The importance of first impressions when dating

Image Concepts’ founder Jennifer Austin is an image expert on visual presentation and first impression management. As an image consultant, coach, trainer, lecturer and speaker, she combines her experience and research on clothing psychology to help individuals and organisations to be able to control how they’re perceived in a first impression, and maximise their ability to influence, by creating a professional image of success.

Man and woman date

We’ve switched it up and decided to ask Jennifer about the importance of first impressions in our dating lives rather than our professional lives. We ask her what things we notice first when forming a first impression of someone on a date, as well as how much of a part clothing comes into play when making or forming an impression.

Jennifer Austin, Image Concepts
Jennifer Austin. Image supplied.

Why are first impressions so important on a first date?

A first impression is everything. Relationships are based on trust and connection, so if you get this right in the first meeting, this will carry through – and there’ll be chances of a second date.

So, what happens when you get that wrong?

Science says two things about this: when you have a bad first impression, he or she will find things that confirm their initial opinion of you and make their judgement valid (this is called confirmation bias). The other thing is it takes seven meetings to reform a bad first impression, and a lot of us don’t ever really get that opportunity. So, essentially, you only have one chance to make a good first impression!

How long does it take to make a first impression?

Based on science it takes about seven to 10 seconds.

urban girl fashion

What are the things we notice first when forming a first impression of someone on a date?

When we first meet someone, we notice their appearance and their clothes; whether they’re tall or short; and their body language (are they fidgety or relaxed?). We notice their facial expression (serious or pleasant); if they have high energy or low energy; their voice and tonality (do they speak fast or slow?). Another thing we notice is their grooming (nails, hair odour). Based on this list of physical characteristics, it’s clear that it’s not just what they say that has us deciding whether we like them or not.

How much of a part does clothing come into play when making/forming a first impression?

Your nonverbal cues (which include the clothes you wear) are 55% of how people form their first impression of you. The clothes that you wear set the tone and are a big part of how you come across. However, the other nonverbal cues like body language, facial expressions, tone, posture and grooming are also very important.

All of these combined represent your image and your personal brand. Whether it’s on a date, in a job interview or during social gatherings, people are trying to decide who you are based on your appearance.

urban girl fashion

What are some tips you could suggest for forming a great impression on a date?

Have a think about how you want to come across and how you want to be perceived. Do you want to be smart, playful and sporty, or something else? Once you’ve decided how you want to come across then you should look at how style and colour helps you convey this.

Positive body language is also very important – it has to suggest trust and credibility. Hold your head high and feel confident, make eye contact, sit and stand up straight without being too stiff, use open body language (face the person speaking, square your body directly toward others and without folded arms). Smile, be present, stay away from your phone. People know when you zone out, and so it’s important to remember that listening is just as important as talking.

Do you have any other tips for dressing as the best version of yourself for a first date?

Dressing for a date is not just about being stylish and wearing the right brands. Firstly, it’s important to dress for the occasion. If you are going on a picnic-style date, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. If you are going to a fancy restaurant, consider wearing one of your more special outfits.

Wherever you are going on your first date, wear clothes that fit you properly. We’ve all accidentally worn clothes that are too loose, too tight or too short, usually just because we love the item. You can wear designer brands, but if it doesn’t fit well it will show in how you carry yourself in the clothes. You want to feel comfortable and be yourself.

Wear styles that suit your body – this is the secret to looking your best. When you look good, you feel good. If you’re not sure what clothes work best for you, have a look at the most flattering items you already have.

Also, it’s always a nice idea to accessorise – accessories have the power to transform your outfit from good to great.