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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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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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