Seven Seconds: How to Crush Your First Impression


This blog was originally published on 11/26/2018 and updated on 10/22/2020.

Seven seconds.

That’s all the time you have to make a first impression, and you need to make a good one.

But how?

Watch these short two-minute videos to find out what you need to do during those seven seconds. 

(Hint: It’s not confidence, and you don’t get there by asking yes-oriented questions. You also don’t get there by clubbing them with their first name over and over again.)




The First Impression

Did you catch that? 

Whether you’re a hostage negotiator in the middle of a crisis or a businessman looking to make an introduction, you’re faced with the same challenge: establishing rapport quickly.

This is the difference between whether someone lets you in or shuts you out. 

Whatever you do, don’t turn the other side off. And remember, you’ve only got seven seconds to make it happen.

Does your negotiation strategy fit their personality? Use this guide to  negotiate successfully with anyone »

The Lasting Impression

A subtle truth that most people miss is the fact that the first impression is actually not the most important impression.

We have a saying here at Black Swan: The last impression is the lasting impression.

Did you know that you can get away with a mediocre first impression as long as the last impression is on point? At the same time, you absolutely cannot get away with a second-rate last impression.

Why? Because the last impression is the lasting impression.

HubSpot Video


The Oprah Rule

No matter what, you need to make sure people feel that they’re being treated well and that they’re well regarded all the time—but especially at the end. The Black Swan Group refers to this as the Oprah Rule because it’s a rule that Oprah and her staff are known to live by.

People don’t remember things the way they happened. They don’t remember events chronologically. Following every interaction, they remember two things: the most intense moment and how the exchange ended.

Interestingly enough, the ending is often where people say the wrong thing—whether it’s in an email, a phone call, or face to face

I’ve had this happen to me time and time again: In an effort to get the last word in, my counterpart will say or write something like this: I would remind you that everything is negotiable or I would remind you that we brought you into this deal in the first place or some other version of I would remind you ... 

Every time someone does this to me, it always tips me away from them. Every time.

What Is the Impression Hack?

If you want to nail your impression and be remembered well, take whatever you planned to use to open the communication on a positive note and either move it to the end or use it verbatim at both the beginning and the end. Always use something that is completely true and completely positive. 

Remember, the last impression is the lasting impression, and you don’t want to leave them in a bad frame of mind.

Here’s an example: We’d love to work this out with you in a way that makes us both better off.

This is a great way to be both honest and positive. After all, you wouldn’t be talking to them at all if this weren’t true.

Nail the first impression in the first seven seconds, finish on a positive and friendly note, and make it rain!

Now that you have a better idea of how you can make the person across the table like you off the bat and think fondly of you when the conversation is over, it’s time to learn more about your counterpart and what makes them tick. 

Check out our free guide, Three Negotiator Types, so you can quickly identify whether you’re dealing with an Assertive, an Accommodator, or an Analyst during your next negotiation.

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Chris Voss

About The Author

Christopher Voss is the CEO of The Black Swan Group, a firm that solves business negotiation problems with hostage negotiation strategies. Chris founded the Black Swan Group, in 2008 upon his retirement from the FBI where he was the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Chris is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business where he teaches business negotiation in both M.B.A. programs.