Elizabethkuhnke's Blog

First Impressions

Posted on: December 16, 2010

Flash!  News Break!  Hold the front page!


“What?!” I hear you say, “Is that it? Tell me something I don’t already know!”

I would if I could and the truth is I have yet to discover any new and exciting concepts when it comes to interpersonal communication. In this arena it’s more like the tried, true and tested, with the possibility of a fresh approach.

However, what I have discovered is that we often forget to apply that which we know works best.

People who are perceived as ‘warm’ are considered to be less threatening than those who come across as aloof or ‘cold.’ But what exactly does it mean to be ‘warm’?

A study was conducted to understand how body language sends ‘temperature’ messages. Volunteers were videotaped as they participated in 5-minutes conversations. Each participant was subsequently asked to assess the degree of warmth or coldness they thought they projected. The researchers then showed a silent videotape of the interaction to a group of observers who were asked to evaluate the conversationalists in the same way.

The observers reported that smiling, nodding and showing physical attention indicated warmth. Coldness was perceived by body language that did not attend to others, a lack of smiling and extending their leg (while seated).

Interestingly, the volunteers being rated did not perceive these behaviours as indicating coldness in themselves. They were unaware that this was the image they were projecting.

So, the message is, pay attention to your ‘temperature signals.’ We will be judged based on how we behave. And, if people respond to you negatively you may find yourselves, as the researchers say, ‘unpleasantly mystified’!

(R. Gifford, “A Lens-Mapping Framework for Understanding the Encoding and Decoding of Interpersonal Dispositions in Nonverbal Behaviour,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, no. 2 (1994): 398-412)

If you want to make a positive first impression make sure you do the following:

  1. Smile!
  2. Adapt your behaviour to the situation
  3. Introduce yourself and include others in the conversation
  4. Actively invite people to join you
  5. Draw out others by demonstrating an interest in them
  6. Ask open ended questions pertinent to the person or event
  7. Open a conversation by being engaged in the moment
  8. Smile!

If you act on these ‘golden rules’ you will appear socially skilled, comfortable to be around and easy to engage … and you’ll make a ‘wow’ of an impact!

For more information visit www.kuhnkecommunication.com

And…Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/diamondpolisher

2 Responses to "First Impressions"

Give me a ‘warm fuzzy’ as opposed to a ‘cold prickly’ anytime…
I see this article as spaced repetition and we all need to revisit good advice.
As Wolfgang Riebe said at The GSS Conference last month, ‘I am probably not going to tell you anything new; I am going to remind you of things you have maybe forgotten.’
And so it is with this article – thanks for the reminder and development of the theme of first impressions.


Hi Eilidh-
Glad you found the revisit useful. Thanks for mentioning Wolfgang. Would love to know more about the conference.
Another reminder for all…breathe from your boots and keep smiling!

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