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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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