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How To Make A Good First Impression

How To Make A Good First Impression

There is no doubt you’ve heard the adage that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. What many people don’t realize is just how important a first impression can be. As a rule, people judge others within the first 3 to 5 seconds of meeting them. The judgment is made subliminally, without conscious thought, so it is important that individuals do their best to make a good impression, professionally and personally. Oftentimes, it is the simplest concepts of good manners or business etiquette that are forgotten. Nevertheless, there are steps that anyone can take to improve the impression they make in those crucial first moments.

The Basics of Good Impressions

The cornerstones of proper business etiquette are the following:

  • Be on time.
  • Dress appropriately for an occasion.
  • Address everyone respectfully, such as by their last name.
  • Maintain eye contact, but do not stare.
  • Speak clearly, confidently, and do not rush through your thoughts or sentences.
  • Offer a firm handshake.

Smile, Smile, Smile

A confident, relaxed smile is the best way to put other people at ease. Scientists have found that smiling is an important social cue, and that other people will respond to smiles on both a conscious and subliminal level. If a person smiles in joy, others around them will smile, and their brain activity will actually mimic the activity in the brain of the person that initiated the smile.

While people have some ability to detect fake smiles, this ability is not well-developed, and a good fake smile can fool most people. Whether or not you really feel it, put a smile on your face when meeting new people and, indirectly, people will also feel happy to see you. That feeling will resonate every time they think of you.

Good Manners Never Go Out of Style

While your parents should have taught you good manners growing up, here’s a quick primer on the basics that can really make a difference on your first impression.

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Language

Good manners are indicative of your respect for yourself and others. “Please,” “Thank You,” and “You’re Welcome,” are not meaningless words; they demonstrate to others that you value their effort, thought, and/or generosity. Using socially significant words, offer behavioral cues to other people when you meet for the first time; this is particularly true when engaging with your elders.

Nevertheless, good manners should not be reserved for superiors, but extended to everyone with whom you interact. Maintaining consistency with your interactions will avoid others thinking you play favorites or are a boss’s pet.

Names

Furthermore, it is rude to use someone’s first name unless given permission to do so, since it indicates a degree of familiarity the other person may not desire. Always address others in business by their title (Mr., Mrs., or Ms.) and their last name, unless they request you use a given name or nickname.

In an informal business atmosphere, it may be customary to address everyone by their first names, but it is best to wait for an invitation and avoid offending potential managers or co-workers.

Attire and Dress

It is usually better to be overdressed than under-dressed. Once again, the way a person dresses can demonstrate their respect for whoever they are meeting.

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For example, showing up for a job interview in inappropriate attire means either you do not understand the job, or you do not care whether or not you are hired. A suit is usually appropriate for office positions, while a clean polo shirt, dress shirt, or blouse, and khakis or jeans may be proper for factory or construction jobs.

Similarly, whether you’re interviewing for a professional job or meeting your boyfriend/girlfriend’s parents, you should always dress conservatively. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Less skin – long skirts, shirts with sleeves, nothing too tight
  • Simple colors – blue/navy suit, ties without designs
  • Hide tattoos – I recommend classy tattoo ideas if you plan to get one

Eye Contact

Eye contact is another important cue, and those who do not make eye contact place themselves at a social disadvantage, especially during public speaking. Most people believe that those who do not make eye contact are lying or avoiding something, or that they lack the confidence to interact effectively with other people.

While it is impolite to stare at other people, it is important to watch their faces, make regular eye contact when communicating, and occasionally look away.

Speaking

When meeting someone for the first time, it is important to make your words count, especially when it’s your turn to answer interview questions. Additionally, others may not be able to understand you if you do not speak clearly and in a voice loud enough to be heard.

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A clear, well-modulated speaking voice is an important social tool, and contributes to the ease of communication and a good first impression.

Handshake

Shaking hands is a social ritual in America, and having a firm handshake shows self-confidence, an important asset for any employee. While the handshake should be firm, too much pressure shows a desire to dominate and can be a negative signal. Keep handshakes friendly and painless.

What Not To Do

While it is acceptable to talk about subjects other than business with employers or fellow employees, avoid discussing politics and religion. Many people have strong feelings about these topics and if your opinion differs from theirs, an unpleasant argument could ensue. Stick with neutral topics in the workplace to avoid offending co-workers or your boss.

While humor is essential to a pleasant work atmosphere, tasteless jokes, especially those which target a specific gender, cultural group or sensitive topic, are not funny and may create legal difficulties for you and your employer. The same is true of jokes with sexual overtones. Save these jokes for like-minded friends at your Wednesday night poker game.

Finally, never bad mouth a current or past employer, or engage in malicious gossip about co-workers. This also applies to any online presence you may have on social media, like Facebook or Twitter. Employers often monitor comments made on social networks, so use privacy settings or a separate private account if you intend to make any negative comments about your job or co-workers. Better yet, just don’t do it. If you would not want your mother to see a picture or read a comment, keep it off your public pages.

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Traveling Overseas

Before meeting business associates in other countries, it is wise to educate yourself on the customs of other cultures and the background of the individuals you will be meeting. Behavior which might be considered acceptable or even unimpeachable in the U.S. may be considered offensive by people with different social rules.

In Japan, for example, business associates formally exchange business cards, while in China, a small token on behalf of your business is usually presented at the first meeting.

In some Middle Eastern countries, a gift of wine, cognac or whiskey would not be well received since the predominant religion, Islam, forbids the consumption of alcohol.

Being unaware of the customs practiced in other countries can result in creating a bad impression, and the appearance that you or your firm does not research and prepare in advance.

Final Word

While it may be trite, the best advice may be to treat other people as you wish to be treated. A friendly, courteous demeanor is always a good way to make a favorable first impression on the people you meet. When you think about the way others will perceive you, consider your reaction when meeting different people, and emulate the ones who made the best first impression on you.

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Gary Dekmezian

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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