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No 2nd chance at a 1st impression- Fact or Fiction?

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a famous phrase first stated by Andrew Grant. Is this true? Do first impressions count?

The answer validated in multiple studies and touted universally by psychologists is a resounding “Yes!”

With every new encounter, there is evaluation. Psychology studies have shown that a person forms their first impression of another individual or situation in as little as seven seconds. A staggering 80-90 percent of people’s judgments in a new situation are based on non-verbal input.

This is important to understand when applying for a new job or asking someone out for a date. Whenever I interviewed someone for a position, I knew within the first 15 seconds whether I had an interest in this person or not.

 Let’s focus on what does that mean for a new visitor to Westbrook? They are taking in

  • How clean or free of snow is the parking lot and sidewalk

  • How clean is the glass on the front doors and the condition of the lobby

  • The plentiful and welcoming coffee and treats

It is not surprising that human interaction is the most powerful form of communication. Body language plays a dominant role in this. Studies have indicated that people make 11 judgments about a new acquaintance within the first seven seconds. This is called the “7-11 Rule.” People are:

  • Judging how likeable are the other people

  • Observing how welcome they are made to feel

  • Aware is anyone greeting them

  • Ascertaining will they be treated with respect

  • Noticing is anyone acknowledging or ignoring them as they walk toward the sanctuary

  • Seeing how others interact with each other


All of this is gleaned from the nonverbal signals given off.


As members or regular attenders, what can we do?


If someone is not outgoing, it can just be glancing at a person and do

  • Head nodding- connotes affirmation

  • Eye contact- connotes interest

  • Smiling- creates a bond and safety

If someone is outgoing, gain comfort with a favorite “go to” phrase. Something like, “I do not think we have met. I am …!” 

Can we acknowledge everyone we walk by- visitor or member? This shouldn’t be a burden or a task or where you feel guilty if you don’t do it. After all, we are the family of Christ. It would be honoring and pleasing to God.

It is stated in the mission of Westbrook that we want everyone to feel welcome. Communicating a church of caring through non verbal’s is not an overstatement. What do you think should be the first impression- the “feel” or “character” of Westbrook? What impact would it have on our visitors- and each other?


Oscar Wilde exclaimed. “My first impressions of people are invariably right.” We can have them feel God’s love.


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