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Creating a Better Impression

Creating a Better Impression
Introduce Yourself

    Sometimes I think I’m the shyest person on the planet. Back in the days when I was interviewing for jobs, I had a sad tendency to work myself into a tizzy about whether I was going to make a good impression. Over the years, I’ve done my best to calm down about introductions, by focusing on what I can do to improve my odds. I’ve found that thinking about what I can do can at least distract me from the worries I might have about a situation.

    Be Human

    Even if a person isn’t shy, a first meeting can be stiff. It can be hard to come up with conversation. It is important, though, to make the effort to relax in these situations. Whether or not you want to worry about impressing your new friend or client, doing it during a conversation makes it even harder to talk. You’ll either make that good impression, or not. Don’t worry about it during the process — that’s what before and after are for.

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    Relaxing just a bit can be enough to make you look sure of yourself, as well. It can help you firm up that handshake, which can be the first part of a first impression. If you’re really experiencing some difficulties with being comfortable speaking to people who are essentially strangers, though, the best recommendation I’ve had is to work on my public speaking in general. Groups like Toastmasters can provide a lot of help in improving speaking abilities, as well as just getting people more comfortable with talking in general.

    Think Ahead

    Any pre-planned introduction is a chance for you to make the best possible introduction. It’s also a chance for you to associate yourself with certain ideas. Consider job interviews. For most of the interviews I’ve had, it’s been the first time I’ve met somebody from a particular company. I go in, knowing that I want my interviewer to leave our meeting thinking I’m the best person for the job. So, I make a list of reasons I really am the best person for the job. I take the time to discuss them. If, for instance, I want to show that I have a particular skill, I’ll mention specifics of projects that I’ve worked on, using that skill. I take full advantage of the time I have to plan ahead for a meeting.

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    Create Connections

    If you know that you’ll be meeting someone new ahead of time — whether attending meetings or going on a blind date — try thinking of some connections you might have with that person ahead of time. It might be obvious: “Our mutual pal Sarah set us up tonight.” You may have to dig a little deeper, though. Once you’ve got it, though, you already have an automatic conversation ready to go just by asking questions about the connection: “How long have you known Sarah? Let me tell you about how she and I met!”

    Even tangential connections, like rooting for the same local sports team, can give you an edge up in an introduction. Rather than being John Doe who I met at the same party I met fifty other people at, you can be John Doe who I’m going to have to educate about why my team is so much better. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can be enough to guarantee that a person is going to want to rekindle the conversation down the road.

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    Dress the Part

    It would be nice if we all went around fresh out of the shower and perfectly dressed. It’s never going to happen, but it would be nice. There’s always the chance that you’ll have a chance meeting in that t-shirt you painted the living room in. That’s just life. However, we do what we can to minimize those situations.

    I’ve tried to eliminate some of those really awful outfits out of my closet — the stuff with unmendable wholes and such. I’ve even managed to mostly make it past the college mentality that it’s okay to wear my pajamas out and about. I’m not saying that we should all throw out those old, beat-up, comfortable clothes — I’m just saying that it’s probably best not to where them while running errands or going out for coffee. Leave the pajamas at home.

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    Follow Up

    That great first impression won’t mean anything if you never get the opportunity to make a second impression. It’s up to you to keep in contact, whether you had an interview or just met a person casually. Some situations may be ideal for a thank you note after the fact — but if a thank you note is too formal an email or phone call can work just fine. Make a point of being specific in your follow up: answer questions you may not have been able to respond to during your initial meeting, make a recommendation based on your discussion, or otherwise refer back to your meeting.

    In Conclusion

    Lastly, I’m of the opinion that making a good impression is far more important than making the best impression. While there’s a chance that a person will remember all the great first impressions he’s had over the years, there is an absolute guarantee that he will remember the worst impressions he’s seen. People don’t tell stories about nice people they meet at parties, after all: they start with “You’ll never believe the weirdo I met last week,” and go downhill from there. A lot of risks you might consider for making a lasting impression can easily backfire, so consider carefully if you need to be that far beyond the rest of the pack.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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