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DeMarais and White have managed to find an untouched corner of the self-help world -- and a valuable one at that. As they point out, research shows that first impressions last a long time. And as we meet people, we create first impressions on dates, business meetings and job interviews.
Writing in accessible self-help style, the authors identify the "seven fundamentals of first impressions." These seven chapters make up the meat of the book. The authors discuss specific ways to show interest: body language, eye contact, name usage.
For instance, the chapter "Enough about me" encourages readers to show interest in their conversational partners.
The authors hold our interest -- and communicate effectively -- with examples and dialogues. Some of the advice seems fairly obvious (maintain eye contact, avoid closed-end questions) but much is new and useful (live vs. faux listening).
At the end of each chapter, the author not only list positive behaviors (e.g., make eye contact) but also show what each behavior communicates (e.g., "interested, socially aware"). They then list miscommunication behaviors in a clever chart form: "If you do this ("listen inactively") you may think you seem ... (neutral) but you may seem ... (uninterested).
I found the "you may think you seem" a little off-putting. Maybe we engage in these behaviors automatically without realizing how we seem! Or maybe these behaviors demonstrate an aspect of our personality.
However, that's a small quibble, easy to ignore.
The section on topics was one of the fun ones, although perhaps useful only in a social, i.e., dating, context. Don't go too deep into your own favorite topic, they say. Put some topics on the table and keep going.
I must say I love talking to people about their specialties. That's the writer/journalist in me! The authors describe "Ray," who delivered a monologue on washing machines, to his bored seatmate on an airplane flight. They suggest saying, "That's interesting. I don't know much about washing machines, but I do know about film..."
I must admit I'd have interrogated the poor man about his field, hoping to learn something to help with my own laundry day. I once sat next to a veterinarian on a long, dreary plane ride, and learned a lot of useful information about cats. Now that I have a dog...
I resonated to the 4 "wrong" styles of conversation: story telling, lecturing, sermonizing and telling jokes. I do all of those, though hopefully not on a first meeting!
The authors offer some tips for corrective action, which can be summed up as enhanced self-awareness. However, their strengths lie not in making change, but in identifying varieties of violations.
Although the authors briefly discuss "heavy" topics, they might have gone more deeply into reasons for varying degrees of disclosure. For instance, most people ask casually, "Do you have children? Brothers and sisters?" All seemingly innocent questions -- but I know someone whose only daughter died, someone whose father disappeared and others who have legitimate reasons for avoiding those topics. We could use some tips for maintaining a relationship along with our privacy.
Additionally, as a career coach, I wish the authors had discussed culture and gender differences that can create misunderstanding -- the material Deborah Tannen handles so well. They do include informative research highlights but I'd have liked to see more detailed suggestions in the main text. For instance, in many subcultures, men are given more leeway to talk about themselves and to use a lecturing style.
And, as Tannen says, a New Yorker interrupts while a southerner (especially a southern woman) will be trained to be more polite and reticent. When you're meeting a new person in a new field, company, or region, you need to pick up cues to clarify what's considered appropriate behavior.
Finally, the authors could have used their corporate business experience to identify unique elements of business and career first impressions. Certain behaviors create good first impressions during job interviews, sales meetings and first days on the job.
The last two chapters were extremely valuable and could have been expanded: How to overcome a bad first impression and How to cut others some slack, so you won't let a bad first impression deny you a relationship. I'd have liked to see an additional chapter on the second, third and fourth meetings, which often can be trickier than the first. By setting up a second meeting (especially in a dating context) you've indicated a willingness to proceed. Now what?
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 9, 2004
You may be looking for a new job and are facing the unnerving prospect of numerous interviews. Perhaps you are looking for a soul mate. Or maybe you have a meeting with an important new client. Like it or not, in each of these cases the first impression you give to others will go a long way towards determining whether you will succeed or fail in what it is you are trying to accomplish.

"First Impressions: What You Don't Know About How Others See You" is not the sort of book I would generally read. But given the fact that I find myself in one of the above situations I thought it might be a useful read. Indeed it was! Ann Desmarais and Valerie White give the reader plenty of food for thought in this thought provoking and entertaining book. The heart and soul of this book are what the authors describe as "The Seven Fundamentals of a First Impression." How accessable am I? Am I willing to open myself up to the other person? Do I show genuine interest in what the other person has to say or is the conversation all about me? Can I add interesting topics to the conversation? Do others percieve me as distant and withdrawn or do they find interaction with me interesting and engaging? These are just a few of the fascinating questions discussed here. In addition, there are a series of extremely useful exercises designed to help the reader see where they stack up on these issues.

At the end of the day, just about everyone regardless of their station in life could glean some useful information from "First Impressions". Whether the lessons learned here assists you in making that better first impression yourself, or perhaps makes you a bit more forgiving when someone else stumbles and leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it should prove to be most helpful. A surprisingly good book. Highly recommended.
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on October 16, 2006
Go ahead and buy this book, and act on the authors advice, and watch how subtle changes in first impressions can make a big difference. Probably the best among us will find something to learn to make it worthwhile reading.

That said, the authors do overstate their advice. First impressions have an important part in social encounters, but they don't determine indefinitly how others perceive you. For example, in one story the authors describe one of their clients who took some time to warm up during a simulated date, but was otherwise socially adept. But they explain, by then it was "too late" to make a positive impression. In reality, the chances are that intelligent people from all walks of life can understand that it is natural for someone to take some time to open up to someone they meet for the first time, and won't hold you to it. Just think about the people in your life; probably quite a few of them didn't make a great impression on you the first time you met them, and you probably didn't either.

But of course, the authors have built a large consulting business purely focused on training their clients to make good first impressions. You wouldn't expect them to downplay its importance.

Overall, its a recommended read, as long as you keep in mind that first impressions are not a substitute for a lack of other much more important social skills you will need for building meaningful relationships.
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on June 9, 2004
No matter what your lot in life is if you want to hold your end in a conversation you need to read this book.Whether your at a party and having casual talk, having a business meeting or a first date even if you think you are a great talker this will help.
The book shows how to start a conversation all the way to the end it shows how body langauge affects peoples view of you along with other aspects and how they affect your conversation everything as the flow the topics you talk about and even how sex appeal has bearing on it.
At the end of each chapter there is a checklist that you can fill out to see what areas you may need to work on.
These methods seem pretty sensible and must work as the two ladies who have written this book have a consulating business observing people and how they handle conservation.This will be one of those books that you will keep handy on your bookshelf and refer back to again and again. I definitely recommend this book
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on March 2, 2004
This is the most practical and thorough book I've ever read about the crucial first encounter with a person. The only other book on the subject of relationships that I got as much out of is Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends and Influence People". But "First Impressions" is about getting off on the right foot, and it does a great job of explaining just how to do it.
It seems that a ton of books pay lip service as to WHY the first impression is so important. But then none of them go on for more than a page or two to explain WHAT to do about it. Have you ever read a REALLY GOOD analysis of what's happening during that first conversation? I hadn't -- not until I read this book.
I bought this book because I wanted to improve my "meeting people" skills. I found that the book applied to business encounters, dating, interviewing, and virtually any time I want to make a good impression with someone I'm meeting for the first time.
I don't have a high opinion of many self-help books because too often they turn out to be only simplistic, common-sense anecdotes. But this book is different. It is a thorough, readable, practical guide about how to successfully begin a social or business relationship, and I whole-heartedly recommend it.
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on May 14, 2004
Being a cynic and a successful business man I had some reservations about this genre of books but this one is exceptionally well written and I read it cover to cover in just a few hours. So if the book only contained a single good idea it would be worth reading. The thing is: This little gem contains more good ideas than I can count, so it is definitely worth the time and money!
"First impressions" is great not because it contains useful advice but also because it makes me think about the way I interact with clients and that alone is useful.
Great book, highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon August 7, 2004
I bought this book about a month before starting a new job and it completely changed my approach to meeting people. It gave me confidence in social situations where previously I'd been very stand-offish, shy or awkward. I actually "worked the room" at an all-staff party held the week I started my job. Not only did I feel confident, I actually had a blast at an event that I normally would've hated.

I wish I'd read this book in college because it might've changed my whole social and career path. It gives concrete examples of how to approach people and what to talk about. It lets you see how some of your current behavior, which you may think is benign, actually works to portray you negatively to others. It's informative but not patronizing.

The most important thing I got from this book was the definition of "charisma." I think we'd all like to be more charismatic! I never thought that term would apply to me, but now that I understand how charisma works I believe I'm getting the hang of it.

This is an easy to read, entertaining and informative book that I recommend to anyone who'd like to feel more confident in any social situation.
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VINE VOICEon January 31, 2009
This book offers some good pointers if you're headed out on a blind date or want to wow 'em at the singles bar. If you're headed for a job interview, enh, I'm not so sure. The focus is clearly on initial impressions, rather than on authentic or lasting impressions. Moreover, the focus is clearly on social / dating interactions moreso than business interactions. Case in point, the authors state that sex appeal is one of the seven fundamental elements of a first impression.

The authors describe four social gifts: appreciation, connection (finding someting in common with another person), elevation (lifting their spirits, turning a negative into a positive), and enlightenment (being able to share interesting information). If we give these four gifts to others in appropriate balance, we are seen as charismatic; we are liked.

The authors next describe the seven fundamentals of a first impression, which are:
*Accessibility - opening the door, seeming approachable and safe, offering a smile and a handshake or hello
*Showing interest - listening, maintaining eye contact
*Topics of conversation - nothing too quirky, nothing too detailed
*Self-disclosure- knowing when & what to reveal about yourself
*Conversational dynamics - energy, rhythm, interruptions
*Perspective - how you see the world -- are you bossy & in control or free-spirited, and
*Sex appeal.

At the end of each chapter addressing a fundamental, there is a lengthy checklist for troubleshooting first impression problems -- offending behaviors are described -- "If You do This", followed by comments on how others may react to those behaviors -_"You May Seem . . . ", followed by "Do I Do This?" with a space to check usually, rarely, or sometimes. It's like a 402-point car tune-up.

An awareness of how certain behaviors may cause others to react is certainly useful, but the checklist for ridding our conversations of all such behaviors seemed a little much. My difficulty with the book is that it starts from the premise that we should modify our behavior and present ourselves in a way that will make EVERYONE like us. There's no focus on authenticity. Nor is there a focus on creating an impression of competence, intelligence, passion, quirkiness -- it's all about being likeable. The book reads as a popularity guide, an updated version of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People, aimed at the dating and social networking set.

Personally, I appreciate people who are a bit offbeat and quirky. Someone who chooses converses passionately about an oddball topic is more interesting than someone who offers bland chit-chat about what's above the fold on the front page of the paper. Sure, not everyone will be interested in the oddball topic -- but so what. If I were having a conversation with someone who was guided by the checklists in this book, I would feel patronized, like I'm being sold a bill of goods, like I'm talking to someone who is following someone else's recipe for being a good conversationalist rather than a real person. It's all so formulaic. The formula may help someone on a first date get a second date, and it may help a salesman get an office meeting, but at some point, you want to talk to a genuine person following his/her own recipe.

One particularly interesting point -- what the authors call "trait transfer." In talking about others, the traits we describe in others are often attributed to us. If I talk about my nit-picky boss, I will be perceived as nit-picky. If I describe my lazy child, I will be seen as lazy.

That said, the book provides useful information and can no doubt make the unknowing aware of how their conversational style may cause others to react. The guidance is useful for someone who wants to improve his/her ability to make a good first impression as a charismatic, likeable person.
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on March 8, 2004
I am a psychologist and business coach and I found this book right on the mark: it gives excellent, practical advice for making a positive first impression. There are many such "how-to" books on the market, but this one stands out for the quality of its writing and its reliance on the research literature in social psychology and interpersonal effectiveness. It reads as an intelligent, but not overly pedantic or dry guide to making the most of one's personal assets in any new situation.
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on February 9, 2006
I bought this book as an afterthought, so I was probably helped a bit by not having overly high expectations. High expectations or not, I found it a very interesting and informative read. It was much more than just a shallow "Dress for Success" kind of book- I felt it delved into a lot of waters for social interaction that while seemingly simple and obvious can often go overlooked. I also liked the use of research and studies to support some of the theories of the authors and give the book more credibility. A lot of the ideas about being a more unselfish listener, showing interest in others, being warm and smiling and making eye contact probably are instinctive for most people, but even people with pretty solid social skills can glean some good affirmation and inspiration from this book. It will do more than just help you make a better first impression, it will help you feel more equipped for about any impression in the early stages of friendship and relationship.
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