The answer is that we are not helpless in the face of our first impressions. They may bubble up from the unconscious – from behind a locked door inside of our brain – but just because something is outside of awareness doesn’t mean it’s outside of control.
– Malcolm Gladwell (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking)
Every consistently great magician and every consistently successful business person will tell you that their achievements have as much to do with what people think they do as what they actually do. Now don’t get me wrong. Winners are individuals who work their behinds off to get where they are. Yet . . . there’s also a mystique about someone who triumphs; the impression that others have that is then told over and over again in one story or another. In these first and lasting impressions are find our truth about someone. It’s time you learn to shape those impressions to accomplish greatness.
Your success at creating a spectacular first impression starts with the understanding that it all begins with meaning – the message of YOU. And once someone believes they “get you,” that’s when the drama happens. When the drama occurs, you become locked into a category and stereotype that is challenging to break out of. And all of this comes about in the first few seconds that we meet someone! That’s right. You have mere heartbeats to create the effect you want to achieve.
While there are many tricks I could show you to help ensure your first impression is picture perfect, the most important one to work on is your attitude; your respect and belief in yourself, your acceptance of the impression you want to make, and your regard for the people who are seeing you. Let’s take a look at Sir Richard Branson for a moment. When I mention his name, what comes to mind? Perhaps you thought of an adventurer and risk taker. Perhaps you thought of a massively successful business tycoon. Or the guy who owns an island. Sir Richard Branson is certainly all of those things (and more). But much of what you have going on in your head right this very minute about him is an illusion. What you think of him is not so much what he’s actually done as much as what he’s done inside your own mind. And I’m willing to bet that Sir Richard Branson knows full well the magic of the drama and high emotion that he creates. And he creates that high emotion by creating a meaning around what he does. Sir Richard Branson, if nothing else, stands for a life lived to its fullest. He has a point, doesn’t he? His notoriety doesn’t depend on any one success (or failure). Rather, all that matters is that Sir Richard Branson seems to be a success at everything to which he puts his mind. In reality, he isn’t, of course. But it’s his attitude that, first and foremost, compels people to believe (and ultimately invest) in him and his dreams for the future.
Take a moment and recall some of your personal heroes. What are their attitudes like? Make a list of the face they give to the world. Can you adopt any of those in your own adventures? You see, the people with whom we come into contact sense our attitudes subconsciously and in a flash. It’s written all over our faces, in our posture, and in the way we move. And make no mistake that people, when they sense these things, will attribute a meaning to them. So . . . the next time you have a meeting with someone practice creating the meaning you want to impart before you ever step foot in the room. What is the point you want to make? And, once you know that point, what attitude is the right one to have for that theme?
By the way, if you want to practice your “attitude,” the worst possible audience you can have is a close friend or loved one. They know you too well and won’t be able to give you an honest assessment because they won’t be able to suspend their intimate knowledge of you. There’s too much history already in place. Instead, go to a restaurant and practice on the waiter. Pay close attention to how they react to you and keep asking whether their response to you is appropriate for the attitude you intended. The real secret to having a powerful attitude is really your conviction – your unshakeable belief – in what you are doing, saying, and how you appear. A successful attitude depends on your confidence. Which brings me to the final tip. If you want to really have a powerful attitude, simply ask yourself, “What would I have to do – how would I have to appear – in order to fool Scott that I am [fill in the attitude you want to portray]?” That’s right – I want you to fool me. Do that right now in the privacy of your own space. How would you have to appear in order to fool me into believing you are who you claim to be?
One final word of warning, by the way. Once you learn to master your own attitude and create magnificent first impressions, make certain you don’t destroy that illusion by breaking character after the meeting is over or the sale is done. People don’t like to be fooled unless they’re going to a show. Don’t betray their trust and belief in you.
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