My good friend, Malcolm, told me that he attended a leadership class recently.  It was both an exhilarating and brutal course.   The teacher expertly built up the members.  Where needed, she ripped apart each of the participants.

At the end of the week-long seminar, the teacher explained that during the first hour of each class, she grades everyone in the class regarding their leadership skills.  She said that she had never been wrong about her first impression until that week.  She pointed to Malcolm.

“I saw you as a person who would never become a president or CEO of a large organization.  However, after a week of observing you, I’ve totally changed my mind.”  Then she explained that had her end-of-the-week impression was that he was the top participant and would be the most successful. Yet, because of his first impression, she could not give him that place.  She explained that he must work on his first-impression skills.

Until recently, there has been little scientific evidence regarding what makes up a first impression.  However new research by psychologists Laura Naumann of Sonoma State University and Sam Gosling of The University of Texas at Austin give important information.  Most of it is common sense.  Yet, these are things which are important enough to review.  In reality, making a first impression is the same advice your mother gave you.

1.  Smile.  

2.  Maintain a relaxed poise, rather than tense and nervous.

3.  Be neat and clean.

4.  Healthy people make the best impressions.

5.  Develop your own distinctive style.

People who are naturally expressive are the ones who say to others, “I’m worth your time.  You can get to know me and you will enjoy it.”

Within the mentally challenged community and as a ministry leader, you will need to make first impressions often.  There are many people from whom you need to garner support.  These constituents are members of the mentally challenged community, parents, pastors, professionals, and all of your fellow Christians.

There is one thing that you can do which will enhance your first impression.  Remember people love to talk about themselves.  Therefore, ask the person questions about him or herself.  Does this sound too hard?  It did to me when I first began practicing this important skill.  I learned by memorizing a set of questions.  As I became more relaxed at asking questions, I found that our surroundings provide me with the information I need to formulate the inquiry.

What are some of the things you can do to enhance your first-impression skills?  Do you find that you are a good judge of people when you first meet them?