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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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