulnerability
After you built rapport, you can further deepen the connection.
To do that, you use the power of vulnerability since it creates opportunities for the other person to connect with you based on deep emotional feelings instead of surface level common interests.
Growing up as a child, I was never good at connecting with others. Especially after moving to the United States, I was often bullied in school because I was different.
I didn’t speak English and dressed dramatically dissimilar than that of other students. Because of the negative feelings I had as a kid, I have always thought I’m not social. Going out and meet new people was intimidating.
The slightest thought of talking to a stranger made my legs quiver. Being extremely shy, I would hide in my room when there are guests at the house so I don’t have to talk to them.
But one day I decided I want to change all that! That’s when I discovered social skills are learnable.
Reflecting back, I can’t help but smile because I now have a completely different perspective on social dynamics. I now view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement.
I’m not revealing this to ask for sympathy.
I am telling you this because I want to evoke similar emotions you may have felt in the past, experiences you can relate to and share with me to strengthen our connection.
By being vulnerable with other people, you start having real conversations about topics that are important to you. As a result, you will attract those who accept your authentic self.
In today’s society, you’re taught to put up a façade pretending you’re fine even when deep down you’re not. You wear a mask to protect yourself because you want to maintain your image and reputation.
But in reality, you’re not perfect because you’re human. You as a man have emotions just like everyone else.
Don’t be the “manly-macho” man that society imposes on you. Show emotions of sadness and vulnerability because those are signs of strength.
It takes courage to express your emotions. This may include the following:
Crying when you feel sad or angry
Apologizing when you’re wrong
It’s easy to lie about what’s going on in your life and blame everyone else but yourself for everything that’s not going well for you. It’s not difficult to say you have everything figured out and pretend rainbows and butterflies fill your everyday life.
However, it takes courage to show feelings and portray your true self to the world.
By doing so, you’re essentially saying this:
“This is who I am! Whether you embrace me or not doesn’t matter because I accept myself.”
You’re the only person that truly matters.
You have to first fully accept yourself before others can do the same. If you’re authentic, those who completely accept you will appear and stay in your life.
Be courageous, put yourself out there and do the necessary work. You’ll start to develop deep relationships with others.
Those are the meaningful relationships that are worth cherishing and further developing.
I am on a mission to help 1,000,000 people, but I can’t do that without your help. Please share this article with anyone who you may think will find it valuable and helpful. Thank you very much! I greatly appreciate it!
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Cabane, Olivia Fox. The charisma myth: how anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.
Carney, Dana R., Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap. “Power Posing.” Psychological Science 21.10 (2010): 1363-368. Web.