You've probably heard the urban legend of the Oxford University applicant who, when told to get his interviewer’s attention, lit the dustbin on fire. And we’re pretty much now used to the frenzied scrutiny that accompanies a certain President’s every handshake whenever he meets another President, Prime Minister, or our very own Queen Liz (Fist bump? Awks).
So, just how important is making a good first impression?
Cynthia Ozick, an American Novelist, put it rather succinctly (and beautifully) when she said “Two things remain irretrievable: time and a first impression”. And research agrees – apparently, we make our minds up within one-tenth of a second of meeting someone new. Eeep. But to really understand the significance of a good first impression, we need to look at how we, as humans, are wired. According to Arthur Dobrin, a researcher into the science of first impressions (yep – it’s a thing), this is down to a halo effect, whereby because the human brain processes information sequentially, a perceived positive effect or quality in one thing will give rise to a positive perception of the next thing.
Additional research shows that, rather worryingly, time does not automatically erase a bad first impression. In the same way that a pleasant first impression will add a rosy-tinted sheen to future encounters, a bad first impression will cast something of a shadow over subsequent interactions, even six months down the line. We all remember that colleague who didn’t say thank you after we’d considerately paused to hold the door open for them – you know who you are, we certainly haven’t forgotten and perhaps we'll pretend we didn't see you next time.
So what is it that makes a good first impression? Is it body language, a firm handshake, good eye contact or something as simple as a smile? We're not entirely sure. It may be a mixture of these when meeting someone in person. But how do you make a good impression when you don't physically meet someone? Things become a bit trickier.
Freelancing and remote working can therefore be a bit odd. You could say you're at a disadvantage when it comes to making a good first impression. It’s certainly harder to be intimate and emotive over emails and things can definitely get lost in translation.
However, as freelancers, we fully understand that it’s not just us as individuals who are making a first impression, but that our work is going to have to do some of the heavy-lifting. Your perception of us, as writers and as an agency, will ultimately be based on a combination of how we work with you and the goods that we can deliver. When put like that, first impressions don’t actually seem that scary. In fact, maybe we should view them as more of a challenge: We want to show you how good we are. If you like what you see, then you'll come back to us for more. And isn’t getting a good first impression to stick ultimately just as important as making a good impression in the first place? Nobody likes a one-hit wonder (unless they’re Vanilla Ice).
In which case, we say to bring on the introductions. We can’t wait to show you what we can do.