This is an exercise that I used to regularly do with students entering their first year of university, but it can work for people of all ages.
Students often worry about how they are perceived by the large numbers of new people they meet when they first arrive. Indeed, a large part of their self-identity is wrapped up in the the way they think others view them and this can cause considerable social anxiety.
t’s not just adolescents who worry about the way they are perceived by other people. Many of us do this and often feel powerless to do anything about it.
However, by raising awareness of how we think we are perceived and setting an intention to change this, we can dramatically change the way other people see us. Not just strangers we are meeting for the first time, but friends and acquaintances too. With small changes and consistent behaviour, it’s never too late to change the way others view you.
The exercise has three stages that involves writing two paragraphs and one further short sentence. The writing part of the exercise is important, just thinking it through won’t have the same results.
Stage 1 — Write a paragraph describing what you believe is the first impression you make on people. How do you normally ‘show up’ to people and how does that cause them to perceive you?
Stage 2 — Write another paragraph that describes what you want your first impression to be. How would you like to be perceived by other people? Who are you when you are at your best and displaying your core values?
Stage 3 — Now write a short statement that describes what you project to others today and what you will project to others tomorrow.
So for example, I might write today that I am shy and timid, but tomorrow I will be more curious and engaging. This is called this the intentional first impression. The intentions we set for ourselves can have a huge impact on our behaviour. Every time we create an intention, we are subtly forming or reinforcing a mental habit. If we consistently create the same intention, it will become a habit that will guide our behaviour.
By doing this we should be able to determine how we come across in a much more own-able, decisive way, and focus on the variables that we have control over. Don’t leave it up to others to determine who you are and how you ‘show up’. If you consistently create a conscious plan to be your best self when you meet with people, then you’ll be much more able to ‘show up’ that way.
This exercise is not about manipulation, it’s about intention. Intentions can shape our behaviours, our days, and our lives.