Freshers' week: how to make a good first impression
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Going to university for the first time can be a daunting experience for anyone. The biggest fear many have is leaving their old friends behind and having to meet lots of new people from all walks of life. The prospect of living with complete strangers is enough to make anyone nervous – especially if their culture is alien to you.As a first year transition tutor in the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology, my role is to ensure that students have a sense of belonging and feel included. In my experience, students who fail to make friends at university can feel lonely and isolated. These feelings can often manifest into anxiety and depression – especially if they’re far from home – which can lead them to become even more isolated, and ultimately drop out of university. On the flip side, psychologists have found that a person’s sense of happiness and well being is likely to grow when they seek out social connections and friendship groups, which lead to positive relationships. All very well if you’re an extrovert, have natural charisma and get energised from being around people – you will make good first impressions easily. Introverts, don’t worry – I have some advice for you.
Avoid snap judgementsPsychologists have studied how to make good first impressions in detail. For example, research has shown that we form a sense of whether an individual is trustworthy in less than one tenth of a second. We can also deduce information such as their intelligence and sexual orientation, with some degree of accuracy. We call this “thin slicing”: when people make quick decisions on the basis of limited information. That’s why it’s important to come across as likeable in your first meeting with your housemates, and other people on your course or on campus. But how do you do this if you consider yourself to be shy, socially awkward, introverted or if English is not your mother tongue? The first thing to remember is that you are all in the same boat. Most people that you meet are as anxious about making a good first impression as you are. The best strategy is to use your strengths to your advantage. For instance, as an introvert, you are probably more comfortable making friends online than you are face to face.
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