How to Make a Good First Impression Every Time

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "How to Talk to Anyone" by Leil Lowndes. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you make a good first impression? What role does body language play in people’s first impressions of you?

To make a positive first impression, you must pay attention to your body language and the nonverbal signals you’re emitting. Even before you had the chance to open your mouth, people have already formed an impression of you based on your facial expressions and the way you move.

Keep reading to learn how to make a good first impression, according to communications expert Leil Lowndes.

How to Make a Positive First Impression

In his book How to Talk to Anyone, communications expert Leil Lowndes explains how to make a good first impression. The key, she says, is your body language. The nonverbal signals contribute to more than 80% of people’s first impressions of you and influence the way they react to you. 

(Shortform note: While it’s true that body language massively influences people’s first impressions of you, there’s no scientific evidence supporting the exact percentage breakdown Lowndes provides. Those who quote numbers on this subject are usually mischaracterizing mid-1960s research by Albert Mehrabian, who claimed that 93% of communication is nonverbal—including body language and tone of voice—and only 7% is verbal. However, this formula was created for a specific context—to reduce uncertainty in understanding people who send mixed verbal and nonverbal signals. Therefore, your body’s signals may not carry as much weight as Lowndes argues when it comes to first impressions.)

Your Body Language Communicates Everything About You

Lowndes argues that you form an instinctive impression of everyone you come across within the first few seconds of seeing them. Before someone gets a chance to utter her first words, you’ve already made assumptions about her personality, her feelings, her confidence levels, and her social or professional status. Most importantly, you’ve already decided whether she’s the type of person that you want to spend time with. Likewise, people make assumptions about whether they want to talk to you as soon as they set their eyes on you.

(Shortform note: Research expands upon what Lowndes says about instinctive impressions: Your first impressions of others are reasonably accurate indicators of whether or not you’ll get along with them. One study compared the first impressions of strangers meeting a person—who we’ll call Person A—to personality reports on Person A completed by their longtime friends. The first impressions were similar to the personality reports by longtime friends, showing that the strangers’ assumptions were accurate.)

What forms the basis of these assumptions? According to Lowndes, it’s your body language—this includes your posture, how comfortable you appear, the way you smile, and the way you make eye contact. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your body language constantly emits signals about the way you feel.

How to Make a Good First Impression Every Time

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Here's what you'll find in our full How to Talk to Anyone summary :

  • Practical techniques to help you overcome social discomfort
  • How to confidently develop new connections
  • How to appear more likable without saying a word

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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