Seven Seconds: How to Crush Your First Impression


How much time do you have to make a first impression? Seven seconds.

To find out what you need to establish during those seven seconds, start by watching these short, two-minute videos. (Hint: It’s not confidence, and you don’t get there by asking “yes” questions. You also don’t get there by clubbing them with their first name.)




The First Impression

Did you catch that? Whether you’re a hostage negotiator on the scene 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 blocks you out. Whatever you do, don’t turn the other side off. And remember, you’ve only got seven seconds to make it happen.

The Lasting Impression

A subtle truth that most people miss is that the first impression is actually not the most important impression. What’s more important? The last impression. The fact is that 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? However, you absolutely cannot get away with a second-rate last impression.

The last impression is the lasting impression.

The Oprah Rule

No matter what, you need to make sure people feel well-treated and 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 how they happened. They don’t remember events chronologically. What they remember is the most intense moment and how the exchange ended.

Interestingly enough, the ending is often where people say the wrong thing, whether in an email, a phone call, or face-to-face. I’ve had this happen to me time and again, where my counterpart, in an effort to get in the last word will say (or write something like), “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.

Seven Seconds How to Crush Your First Impression (v2)

What’s 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.

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. And finish positively.

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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.