I can recall several times where I met someone for the first time and just got the feeling that the chemistry wasn’t there. No matter how much effort I put into conversation with the person, it felt like pulling teeth, and for a strong E (Myers Briggs Type Indicator - Extrovert) I found it very frustrating that I couldn’t seem to find common ground. Looking back at those instances, I realize that my intuition (or gut feeling) was right from the start, even if the conversation went for a little while, or there were multiple encounters.
I’ve had other first time encounters where it’s exactly the opposite. I can remember several encounters where we didn’t even need to speak to each other, I just had a sense that we were going to get along. Whether it’s body language or tone of voice, these are unspoken factors that contribute to the overall chemistry. And in these cases, the chemistry just worked. Conversation was easy, and body language was relaxed. I’ve been lucky to have several of these encounters, and some have become great business partners and some life-long friends.
I can’t say if I took note of all of the cues of those encounters right away. Most of the time, I have only confirmed my intuition after the fact (for better or worse). But overall, whether I note the feeling in the moment or afterwards, my gut feeling has usually been fairly accurate, be it cues I noted from body language (like a hand shake or eye contact) or tone of voice, for example, in combination with the overall conversation.
So what is it about first impressions and following your gut that are so important? I have heard several times that non-verbal communication (body language, facial expressions, and so on) make up a large percentage of what is communicated to others, and according to the nonverbalgroup.com, non-verbal communication makes up 75-90%. This leaves very little space left to transmit a message in words.
Could we say that the most important part of a first encounter is the combination of chemistry and gut feeling (intuition)? Does this mean that building trust from a first impression happens before we even speak? And if first impressions are mostly non-verbal, then how much can we actually impact the situation? Does it really all come down to chemistry and the intuitive gut feeling that is the barometer of how good or bad a relationship is going to be?
Where first impressions are the result of combining chemistry and intuition, I feel that chemistry is part of being human, and that intuition – that gut feeling – is something that can be practiced and honed. I recently read an article about 10 thing that intuitive people do differently - this inspired me to be more work on my intuition. What about you?
A few questions to think about when training your intuition:
- When was a time when you experienced a ‘spot on’ gut feeling?
- What did you do with that gut feeling?
- How much of what you recall was verbal and non-verbal?
- What did you learn from that experience?
- What might you try differently next time?
Photo thanks to Ken, Fenwick and Dougall for illustrating great chemistry!