Studies Find First Impressions are Crucial to Success
First impressions for special education kids are key for long-term educational and job success. Encouraging students with special needs to develop social skills and “soft skills” as they prepare for the workforce is a great way to help them reach independence.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow, Scotland found that hearing the simple word, “hello” can completely alter the recipient’s opinion. What does this mean for your child? The development of long terms social skills, life skills, and a positive attitude are essential at a first greeting, and in the future. These lead to a positive first impression, and, in turn, a positive impression can open doors to a job or help to forge new social bonds.
“You Had Me at ‘Hello’!”
The University of Glasgow study took 64 different recorded “hello’s” and played them for 320 participants. The participants then rated just how trustworthy the person talking sounded, just from hearing one word. Lower pitches (typically associated with male voices) proved less trustworthy.
While the people behind the voices weren’t necessarily less trustworthy in real life, their tone struck a chord with the listener—it made him or her feel that the speaker shouldn’t be trusted or was aggressive. On the other side, female and high-pitched male voices rated as more trustworthy and friendlier.
The study found that these individual judgments happen extremely fast. In general, people don’t need more than a few seconds to form an opinion. The brain processes responsible for these judgments have evolved over time to help humans know what type of people to avoid in order to stay out of danger. Even though someone with an unfriendly sounding voice might not be dangerous, the tone evokes an unpleasant or negative feel. In essence, turns a listener away.
Finding the Right First Impression
Imagine going into a job interview and not knowing to shake the hiring manager’s hand or not being aware that looking away when someone speaks to you appears disrespectful. Some students, especially those on the autism spectrum or those who find building social skills a challenge, may have a more difficult time recognizing the impact of a first impression. As the study reports, not only does this include the sound of the voice, but it also includes aspects of presentation such as proper hygiene, good grooming, appropriate attire/dress and attitude all influence other people’s views.
By stressing its importance in everyday situations, teachers and parents can help their students/children to better understand how voice and presentation are long-term work skills. Role-playing sessions and discussions are great ways to demonstrate how people can make snap judgments based on first impressions. Additional lessons in proper personal hygiene and acceptable attire would be extremely helpful as well. No one is born knowing that you need to wear a freshly pressed pair of pants and a tie to a corporate job interview—this knowledge is learned through the guidance of adults (such as teachers and parents) who already have an understanding of social norms and what is expected in different situations.
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At James Stanfield, We Think You Should Know:
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.