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Second Master Richard Jones explores the question he has been asked the most over the past couple of weeks… ‘What is your first impression of Bryanston?’
I want to start by addressing the concept of first impressions more generally, and why they are so important. I am sure you will have heard the phrase: ‘You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.’ Once a first impression has been made, everything you do after that is filtered through that first impression, so if we make a good one, we have the cards stacked in our favour, but if we make a bad one, then we give ourselves a mountain to climb (although not impossible). Essentially, we tend to get one chance to make a good first impression and therefore we need to get it right.
An MIT study by the Harvard School of Health Sciences suggests that we have two seconds to make a good impression and, in that time, people will judge our level of success, our trustworthiness, our friendliness and our social status. Why are we judged so fast? It’s all about instinct (specifically survival instinct), and goes back to tribal times where we used our instincts to decide if someone was a friend or foe, and whether we should fight or flee. We would only have two seconds to decide and then act quickly depending on what our instinct told us.
What helps us to make this judgement? The first thing we look at is the eyes. The area around the eyes is the most mobile in the human face and therefore the most expressive, which is why poker players wear sunglasses. When meeting someone for the first time, we must ensure we make and hold eye contact with them, as well having sincerity in our eyes. After the eyes, research has shown that we look at the person’s smile and face, followed by their body language.
MIT concluded after extensive studies that they could predict the outcomes of negotiations and sales meetings with over 87% accuracy without listening to anything that the individuals were actually saying. This highlights how powerful our body language is in our communications. We need to ensure then, that we are smiling and that our body language is open and inviting.
We have looked the person in the eye, we are smiling, and our body language is inviting and positive. What’s next?
Pre-Covid, we would shake their hand. Across cultures we shake someone’s hand, or we show them our hand. It is always the right hand – why is this? It’s our weapon hand and it used to be a way of showing that we were unarmed and there was no threat. That is why ‘lefties’ could not be trusted, because they could shake hands with their right and strike with their left!
Hopefully by now we have survived the first two seconds and have made a great first impression. The next part is the conversation, which is all about making out that the person we are speaking to is the most fascinating person we’ve ever met. We can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than we can in two years by trying to make them interested in us.
The secret to having a great presence is to be totally present in our interactions with people. This is harder now than ever before due to technology. When we meet someone for the first time and we get a message or we’re on Snapchat and we look at our phone, this is not good. We aren’t making a good impression because we’re not present in that situation. When this happens and our mind is elsewhere, our facial expressions will be that split second too late and we come across as inauthentic or false.
One final thing I want to mention, which is often overlooked, is the importance of last impressions. Remember that how you leave a situation, or a conversation, is as important as how you started it.
So, going back to the question in hand – what have been my first impressions of Bryanston? There are six things that have really struck me in my first week.
The length of the drive and the stunning campus
I went to a school in the centre of Blackpool, just a short walk from the Pleasure Beach. There wasn’t a great deal of space and if we wanted access to a swimming pool, we had to use the local council facility. It was not a pleasant experience and we were lucky if we didn’t come out in some sort of tropical rash or with a few verrucas! In contrast, the campus here is incredible as are the facilities.
The lack of uniform
If I’m totally honest, I did think I would struggle with the lack of uniform here. However, a lack of a uniform doesn’t mean that pupils don’t look smart. There is still a dress code that pupils have to adhere to, but by wearing their own clothes they get the opportunity to express their own individuality.
Horses… they are everywhere!
It’s pretty unusual for a school to have quite so many horses. In fact, our next-door neighbour is Mrs Dean’s horse, Alice. My two boys have adopted Alice as part of the family and they spend more time feeding Alice than they do fighting each other, which is quite something.
I really think we should look into establishing some sort of commercial arrangement with them… I see them everywhere!
Quality and detail
The quality and the level of detail that goes into everything that happens at Bryanston has astounded me. The obvious one that people talk about the most, is the dining experience, which is so far beyond what you would expect in a school environment. It’s not just the quality of the food that is incredible, but the quality of the service and the extra touches that are provided by the team. The attention to detail extends beyond the catering team across the whole school. Another example I would like to share is when I recently arranged for a comedian to come in for the A2s. I expected a microphone to be placed In the dining hall but when I went in there, the tech team were constructing a stage and lighting rig, essentially recreating a proper comedy club experience. It is that level of detail and professionalism that has absolutely astounded me.
My final observation, and perhaps the most important one, is just how chatty, personable and smiley all of the pupils are. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I have been blown away by just what a great bunch they are. This is my third school and I can honestly say, that I have been more impressed with the pupils here than I have been at any of my previous schools. Even when queueing for breakfast at 7.10am in the morning, which is a time most of them won’t have seen for about six months, they have been on fantastic form.
My first impressions of Bryanston have been nothing but positive. I am delighted to be part of this fantastic school and I fully intend to make the most of being in this incredible place.