“I’m not judging you!” Yes you are. Let’s face it, we all judge people to some degree. It may be an internal thought or it may be a vocal expression of our thoughts. Either way, we each have a seat at the judge’s bench.
The first 3-5 seconds of an initial encounter is sufficient time for a person to form an initial opinion.
We form these opinions through observing a person’s approach, body language, mannerisms, accent and the way they dress.
So how important are first impressions? Well it determines if you get the second interview for your dream job or acceptance in the college or university of your choice. A good first impression can mean a second date and who know what happens after that. Making a good first impression gets you a meeting with the senior partners in the private equity firm evaluating your business proposal. No doubt first impressions matter.
1. SMILE – “Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.” Les Brown
A warm smile is a great start to a good first impression. A warm and confident smile will put both you and the other person at ease. When I interview potential job candidates, the first thing I look for is a genuine smile. It tells me the person is excited and eager for the chance. However, any overuse of a smile will come off fake and insincere.
2. BE PRESENT – “As youngsters, my mother taught her children that while we might not be the smartest people around, we could be courteous, polite and considerate of others.” Zig Ziglar
Be attentive to the person or person(s). Put down your phone and focus on the person and conversation in front of you. Give yourself 100 percent to that other person. Anything less and you will ruin your chance for a good first impression.
3. BE ON TIME – “I’m on time even when I try not to be.” Diane Kruger
Meeting someone for the first time is not the time to be”fashionably late”. Save that for your high society meetings and events. I always try to arrive a few minutes early. Although, not too early. You don’t want to come off overly eager. Just remember that people are busy and their schedules are usually full. One late appointment will affect the whole day’s schedule. If you’ve ever gone to the Dr., you know what I’m talking about. Being on time is a show of respect. That goes a long way in making a good first impression.
4. BE YOURSELF – “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” Bruce Lee
People can smell a fake. They know if you are authentic. Being yourself allows you to be confident and at ease. This can go a long way in making a good first impression. However, you need to remain appropriate for the particular situation and express yourself appropriately.
5. SHOW CONFIDENT BODY LANGUAGE- “Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.” Debora Bull
As the quote says above, about 80% of what we say is non-verbal.
Stand confidently with your back erect and your shoulders square. Hands to your side and feet spread just inside both shoulders. This is known as the Presidential Stance. Greet each person with a firm (not hard) hand shake and make eye contact. Be aware of your nervous habits and move slowly, smoothly and confidently. All of this will help you project confidence and encourage both of you to feel at ease.
6. ASK SMART QUESTIONS THAT INDICATE YOUR’RE LISTENING- “There’s a difference between listening passively and listening aggressively. To listen with your heart, you have to listen actively.” John C. Maxwell
Be an active listener. The way you achieve this is by asking questions relevant to what the person is saying. This indicates your engagement in the conversation. Resist distraction and resist the temptation of putting yourself first.
7. SHOW SINCERE INTEREST IN PEOPLE – “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” John C. Maxwell
My wife and I went to one of those home improvement stores shopping for a refrigerator. As we entered the appliance department, a sales person immediately approached and asked if he could help. We excitedly replied “yes”, and said we are looking for a refrigerator. As we began giving him our specifications, his phone rang and he immediately answered it! Without any apology, he began talking and walked away. The best way to show sincere interest in other people is to show them you care and that they are important and have something unique to offer. A sincere interest in people will go a long way in making a good first impression.
8. INITIATIVE RELEVANT SMALL TALK – “I’m not great at small talk.” Courtney Cox
I think Courtney’s quote above is probably true of most people. However, small talk is present in almost every first meeting and we must successfully push through it. A person’s ability to maximize the content of small talk can provide very useful information in establishing a connection and a good first impression. Small talk can provide clues for relevant questions that initiate a deeper understanding of that person. How many business deals are done based on attending the same college? Small talk provides those small details that typically have big results!
Making a good impression is simply using common sense and being intuitively aware of the situation you are in. Develop these 8 habits and use them next time you meet someone for the first time. It could be a life-changing event.