In one of my recent posts, I shared how the simple act of smiling can profoundly influence human performance–from longer life spans to a greater sense of happiness and well-being.

As it turns out, smiling is one piece of a fundamental communication resource we all possess that, if executed well, can dramatically improve your personal brand.

The Remarkable Science of Body Language

Research reveals that, when it comes to communicating feelings and attitudes, only a small fraction is in the words we use. More than half (55%) of the impressions we create when we connect with another person come from our body language (posture, eye contact, and facial expressions) and over a third from our tone of voice. The words we say are only 7%.

If that seems far-fetched, consider these findings presented by researcher Amy Cuddy in her popular Ted Talk:

  • Research from Tufts University found that, when people watched 30-second soundless clips of patient-physician interactions, their judgments of physician’s “niceness” was the greatest predictive factor in whether that physician would be sued.
  • A study from Princeton University revealed that 1-second judgments of political candidates’ faces accurately predict 70% of U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial races.

Conclusion: People “size you up” within the first few seconds of meeting you–and it’s based much more on your body language and facial expressions than on anything you say.

Why is that so important in building your personal brand? As Nicholas Boothman, author of How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, explains:

“When we like someone, we tend to see the best in him or her. When we don’t like someone, we see the worst. If I like the guy, he’s enthusiastic. If I don’t like him, he’s overbearing. If I like the woman, she’s kind. If I don’t like her, she’s weak. When we meet people for the first time, we respond to what we see.”

Think about the potential consequences of that observation in shaping your career. In my own business, I think of how a single positive customer interaction could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue over a lifetime relationship. Conversely, consider how one person (our company has over 300 employees) having a bad day could, in a matter of seconds, unwittingly steer that customer elsewhere…without saying a word!

The stakes are that high.

So when it comes to dealing with people, pay attention to the non-verbal signals you’re sending. And remember the old mouthwash commercial tag line: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Have you had an experience where a first impression has made a long-term impact, for better or for worse? I’d love to hear about your experience.