The First Seven Seconds: Make The First Impression Work For You

You’ve got just seven seconds to make the right first impression.  As soon as you make your entrance, you broadcast verbal and non-verbal signals that determine how others see you.  In business, those crucial first seven seconds can decide whether you will win that new account, get financing or succeed in a tense negotiation.

Are you confident?  Comfortable? Sincere? Glad to be there?  In the first seven seconds, you shower your audience with subtle “cues.”  And whether people realize it or not, they respond immediately to your facial expressions, gestures, stance and energy.  They react to your voice—the tone and pitch.  Audiences, whether one or one hundred, instinctively size up your motives and attitudes.

We can all benefit from a review of the first impressions we make. Before your next important business encounter, review this checklist.

Prepare.  Learn as much as you can in advance about your audience’s motives, needs and interests. Establish goals.  What do you want to happen as a result of this encounter?  Organize your thoughts and rehearse out loud.

Absorb.  Quickly take in the mood of the audience.  Are they skeptics?  Eager? Relaxed?  Excited?  Get your “radar” up.

Listen.  Trust your instincts.  Be sensitive to recent events that may influence the group’s mood.  You may need to adjust your approach.

Control.  You can set the tone by appearing confident and friendly.  It puts others at ease. Use graceful gestures and avoid sharp moves.

Emote.  Your body reflects your feelings, whether you’re aware of it or not.  Concentrate on your face, especially your eyes—they should be engaged and lively.  Use them to convey sincerity.

Voice.  Pay attention to vocal quality, pitch, tone, pace, and volume.  Record yourself, monitoring what you hear for variety, commitment, and authority.

You are the message, and that is never more true than in first impressions. If you’re in control of the composite message you send via your face, body, voice and attitude, you’re on your way to success in any business situation.

Author & communications consultant Jon Kraushar may be reached at 212 685-8157 or jon@jonkraushar.com.



The Magic Bullet: Make Them Like You and Your Ideas Will Soar

If you want to influence others, one trait is so much more powerful than all others: I call it the “magic bullet.”  With it, your audience will forgive just about anything you do wrong.  Without it, you can hit every bull’s eye in the room and no one will be impressed.

The magic bullet is being likable as a speaker.  In politics, the “like vote” can swing elections.  The same phenomenon shapes our business environment and forms the basis of most negotiations.

Those who can be tough-minded but likable have the best chance to join the management elite.  That’s because the business arena is wide open to public scrutiny and requires winning the goodwill—the “like” votes—of constituencies.  These constituents include employees, investors, government regulators, consumer activists and the news media. As Irving Shapiro, former Dupont CEO said in an interview, “Today (the CEO) is a quasi-public official who needs as much skill in dealing with people as any Senator.”

The most common failings of today’s business leaders are qualities that used to be considered “natural” in a boss.  At least one-third of my clients are too arrogant or aggressive.  Many of them are technically brilliant executives, but they fail to win support from subordinates and co-workers.  Sometimes they alienate clients.  Their logic and analysis may be correct, but their manner is so abrasive that they lose “like” votes—which can torpedo their progress, and even their jobs.

One CEO of a major retailing firm told me that he was on the verge of firing a$400,000-a year-executive who was a consistently good bottom line performer: “I hate his guts.  Not only that, everybody on the board hates his guts.  He has a big mouth and he irritates his peers as well.”

I met with the executive.  I told him that he was rude, condescending, thin-skinned and enormously talented.  He shifted in his chair, looked at me disdainfully, and brandished his cigar like a cattle prod.  But he was disarmed by my candor.

We had six two-hour meetings.  When we played back tapes, he was shocked at how intensely unlikable he appeared.  He used put-down phrases: “You don’t understand,” “Well, obviously,” and “Let me explain something to you."

He communicated impatience and disrespect: interrupting frequently, scowling, rolling his eyes, and sighing.  Over time, he learned to listen better, elicit others’ ideas, exercise diplomacy and laugh—especially at himself.

No one can tell you how to be more likable.  For the executive I advised, showing made the difference.  But the concrete suggestions that helped him may help you:

Be considerate. Make listeners comfortable.

Get off to a good start.  A strong, warm, responsive beginning puts you in control.

Choose your words. Try to talk so your listener can understand you.

Persuade.  Requests work better than orders.

Relate.  Be enthusiastic and react naturally.  Don’t hide behind a deadpan expression.

Be patient. People think at different speeds.

Read between the lines. Some people have personal problems.  If someone doesn’t seem to be absorbing what you’re saying, don’t immediately assume that he isn’t buying your story.

Admit your weaknesses, when appropriate.  You will gain respect and understanding.

Pay compliments. They express your awareness and make people want to please you.

Express thanks. You’ll gain support.

Finally, consider Lord Chesterfield’s advice:  “Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so.”

Author & communications consultant Jon Kraushar may be reached at 212 685-8157 or jon@jonkraushar.com.



Lighten Up!  Stuffed Shirts Have Short Careers

The only advice some of my clients need when they come to see me can be summed up in two words: “Lighten up!”  It’s ironic, but your career can depend on whether you get serious about taking yourself less seriously.

According to executive recruiters, for 7 out of 10 people who lose their jobs, the cause isn’t a lack of skill—it’s personality conflicts.  The management newsletter Bottom Line Personal reports a similar finding: “As an executive reaches middle management and beyond, the primary criteria for advancement are communication and motivation skills, rather than job performance.  Relations with superiors and peers are also crucial.”

The bottom line: “Top management promotes people it likes.”

What’s the most common reason someone isn’t liked in business?  He takes himself too seriously.  He has no sense of humor.

It’s important to take your job seriously.  But people who take themselves too seriously tend to believe that their title or their intelligence makes them more important than others.  Think of something really foolish that you did: would you be comfortable telling others about it and laughing along with them?

What a sense of humor measures is your ability to see things through someone else’s eyes—to recognize that others are like us.

According to researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership, “insensitivity to others, abrasiveness, and aloofness” often seem to be the factors that derail the careers of otherwise talented executives. Ask yourself these questions:

• When someone comes to me with a problem, what’s my first reaction?  Do I shift gears and listen—or put him off and hope he’ll go away?

• How often do I find myself complaining about something?

• Do I take a lot of satisfaction in lecturing people or being tough with them?

• When someone tells me a new idea, do I look for an objection to puncture his balloon?

• Do I feel cheated by fate—in my career or in life?  Do I think others around me have gotten ahead largely through luck?

• Do I still blame my parents for my problems?

• How often do I use the word “I”?

The idea is to get a sense of how positively you respond to what’s going on around you.  If you came out on the “self absorbed” side of even one of these questions, you need to lighten up.  You’re wearing out your friends, family, and co-workers.

The most important question you face in your career and your life may be this: Do you bring other people up or down?

Author & communications consultant Jon Kraushar may be reached at 212 685-8157 or jon@jonkraushar.com.

The following three columns have been excerpted or reprinted in several publications, including Newsweek and SUCCESS magazines.  Based on reader responses, the advice has proven valuable to communicators for a wide range of audiences, including voters, investors, clients, prospects, shareholders, securities analysts and the news media. For a fuller treatment of the subjects covered, please see the book, You Are the Message, by Roger Ailes with Jon Kraushar, chosen as one of the “year’s best” business books by The Wall Street Journal and published by Doubleday.  The book, Kindle, or audiotape of You Are the Message, by Roger Ailes with Jon Kraushar can be ordered at amazon.com online.  To contact Jon Kraushar, call 212 685-8157.

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