An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Jan. 26, 2015

Make your first impression a lasting impression

By Master Sgt. Eric Cicogna 628th Force Support Squadron first sergeant

From the time I was able to comb my own hair, my dad would coach me on first impressions and always putting your best foot forward. Make sure you're showered, hairs' combed, no dirt under your nails, clothes are clean and serviceable or in his words "don't look or act like a bum." It's something that has stuck with me throughout and even though we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, sometimes we have to trust our gut instinct. Every day through your daily interactions, everyone you meet becomes a potential addition to your team, a customer or even a new boss. Your first impression should make a positive lasting impression.

When you first meet someone the brain makes a thousand decisions within the first few seconds of meeting.  Humans are hard wired to judge upon first impressions. Is this a friendly person? How are they dressed? Are they trustworthy? Some of us adjust our judgment after the initial interaction and sometimes we do not. In my opinion, "Excellence in all we do" should be the stepping stone for us to strive to leave a good lasting impression. Understanding how important good first impressions are can be a key component of moving the mission forward.

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  By following dress and appearance standards, as well as customs and courtesies, you are already on the right track. Everything you do or don't do takes away from your credibility. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th Century American poet and philosopher, once said, "In essence, what you are shouts at me so loudly, I cannot hear a word you are saying."

If it's not helping you, it's hurting you, use these techniques to create a positive first impression:

· Proper attitude, warm smile and a warm greeting. Your attitude will ultimately sell you, but you should always make a conscious choice of what attitude you want to project to people.

· Posture, confidence and authenticity. Standing tall and wide with your head up high are signals of confidence. Fake it till you make it they say, but being your authentic self will shine through.

· Firm handshake and eye contact. Confidence can be extended through physical touch when you shake hands. Making eye contact increases that connection, transmits energy and indicates interest. What color eyes does that person have? Being able to recall it later means you were in the moment and paying attention.

· Good listener and engaging. If you are in the moment then you are listening, which brings opportunities.

· Vulnerability and humor. Again be authentic, let people into your circle and keep a sense of humor.

· Speak with clarity and knowledge. Don't speak just to hear yourself talk, know what you are talking about.

As you continue to strive to be a better leader, remember, the impression you make can be lasting.  As we slim the force down, and keep most of the task status the same, it will be crucial for leaders to not judge until they get to know their people.  Encourage excellence and strive for a genuine first impression from a new troop or a supervisor or even yourself.  Have a goal to diminish judgment, even though it can be a natural response.  However, getting to know your people and knowing yourself is a key component to moving the mission forward.  Know your people!  It is why lasting impressions are important.