To Make a Good First Impression, Use These 3 Nonverbal Cues

An FBI agent’s advice for eliciting trust

Jack Schafer


Closeup of a woman’s smiling face.
Photo: Flashpop/Getty Images

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, as the cliché goes. That impression starts even before any words are exchanged, in the mindset you bring to the encounter. As an FBI agent, I was trained to identify these cues in others — and to transmit them to gain the trust of my targets.

Even if you’re not a federal agent trying to extract information from an unwitting source, you’ll inevitably find yourself in situations where it’s imperative to make a good first impression. In these situations, it is critical you send out the right nonverbal cues that allow others to see you in a positive rather than a neutral or negative light. The following three gestures are key:

The eyebrow flash

The eyebrow flash is a quick up-and-down movement of the eyebrows that lasts for about one-sixth of a second and is used as a primary, nonverbal friend signal. As you approach another individual, you use the eyebrow flash to send the message that you don’t pose a threat. Within five to six feet of meeting someone, our brains look for this signal. And when we spot it, we reciprocate.

“Friendly” eyebrow flashes involve brief eye contact with other persons…