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Everyone knows you are supposed to make a good first impression. Unfortunately no one ever gave us an instruction manual for making a knock-em-dead first impression. First impressions occur so regularly, we hardly acknowledge them . Most of us interact each day with someone new whether it be the deli clerk, a new colleague, a parent at a school meeting, or a waiter or waitress in a restaurant or bar. Today you're going to find out just how important that initial impression is. Then you'll find out what factors go into whether or not you've hit it right. Finally, I'll get very specific. I'm going to show you exactly what to do at the nonverbal level to assure yourself of the best possible outcome in every encounter you have.

I want to show you what the cumulative research shows. Not my opinion, studies and research. 

You're going to get the facts. You're going to learn what really works. You're going to find out what...and why. There will never again be guesswork on your part in that all important first impression. Why is the first impression so important? The first impression is our intial (and sometimes only) chance to supply others with insights about who we are - this insight will usually be a lasting insight. It is also our chance to gain insight about the other person so we are better equipped to make the next move.

Imagine this: You are vacationing in the caribbean, laying in the sun, relaxing. The woman next to you strikes up a conversation. She speaks to you about the weather, the hotel you are both staying at, the staff and the resort. She speaks easily and breezily. You enjoy chatting with this woman and find that conversation just flows well. She packs up her things, bids you farewell and she is gone. In a few short minutes, you feel as though you made a friend. She was pleasant and easy to talk to.

Imagine this: You have just met a new co-worker, he seems very nice. Over lunch you bring this up with your buddy who immediately replies "don't believe it - it's all an act, he is actually trying to take your job away from you and I heard it from a good source". It could be that your friend is incorrect, however, that no longer matters. After you receive this information into your subconscious, it will begin to influence the way you interact with your new co-worker.


This happens to people all the time yet they never understand exactly what is happening. What made that women easier to talk to than some other woman? What made us suddenly question the sincerity of a new co-worker? Its very interesting the way our minds work. Each time we meet someone we take a small slice of their personality, a tiny sample of their entire life, and and form interpretations. In essence, we assume it is a 100% portrayal of their personality.

Once we form an attitude or belief about someone, it takes a lot to change it. In fact, it is almost impossible to reverse a first impression. Studies done indicate that the information people initially take in has much more weight than information later assimilated. Therefore, if your initial impression is poor, you can only hope that many positive interactions will counterbalance the one negative interaction.

That is why it is so important to understand the basics of body language and to understand that every time we speak to someone we say so much with just our eye contact, hand gestures, facial expressions, postural changes and personal space. Once you have begun to understand the basics, you will find yourself becoming comfortable with those of your choosing much more often. You might even come to realize that people you dont care for are attracted to you. Becoming aware of body language and utilizing the tools discussed here will help to make you a people magnet. What does that mean? Well, once you learn how to demonstrate positive body language and build rapport with others, people automatically like you - even if they cannot tell you why they like you. It is as if subconsciously they are saying I like this person because they are just like me" - we tend to like people who are like-minded to us and those we find attractive.

First impressions affect everything and everyone. Studies show that job interviews are basically decided within the first few moments of an encounter and are based more on how much the interviewer likes the applicant as opposed to the requirements of the position or the background of the interviewee. Research out this year (2006) indicates that we determine whether we feel someone is trustworthy in just 1/10 of a second. Did you read that?? 1/10 of a second - a mere blink to conclude whether we have belief, confidence, faith and security about someone. That is pretty powerful. 

I am sure in your own daily life you recognize that some people catch your attention while you barely notice others. whether you are married, dating or single you will always take notice of the most intriguing people. There will always be the girl or the guy who everyone has to look at, who walks into a room and literally fills it up. What is it about those people? They are not always the best looking yet.... there is something incredibly attractive about them. 

So during those first few seconds of an encounter, how are we evaluated, how are we sized up? Well, sometimes it is just with a glance. Within a split second you can see the spark or lack thereof in a person. We are appraised on our visual and behavioral appearance from head to toe. Our demeanor, mannerisms, body language as well as our grooming and accessories are all looked upon and judged.

During the first few seconds of any meeting an important and large part of the impression is already made. Your conversant has made a judgement about you whether you wanted them to or not. Did you smile the right way, walk the right way, stand in a confident position, shake hands the right way? Did you sit in the right position, make enough eye contact, nod your head at the appropriate times? Remember, sometimes it is just about a feeling a person gets about you which of course, comes from the subconscious body language you are giving off. No matter what your verbals say, people will opt to believe your nonverbals. Congruency means everything... Becoming in tune to body language requires you to free your mind and explore your body movements.

The first few seconds is all you have to impress a complete stranger. Before you utter a single word, an impression has already been make by someone which can literally last a lifetime. Take a moment and think about how many times you have walked right past a person, not even picking your head up because you instinctively sensed from somewhere deep inside of you that you had no interest in this person. Perhaps this encounter was from a distance of 30 feet away, how could you possibly tell from such a distance whether or not this person was someone you would be interested in meeting?


How many people do you sum up and judge at a glance? The truth is: first impressions are the most important component of an interaction. Becoming fully aware of how we look (how our hair, our clothes, our grooming even our shape) has a powerful effect on how others perceive us and can make the difference between being ignored (non-person), being accepted, and being absolutely great. Recognizing that others will make several assumptions about you based solely on your initial conduct, you may choose to elect the assumptions which will be made about you.

What image are you projecting? Are you sending a professional image to the business world? Doing so can give you the edge when it comes to your career. Your first impression becomes a statement of who you are. Become self aware. Self Perception is a big part of communication. It's how we see ourselves and how we allow others to see us. Our self esteem and perceived image can have a major effect on our communication. It determines our self worth and the worth of what we have to say to others. Truth be told, if you believe that you have nothing of significance to say, why would others think you do? They wont and not only that, they will instinctively recognize your insecurity.

Those First Few Seconds

Tonya Reiman

 Body Language Expert

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