Earlier this month, Susannah admitted that she can tell how a date will go within the first three seconds. Turns out, she’s only about four seconds faster than average at sizing up a potential mate. Linda Blair, clinical psychologist and author of Straight Talking, says: “‘It takes only seven seconds for us to judge another person when we first meet them,” explaining that this subconscious behavior goes back to our “primitive roots when we couldn’t afford to make wrong decisions.” Judi James, author of The Body Language Bible, agrees, and explains: “We’re looking primarily to see if we should feel threatened, but we also make several assumptions about attraction and personality. … Because we tend to be time-poor, we use assumption as a short-cut, meaning if you don’t get it right first time you might not get another chance.”
This not only spells potential trouble for the person we’re sizing up, but it can be disastrous for us when we’re the ones being judged. After the jump, a few expert tips for passing the seven-second test yourself.
- Pull yourself up to full height because it will make you look confident, and relax muscle tension that can make you appear stressed.
- Smile! When you smile at someone, they will usually smile back, so it’s the perfect way to strike a rapport, says image consultant Karen Gillam. But make sure your smile is real. A natural smile will fade slowly: switch it on too fast or let it drop too soon and it doesn’t feel sincere.
- Make sure you have your bag in your left hand so that your right is free for handshakes. A University of Iowa study found a solid handshake is more important than dress or appearance when establishing an impression in an interview.
- Use open gestures, rather than folding your arms or crossing your legs.
- Pay the occasional compliment — “I like your dress” or whatever — but don’t be insincere or overdo it, or you’ll come across as a crawler.
- Finally, although your appearance plays second fiddle to body language, it does have an impact, explains Karen. Make sure your outfit suits the occasion, your shoes are polished and don’t douse yourself in perfume.