We often hear about the importance of first impressions in defining you for the people you meet. What gets less coverage, though, is the power of how you end interactions—last impressions.
Recently, I went to a thought-provoking presentation by keynote speaker Ryan Avery and picked up some simple, powerful strategies to improve how you are perceived and remembered.
One of the main themes of Ryan’s talk was that “people remember what they see first and what they feel last.” He had many suggestions for how to optimize these initial perceptions, but the most actionable piece of advice for me was on the “what they feel last” front. Quite simply, he advised everyone to “always end early.”
I’ve been experimenting with this simple idea over the past few weeks and seeing how strong a response it creates. I encourage you to try this out as you move into 2018.
What They Feel Last
While initial judgments are tough to overcome, it turns out memories associated with emotions are even more lasting. As Maya Angelou famously said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In a recent academic article entitled How our emotions transform mundane events into strong memories, researchers found that when experiences are paired with emotions, the brain stores these memories more deeply.
Thinking about these findings, the act of “ending early” brings up many positive emotions and creates strong memories and perceptions. These days, many people’s days are filled with back-to-back appointments. When meetings run over, they cut into the time people have for their other work and in general, add to their stress. This creates a negative emotion and memory.
However, when the meeting or appointment ends early, it communicates many key things that engage emotions:
- Respect for the value of people’s time
- Efficiency and competence – “they know how to run a meeting”
- Integrity – “they did what they said they would”
And from my experiments in recent meetings, ending early is perceived like a gift or unexpected bonus – “I have a few minutes I didn’t expect to have.” Often, the folks I’m meeting with use this time to discuss new opportunities or other business. Their last impressions are positive emotions and they seem to look forward to our next meeting.
Try It Out
The next time you have a meeting, focus on ending a few minutes early and pay attention to the mood of the room vs. how it feels when a meeting runs over.
Please let me know what you find and if your experiences with this suggestion are as promising as mine has been.
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