2018 study found that people form an opinion about someone in just 27 seconds. And boy, does that sound harsh. You’ve barely finished saying “how do you do,” when already, you’re judging each other? Yikes.
Now, of course, this study isn’t saying that it only takes 27 seconds to get to know a person. That would be ridiculous. We’ve all seen enough rom coms and teen flicks to know that sometimes, longtime enemies become friends, and vice versa. First impressions are not always right and it takes way longer than 27 seconds to judge someone’s character.
But in the dating world, sometimes all you have is a first impression.
Think about it: the way modern dating works, first impressions are everything. If you’re on a dating app, you swipe right or left based on an image and a short bio. That’s a 27-second decision if I ever saw one… and that’s if you’re really taking your time.
If you meet up for a blind date and you’re not immediately charmed by your sister’s-friend’s-cousin’s-barber in the time it takes to sip a latte, you’ll probably never call back.
Generally, there isn’t a second chance.
We’re not in one of those rom coms where the cute stranger sits next to you in chemistry every day and eventually, you start to understand his/her charm. This also isn’t a Jane Austen novel where, apparently, there are only about seven eligible men in the town and you and Mr. Darcy keep bumping into each other at parties.
In real life, when a first impression isn’t good, you don’t waste your time. You look for love elsewhere.
On one hand, this quick decision-making is probably a good thing. You know who you’re attracted to and what kind of person you want to date. A strong first impression (especially if it’s negative) can save you a lot of time. Then again, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t make a good first impression, you could be missing out on love.
While that 2018 study gave us all kinds of anxiety about quick judgements, luckily, the study also gave us a cheat sheet so we know what makes the biggest impression in that first 27 seconds.
Here are seven things to focus on in order to make a good impression for your next date.
62 percent of those surveyed reported that strangers who acted arrogantly made a bad first impression on them.
We didn’t exactly need a study to tell us that no one likes spending time with an arrogant person… especially on a date. There’s nothing worse than a dinner date where the person across from you only talks about how awesome they are from appetizers to dessert.
Of course, sometimes after a particularly good day at work, we all might get the urge to brag now and then. But if you’re looking to make a good impression, and maybe even land a relationship, it’s important to show your modest side, especially on that first date.
Sure, you can mention your achievements (especially if your date asks), but try to stay humble. It’s okay to show off the great things about you, but remember that your goal should really be to learn about your date—and find out if you two have a connection.
Audrey Hepburn once said, “Happy girls are the prettiest” (and that goes for gentlemen too). A smile can be your best friend when it comes to first impressions: it makes your face look warm and friendly. It brightens your eyes and makes people feel more comfortable with you, plus, 53 percent of people said it contributed to a good first impression.
Of course, don’t try too hard and end up with a forced smile (a creepy grin held for too long will probably have your date calling for an Uber). Still, remember the power of your pearly whites.
To enhance my smile, I like to use an at-home teeth whitener. It’s cheap, easy, and if my teeth are looking a little yellow one day, I can get myself looking like the star of a toothpaste commercial—fast. But, if you really want to invest in your teeth, lots of people go professional and get their teeth whitened at the dentist’s office.
Also, before you go out, put on some lip gloss (or chapstick) to bring attention to your lips. Your grin will surely make your date smile too!
Don’t you hate it when you’re at dinner with someone and he or she doesn’t say “please” or “thank you” to the waitstaff? Do you cringe when a date burps and doesn’t say “excuse me?”
Apparently a lot of people are bothered by bad manners, as the survey found that 53 percent reported that politeness contributed to making a good impression.
Of course, if you’re not the kind of person who keeps your pinky out or puts your napkin on your lap, don’t feel like you need to do an Emily Gilmore impression and follow every point of etiquette for the benefit of your date. Who knows, maybe your perfect match has the same habits as you, and asking for a salad fork might freak them out.
Still, it’s important to be polite, which means being kind and courteous. The rule is simple: be nice and your date will probably like you more.
Making eye contact
49 percent of those surveyed found that eye contact was very important to that first impression. This, of course, comes as no surprise.
Making eye contact means that you’re focused on that person, you’re talking directly to them or listening intently. Eye contact can be intimate, meaningful, and powerful. Failing to meet someone’s gaze can make you seem standoffish, cold, or disinterested.
Keep in mind though, too much hardcore eye contact can be intimidating, so don’t over do it. Make eye contact, but give your gaze a break, too. Sometimes looking away coyly can be flirty. When you’re telling a story or making gestures, it’s okay to look up or around a bit. Plus, if you’re on a dinner date, you should glance down at your food every so often too. After all, you’ll both have to look away at some point if you want to make sure you get your meal to your mouth, and not on your lap.
Dressing to impress
While personality is much more important than looks, when it comes to first impressions, it’s hard to not judge appearance. It might not be fair to judge a book by it’s cover… but sometimes we just can’t help it. Appearance is one of the easiest thing to judge quickly, and as this study shows, people put a good amount of focus on looks: a whopping 49 percent of people were put off by poor clothing choices.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to wear a ball gown or start buying designer everything (in fact, for some people, brand names and too much focus on appearance could be a turnoff) but it’s still important to make yourself presentable. Know which colors look good on you, pick out clothes that fit well, make sure that everything you wear is clean and unwrinkled.
Personally, I’m guilty of some sloppy dressing. I wear jeans and jackets too many times in a row without washing them, and am always embarrassed when I find a ketchup stain on my sweater from the day before. I’m also terrible at finding clothes that “go together” and often find myself texting photos of outfits to friends to get their opinion.
If you’re like me and have trouble with style, you might consider putting together a few good-looking outfits to wear on first dates ahead of time. Remember that if you look good, you’re more likely to leave a great impression.
Being a good listener
Just kidding. Of course you should be a good listener! In fact, the study found that 48% of people think it’s an important attribute when making a first impression. You might be thinking that there won’t be much to listen to within just 27 seconds of meeting, but there’s nothing worse than introducing yourself to someone, saying something pleasant or making a joke, and realizing that they weren’t paying attention to what you were saying.
Whenever I meet someone new, even if I only talk to them for a few minutes, I try to remember something about them. It might be that their birthday is coming up or that they’re planning to go camping. Then, when I see them next, I ask them about that thing I remembered.
It makes people feel good, knowing that someone cared to remember something about them, and it’s always nice to feel like you’re being listened to. Doing this on dates will let your partner know that you’re truly interested in getting to know them.
Say sorry to your Tinder profile for me, because any work you do to make corrections in this category won’t matter there. Still, this will be a big one when you two love birds finally meet in person. As it turns out, 46 percent of people really care about how someone smells and are turned off by someone with a stench.
But don’t take this as permission to lather on the cologne or spritz perfume high and low. A heavy, artificial aroma can be just as bad as B.O.
Your best bet is just to bathe regularly, use deodorant, and pop a mint every so often.
It’s also important to mention that some strong reactions to body odor could be due to pheromones, and if this is the case, there might not be much you can do to help it. If someone smells bad to you, this might be a sign that your immune systems are less suited for healthy reproduction (Smithsonian). I know, I know, this might not be the sexiest thing to talk about on a first date… but it’s science.
You may only have 27 seconds to make a good first impression, but now that you know which features to focus on, you’re sure to rock that first date from the moment you walk in the door. One great first impression can turn into a fabulous first date, and perhaps, the start of a future together.