“What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you are saying.”


This is especially true when we consider first impressions.

The first two to four minutes that you spend with a person are more important than any other four minutes that you will ever have together.

You make first impressions every day. You succeed or fail by the impressions you make in interviews, telephone calls, meetings, presentations, and thousands of business and social encounters. Power, trust and credibility are given to those who make good impressions. If people aren’t quickly attracted to you, or if they don’t like what they see and hear in those first few moments, they probably will not pay attention to all the words that you are using to convince them of your knowledge and authority.

During your first few moments of interaction with others, their attention span and powers of retention are at the highest. They are completely focused on you. The process of creating impressions is somewhat predictable. Depending on the background and expectations of the other person and the context of your meeting, these are the things that people notice first.


First of all, in any first encounter, people zero in on what they see. In fact, there is a specific order that people use to process information about you. Those you meet will notice the color of your skin, your gender and age, your appearance and facial expressions, the eye contact you maintain, body movements, personal space, and touch.

Vast amounts of information are conveyed in this nonverbal exchange. In fact, communication experts agree that the nonverbal accounts for more than half of your total message. Facial expressions and body language alone convey a surprising 55% of the meaning of your message.

Next, people notice what they hear. They listen to characteristics of your voice – the rate or tempo, loudness, pitch, articulation, and tone, all of which reveal more information about you. In fact, your voice – and this does not include the words you are saying – may transmit as much as 38% of the meaning of your message. On the telephone it conveys even more, because the other person cannot see what you look like.

You should be aware that the last thing people notice about you, and therefore the least important for a first impression, are the words you are using. The words contribute only 7% to the meaning of your message. It’s not that your words are unimportant. They are important.

But in order for them to be heard, the other person must first like what he sees and what he hears. His mind may already be made up before you speak. And that first impression is indelibly formed.

Throughout this entire process the other person is gathering bits and pieces of information to form a composite picture of you. He reads and processes all of these things, fits them into his own belief system, and comes out with an impression of who he thinks you are.

The purpose of this Article is to give you information and techniques to help you send the true message. So much of what we do is unconscious, and so, without realizing it, you may be sending erroneous or conflicting information to the people you meet.


Let’s consider what you look like. Most people cannot recognize themselves when their own image is unexpectedly reflected back to them. They have trouble remembering what they look like. Likewise, they are not aware of their body language. Remember that words contribute to only 7% of the meaning of your message. Whether or not you are actually speaking, you’re always communicating!

The range of situations in which first impressions are helped or hindered by appearance and body language is significant. For example, teachers with a positive outlook will use non-verbal cues to encourage student involvement. They smile and nod, listen actively, and encourage physical closeness. Teachers with a negative attitude use their nonverbal cues to discourage involvement. They smile less, occupy greater personal space to keep the students farther away, and avoid direct eye contact.

Nonverbal communication, including everything from appearance, facial expression and movement, are what other people use to judge attractiveness. Studies show that physically attractive people are perceived to be more intelligent, more likeable, more interesting, and more credible than those who present a less attractive impression.

Also, people who are sensitive to nonverbal cues tend to be better adjusted, more extroverted and popular, more effective in personal relationships, better listeners, and less dogmatic. Therefore, becoming more aware of your own body language has the additional benefit of allowing you to see others in a new light.

One useful technique for becoming more aware of how you present yourself is to watch a film clip or video of yourself to see what you really look like. Or look into a mirror and then see if you can write a description that would pick you out in a roomful of people. Now keep in mind that the first impression you make will be filtered through the perceptions of another person according to his expectations, the context of your meeting, and your communication skills.

Some aspects of nonverbal communication are easily changed, such as appearance and facial expression. Others are easily controlled, such as gestures. And others are beyond control, such as gender and skin color.

Despite attempts to overcome prejudices, skin color still remains the dominant factor of appearance. In situations where you think your skin color may be a negative factor, seek to counter stereotypes by paying extra attention to your appearance, facial expressions, and eye contact.

Gender also fosters stereotypes. Being male carries more power and authority in first encounters. Men are usually given more credibility. To compensate, a woman can signal her savvy and authority by being prompt, having a strong handshake, maintaining direct eye contact, and using a smile to counter any excessive aggressiveness.

Age is neither positive nor negative. Its relevance depends entirely on the expectations of the other person. If you think you might look too old, do these things: wear clothing that is stylish but not too trendy; have a modern hairstyle; move and gesture with energy and vitality. For those who feel they look too young, here are some suggestions: dress more conservatively; avoid long hair; carry quality accessories; and use makeup that does not draw attention to your face.

Appearance includes much more than dress or clothing. It also takes into account your body type, posture, hair, accessories that you wear and carry, smells, and the color of your clothing and makeup. In creating the right image, you need to consider three things:

  • What are the others’ expectations?
  • What will create the image I want?
  • Am I comfortable with the results?

Remember, anytime you violate expectations, you assume risks. One of the risks is a negative first impression.

After your overall general appearance, your face is the most visible part of you. Facial expressions are the cue most people use to pick up on your mood and personality. It is critical for your facial expressions to be congruent with the tone of voice and the words being spoken. When the message from all three-communication channels is mixed, then your face will be ignored and your tone of voice believed.

A rule of thumb for effective eye contact is to make it direct but to adjust it according to the comfort level. In situations where you are dealing with causation men (regardless of whether you are a women, a minority male or another white male), direct eye contact throughout the interaction is usually best.

Movement is a critical aspect in the presentation of a confident, assured impression. This is because your walk and posture are tied closely to your emotional state. Those people in conflict will have jerky, disjointed movements. Signs of depression and alienation are slumped posture and shuffling movements. Stress and anxiousness are show in frenetic, rushed walks or gestures. People who are sure of themselves have energetic, purposeful movements. They look strong and confident.

People who are confident take up more personal space and freely move into the space of others. Less confident people actually yield space to others. To give an impression of power, occupy more space when you stand or sit, and do not move out of the way or allow invasion of your space by those attempting to dominate you.

Keep in mind, however, that ours is a non-contact culture. The consequences of touching are often risky and subject to a lot of different interpretations. A firm handshake is the safest, least controversial, and most equitable form of touch when meeting someone for the first time.


Speech plays a vital role in making first impressions. The people we meet don’t know if their initial impressions are valid, so they will listen intently for other clues. What you sound like to others can have a lasting impact. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is essential to achieve a strong, pleasant voice. With that as a basis, there are five qualities that you can adjust to create a favorable impression with your voice.

Vary the rate. When you’re meeting someone who has never heard you, start slowly if you are a fast talker, and build to your normal rate. Use the pause effectively. Silence can help you stress your point and build interest.

Control the loudness. The level of loudness you employ should be determined by your distance from the listeners, environment noises, the situation, and the material.

Fine-tune the pitch. Here there are several things to avoid: a rising or upward inflection at the ends of sentences; a singsong quality; monotony; and a booming voice (rain-barrel effect) signals gruffness or hostility.

Monitor vocal quality. Voice quality give clear proof how relaxed or tense you are. It reveals self-confidence or self-consciousness. Negative features that detract from tonal quality are nasality, breathlessness, thinness, stridency, harshness, and hoarseness. To overcome these negative qualities, open your mouth, breathe from your diaphragm and relax your throat and neck muscles.

Finally, articulate your words clearly.
These five aspects can be improved or modified by listening to a tape recording of yourself. If possible, it’s best to record your voice when you’re interacting with other people, perhaps at a party or a gathering. A thirty-minute tape will give you enough feedback to know exactly what areas need improvement. After that, it’s just a matter of practicing the techniques until you are satisfied with the results.


People who are very skilled at making good impressions and developing rapport use a technique called pacing. This means meeting the other person where he is and reflecting back to him what he knows to be true.

You can pace a person’s mood and body language. Also, you can pace his speech patterns: his rate of speech, volume, intonations, words, phrases and vocabulary. You can even pace his energy level. And, of course, you can pace his beliefs and opinions.

We tend to like people who are like us. Research strongly suggests that we prefer to be with people like ourselves. We tend to hire people like ourselves. When you pace and mirror back body language, you communicate, “I’m okay – you can trust me.” When you pace voice or speech patterns, you are saying, “I’m on your wavelength.” If you don’t pace the other person, at least initially, the message is, “I’m different from you.

I’m not on your wavelength. Maybe you can’t trust me.” Pacing is something that we do all the time. It is not mimicking the other person; rather, it is being attentive enough to vary your responses to match his, which will in turn make him more comfortable.

Life moves so fast today that you’re certain to meet someone new every day. For more than just pleasant conversations, let’s talk about how you
can initiate productive communication. This means that when you are with a stranger, you have to decide how to talk to him or her.


The easiest way is to appeal to his interests. Salespeople must do this every day. Before they give you a sales pitch on a new car, they need to find out if you are interested in a SUV, van, a sedan, or if you’re in a mid-life crisis, a sports car. Even though you may not be selling anything, you are still faced with the same problem – finding out what topics interest the other person and which ones don’t.

The best way to do this is to act like a salesman and ask questions. Don’t waste your time guessing. It’s so much easier to let the other person tell you. Then all you have to do is lead a discussion about their interests.

For example, let’s say you would like to get to know a new neighbor. You might begin by an observation: “I notice that your car is usually gone by the time I leave for the office. Do you have to drive very far to work?” This can lead to a conversation about what the person does for a living and many other interesting facts.

Another beginning is to appeal to his emotions. All of us have strong emotions as a basic part of our personality. Carefully observe the other person as he’s talking. Keep your eyes and ears open and you’ll be surprised at the insights that you get into his feeling. You can pick up very quickly on his like and dislikes.

If the emotions are positive, his eyes will be brighter and more excited, and his voice will sound more enthusiastic. Negative emotions are shown by a discouraged tone of voice and slight pulling away or tensing of his muscles when he talks about certain things.

You can do this when you focus your full attention on the reactions, feelings, and words of the other person and not on your own thoughts.

Don’t worry about what you will say next. Think only about what he’s communicating to you, both verbally and non-verbally. If you do this, you will always know automatically what to say next.


When you’re with strangers, there are some shortcuts that you can use to get clues about the other person. Practice using these skills and you’ll be amazed at how adept you will become at sizing people up.

Suppose you’ve just met someone, made a few friendly comments, and then stopped to give him a turn to speak. And there is only silence! It’s awkward, because he is very quiet and has given the lead right back to you again. Don’t let the silence bother you. Instead, you can ask yourself some questions to find out why he is quiet.

Ask yourself, “Is he quiet because that’s the way he wants to be? Many quiet people are very smart and have the ability to hold good conversations, but they are reserved and don’t speak until they have a good reason. You can continue by searching out his interests – “I notice that you’re wearing a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt. Are you a rabid fan like me?

If he starts talking, you’ve broken through his shyness. If your first three or four questions get very short answers, he is telling you “I’m not interested,” then back away. Chances are he wants to be alone right now and doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

Ask yourself, “Is he a ‘need to be right’ type? This kind of quiet person has very strong opinions about almost everything. He’s usually set in his ways and doesn’t tolerate people who do not think and talk the way he does. He always lets someone else take the lead in conversation, and then lets them make the mistakes. Most people avoid talking to this kind of person. But sometimes you’re in
a situation where you must. Just go very slowly, looking for safe topics to talk about, and avoiding those that aren’t “safe.”

Ask yourself, “Is he waiting to be encouraged?” There are many quiet, down-to-earth people who want to join in but hesitate. Take the lead, in this case, with a lot of enthusiasm, and they are sure to join in on the fun.

Ask yourself, “Is he hiding a feeling of inferiority?” Some people have built up their weaknesses to be so big in their minds that their thinking causes them to believe that they aren’t as good as everyone else. Some people express this as being very quiet.

Others may cover up the inferiority by talking in a dominating way. If you get a feeling that he’s really feeling inferior and trying to cover it up, be a good listener and let him take the lead. He’ll sense your understanding and appreciate you for it.


We also judge strangers very quickly on their intellectual level. This will determine how you respond to another individual. Here’s what to look for: People with far above average intelligence tend to read a great deal be it literature, science, or philosophy – and they usually talk with other intellectuals. They have a hard time bringing their vocabulary down to the level of an average person.

The best way to communicate is to be yourself. If you’re having trouble understanding him, admit it and ask questions so he can re-explain his idea in a way you can understand. You will win his respect by relaxing and being yourself, because he will see right through you if you talk about things that you know nothing about.

Not everyone who sounds like an intellectual is one. Sometimes you’ll meet a person who is putting on an act, either because he’s insecure or because he wants to impress you. You can tell if he uses big words and fancy expressions when they aren’t really needed.

Again, the best way to react is to be yourself. Realize that he’s probably insecure, so put him at ease by keeping calm, relaxed, and natural. Use simple language. Show respect for him as a person. Soon he’ll get the message that you’re reading between the lines: that there’s no need for the put-on because you like him and accept him as he is. Chances are that he’ll relax and talk naturally.


What type of approach should you take with a strong-willed person? It depends on what you want to achieve in the conversation. Let’s assume that you have a good idea and you want to convince other people.

If you are dealing with a basically aggressive person (and this doesn’t always mean the same as “strong-willed), you don’t want to push too hard. Don’t compete with him for control. Rather, tell him about the idea, and then start pointing out a few things that may be wrong with it.

The aggressive person usually reacts by defending the idea and tries to convince you that it’s good. Usually, as long as he is in control, he doesn’t care whose idea it is. If you are dealing with a quiet, sensitive person, on the other hand, act unsure about the idea and ask for his advice.

He’ll consider your idea a long time before giving his opinion, but if it’s a good idea, he’ll sell himself. If you are talking to someone who has a hard time reaching a decision, tell him why the idea is good, and how he can benefit from it. Then assume that he’s ready to go along with it and assure him that he has made a good decision.

If you are talking to a strong-willed, independent thinker, he will need to make his own decision. Describe your idea in the most factual and dramatic way that you can, to put the odds in your favor, and then let him make his decision. Strong-willed people must believe that they alone have made the decision.

Everyone is self-centered to some degree, so it’s only a matter of time before you bump into someone’s ego. If you are talking to a low-ego person, just give him the courtesy and attention you normally would. Show him sincere interest and honest respect.

To deal with someone with a highly developed ego, if your intention is to win his goodwill, there are three things you can do: listen more than you talk; talk only about subjects that interest him, and compliment him at least two or three times.

Conversations would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have to talk to chronically negative people. Unfortunately you may meet them on the job and in social situations. The easiest thing for you to do in this case is to steer the conversation away from negative subjects.

Some people you meet will be open to others, and others will be closed- minded. One common trait of the closed-minded person is that he forms opinions on a whim and rarely looks for the facts. Once his opinion is formed, he’ll hold on to it for dear life! Also, the closed-minded person will often think in a very petty way and be unconcerned with anything not directly related to him. Keep your conversation neutral and don’t challenge his opinions.

The open-minded person sees what is going on around him and has a curiosity as to why it happens; he is objective. He will form strong opinions; but is more than willing to change his opinion if you can give sufficient information to show that your point of view is right. Present all the facts that you can that are relevant, and he’ll carefully weigh them and change his opinion if he’s wrong.


Decide what kind of impression you would like to make and what it will take to create that impression. Pay special attention to your personal appearance. If you are seeking to move up in your company or are looking for a job, develop a professional-looking wardrobe and dress for the position you would like to have not the one you have now.

Use direct eye contact and show sincere interest and honest acceptance to the people to whom you are talking.

Be consistent in all three communication channels – body, voice, and words. Incongruence implies insincerity.

Monitor your nonverbal cures. Gesture with purpose and always toward your viewer. Walk briskly. Stand and sit tall. You will feel more confident, and your voice will sound strong and resonant.

Be a good listener and pace your responses, body movements, and voice to the other person. Make sure that he realizes that the two of you are more alike than different.


Remember that everything you do or say, don’t do or say communicates something, whether it is positive or negative. With these suggestions you can communicate more effectively and understand better those who communicate with you. And as the fortune cookie says, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

Dr. Robert Anthony

Dr. Robert Anthony

The works of Dr Robert Anthony are some of the best kept secrets on the Law of Attraction. Operating without the massive self-promotion and razzmatazz that so often accompanies other ‘Personal Development’ teachers, Dr Anthony has nevertheless provided a guiding direction to some of the most successful people on the planet.

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