3 non-verbals to pass the 3 second test

You shake hands with your prospect - but you don't feel friendly vibes... why? It could be that they were unaware of these 3 simple non-verbals - and their impact. What are they - and do you use them?

  • smile-o
    Being Present
  • smile-o
    Genuinely smiling
  • smile-o
    Warm and connecting body language

Just a reminder of the goal - to be liked in 3 seconds. Does that sound weird?

You could easily say - 'how can someone like me without knowing me - and they can't know me in 3 seconds!

Fair point.

When I say - 'like' - I mean 'feel good about' and 'instinctively trust' - feel 'drawn to'...

Caveat: You could follow these 3 non-verbal tactics and then go downhill rapidly and end up NOT being liked - but I am assuming you are not going to do that!

1. Be present

Dump the distractions!

Non-verbal body language distraction

There is only one place you should be in these first 3 seconds of interaction with a group of networking attendees, a face to face with a prospect or a meeting with a potential investor....

Where is that place?

With them - there - where they are - in the moment with no distractions

So what are potential distractions and resulting non-verbal negatives to be aware of?


  • A previous/upcoming meeting
  • A family disagreement
  • A backache/headache
  • A pre-conception
  • Uncomfortable clothing
  • Mobile phone

Negative effect:

  • Non focused listening
  • Insincere listening
  • Pained expression
  • Defensiveness
  • Tense body language
  • Lack of eye contact

Amy Cuddy reminds us, in her book 'Presence', that anxiety, stress, negative mood and distracting thoughts are all components of 'powerlessness' - and that might well show in seconds. There is a lot going on in those first moments - non-verbals are often missed by your conscious self - so self-awareness is crucial.

You only get one chance to make a first impression - so concentrate and leave the other baggage behind.

2. Preload the smile

Non-verbal first Impressions Smiling

A smile works best when it is genuine and spontaneous, however we all know that is not always possible - LOL 🙂

If you don't feel it - fake it? That is a dangerous tactic.  A fake smile is worse than no smile when it comes to being trusted and liked. However - there is a way to create a smile when the spontaneity is missing.

Follow this sequence and magic happens:


Non-verbal body language smile

You basically trick your brain into believing the smile - and once you are on that track you really begin to feel like smiling - it is a marvel of our wiring.

How does a smile make me instantly likeable?

There is so much research on the science and psychology of smiles - too much for this short post! Suffice to say - smiling has a proven effect on both the 'smiler' and the 'smilee'

Smiles are contagious - not only are you in a more positive mood when you smile - you also make the people around you feel better - therefore they like you!.

'Smiling can create a halo effect, which causes us to make a wide range of positive associations with people who smile at us.'  Neffinger &  Kohut - Compelling People

Some people have smiley type faces

Some people have more naturally smiley shaped faces than others – just a fluke of birth!  It is not always an advantage however – I refer to Fiona Bruce reading out a sad news items.

If, like me, you tend to look severe or sad when you are not deliberately making a facial expression - your resting face in other words - then you need to consciously check in with yourself before entering any interaction space - BEFORE entering!

in summary:

  • Communication is more than words – gestures count a lot – they are reinforcers
  • A smile can work for you or against you at that first impressions moment – get it right
  • A genuine smile projects warmth and is contagious – good start in the rapport process.

3. Check your body language

Non-verbal body language

Researchers like Birdswhistell argued that it is the non-verbal ingredient of an interaction that carries by far and away the greatest meaning - two-thirds in fact

You are well aware of non-verbal body language -  it is a huge subject ...so I will focus in on 3 specific body language tips that relate directly to this post - body language that could have a huge influence on your 3 second likeability.

  • Fidgety
  • Crossed arms
  • Wandering eyes

All of the above give the impression that you don't want to be there - back to #1 - you are not present.  You might not intentionally be putting up a barrier - but remember they don't know you - they pick up a vibe and it takes a long time to reverse that negative vibe - far longer than it took to inadvertently create it.

Fidgety includes a host of actions - rubbing your eyes, fiddling with hair, keys in pocket... not good for instant trust!

Crossed arms - there are many varieties - but generally seen as a barrier - there is also no way you are going to feel relaxed with your arms tensed.

Wandering eyes - big trust breaker. The message is: I don't want you to look directly into my eyes  - I have something to hide. I am not interested enough in you to bother looking directly at you - that is no good for rapport building!


  • Make a conscious effort to get your mind and body in the moment and giving off warm vibes - you can't rewind the clock
  • Next time you meet someone for the first time - be aware of your first impressions of them - and then analyse - why? When you figure out why you find someone instantly likeable then you figure out what works the other way round too - good game
  • It is not easy to know what impression we make - and to be honest a good dose of coaching can really pay off! I am here for you 😉 See what I did there

None of us can see ourselves as others see us - fact

That is where a coach is invaluable - objectivity, perspective and feedback - all within a confidential, supporting and safe environment.

There is a whole word of mastery and optimising out there for you - take the first step and book a free mini coaching call - that way you get a sense of how working with me could get you closer to your goals - could grow your client list and boost your confidence.  Drop me an email hello@trishalewis.com - we can look at our diaries and book a 30 minute coaching call  - if you are local we can do this face to face (and add a little more time on I suspect).

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Trisha Lewis

I help people become more effective communicators through the kind of coaching that offers a safe space to explore and rehearse and better understand the impact they have. My blog is full of insights and tactics that will help you break down the barriers that prevent you from being a truly effective communicator. These insights are based on my own experience as well as the issues raised during coaching sessions and workshops.