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First Impressions

by Nov 19, 2019

I had my own aha moment today.

My parents instilled in me early on that first impressions are important and certainly critical in the business world. We’ve all heard this, right? Teachers and career counselors all preach this.

My father, along with a very stern manager early in my career, instilled in me to have a firm handshake. That mantra carried over into my daily life. To this day, I HATE a wimpy handshake. It leaves an impression on me. Do they respect me? Do they not care? Did they miss breakfast? Yes, I do recognize that women over the age of 75 may feel differently about a firm handshake from a woman due to their own cultural upbringing, therefore, they get a different bar set from me.

I recently got reacquainted with someone I met over 20 years ago. Thankfully I remembered her face in a crowd and then thankfully her name came back to my memory warehouse. I walked up and said hello. Her response, “Of course I remember you. I remember how hard of a handshake you gave me when we met.” I had a nanosecond thought process of “Oh, my Dad would be proud” to “Oh my gosh, did I crush her hand??” That evidently was her lasting impression of me. Sadly, based on the look on her face, I think I crushed her hand.

Photo by Matthew Henry From Burst

Fast forward to today. Someone sent a connection request on LinkedIn accompanied by a brief message. They want to do business with me. I hadn’t heard of them or their company nor did we have mutual connections so I looked them up… Their profile was an early-career person with a very funny look on their face…almost like they were doing a funny yell at the camera. Hmmm? Is this the person I want to do business with? To spend precious budget dollars with? To me it was if they didn’t take themselves seriously…or perhaps they don’t take business seriously. First impressions.

So now to my aha moment…

I believe we all try to give a solid first impression. We have our own idea of what that looks like. But our best first impression may not match up with the person we are meeting. They have their own personal idea of what a good first impression is. Our own beliefs, cultural upbringing and cognitive processes play a part in how first encounters are delivered AND received. All we can do is put forth the effort to be our best in that moment of first impressions in whatever environment that is.

What do you think your last handshake said about you?