Four to eight seconds.
That’s how long you have to make a good first impression. And you don’t get a second chance. Best be nailing it out of the gates. The way to do that — whether you’re on a date, at an interview or sitting behind the witness stand — is to come prepared.
For that, we tapped Joe Navarro, a 25-year FBI veteran who worked on the National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program. Translation: he made people talk with a super-advanced aptitude for non-verbal communication. And he’s written a handful of international best-sellers on the matter.
“Eighty percent of what we communicate is nonverbal,” says Navarro. “The goal in that amount of time should be psychological comfort.”
Here are some tips he offered us on how to accomplish just that.
Fittingly, we met with Navarro at the launch of Dollar Shave Club’s new Big Cloud line for men, where he impressed upon us the basics of good hygiene. Do: smell decent. Do: dress the part. Don’t: groom in public. “Preening is perceived as weak,” he says. Fix yourself before you enter a room or hole up somewhere private to do maintenance. Pro tip: DSC’s Good Shake Hand Creme is good for guys — soaks fast into the hand and has a subtle scent. Preps a fella well for the next step.
No one forgets that dead-fish handshake. Navarro notes that the best thing to do is mirror the shaker’s strength. A firm handshake is best, but don’t go HAM. It’s not a competition. Give eye contact and a smile, but not in abundance so as to creep a person out. One to two pumps is plenty. Anything more borders on uncomfortable.
Mind the feet. Yours and theirs. Feet pointed toward a person is a sign of engagement. So if it’s an air of confidence you wish to command, plant those puppies firm. Conversely, “people often cross their legs in comfortable situations.” Trying to put someone at ease? Cross away.
Take note of the hands. Yours and theirs. Closed, woven and fidgeting hands are a sign of discomfort. Open-palm, open-fingered gestures, on the other hand, convey comfort and engagement. And steepling the hands while speaking shows self-assuredness.
The Comfort Dividend
When men are tense they tend to ventilate their jackets, tighten their lips and grab their necks. Be wary of how you display your discomfort. “Repetitive behaviors are self-serving behaviors,” says Navarro.
On the flipside, making others comfortable is the key to winning them over. And the way to make someone comfortable, says Navarro, is noticing when they are not. The turned-away feet, the wringing hands, the tense lips, the furrowed brow ... If you see these signs, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed to get back into the green.
For more on Navarro, including his online course in non-verbal communication, head over to his website.