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How to Always Leave a Great First Impression

How to Always Leave a Great First Impression

Why the First Impression Matters

The first impression is obviously the first thing that occurs in any social interaction. Do you convey confidence? Self-assurance? When people talk to you they instantly judge you and decide whether or not they will like you. Due to this natural inclination, you need to always leave a solid first impression because you never know what will happen—perhaps you’ll make an amazing friend, or doors will open for you in the future.

Remember that approaching random people for conversation is an amazing skill to have. Not only does it expand your social circle, it makes you more comfortable with social interaction in general. If you’re able to strike up a legitimate conversation with someone you don’t know, imagine how amazing you’d feel when talking to someone you’re already familiar with?

Many times I have walked up to someone I did not know, looked them in the eye while extending my hand, and then introduced myself. You’d be surprised how receptive people are of spontaneous contact. I’d argue that every time you initiate contact with a stranger, you’ve made their day because they feel special, and wondered why they were the one you chose to engage.

They always leave thinking that they’ve just met a very influential person; someone fearless.

Personally, I feel I do a very good job with first impressions. I chalk this up to many subtle social observations that I’ve tweaked over the years and still put to practice on a near-daily basis. You can learn this too, but first let’s take a few things into consideration.

When you meet someone, there are things you should always take into account, such as the context of the meeting (personal or business) and what they are doing at the moment of initiation. You should tweak your approaches based on these two things. When in a more casual and personal setting, you probably don’t want to be as formal as you would with a new potential employer. Also, you never want to make someone stop everything they’re doing just to speak to you if you’ve never met them before. It’s rude, and no one likes to be interrupted.

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Now that you havethat down, here are some things to always put into practice when meeting someone for the first time.

Body Language

One of the most overlooked aspects of social interaction is non-verbal communication. Whether you realize it or not, you instantly make judgments and create pre-conceived notions about everyone you see. You can just tell if someone is confident or not by examining the way they carry themselves—whether it’s the way they walk, stand, or by how open their body language is.

Knowing this, let’s use this to our advantage.

Touch

First thing, be comfortable with touch. Touch is powerful and even if you’re not a touchy person, the first contact is still necessary. Always, always introduce yourself by name then extend your hand for a handshake. It doesn’t matter if it’s a female or male, you shake their hand confidently and not like a loose fish. There’s nothing worse than a dead handshake.

Remember to portray power and confidence in your handshake. You’ll sometimes see surprise in people’s eyes after a good handshake because a lot of people are used to limp offerings. If they give you a dead handshake then that’s okay; grab it firmly anyways and shake. Just be careful not to squeeze too hard because you don’t want to break their hand. I know a guy who does it incredibly hard; he’s possibly compensating for something.

Posture

Next, you should always be mindful of your body’s posture. For example, try your best not to slouch because it sends off cues that you lack confidence or are rather lazy, neither of which are attractive qualities. Always stand tall even though it’s very difficult at first; standing up straight does get easier over time. Walk tall, stand tall, and sit tall. Always.

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Okay, so now that you’re standing tall, people that see you will instantly perceive you as being more confident. When you meet someone new, they’ll notice your posture and you’ll score free points, and of course your friends will notice and wonder why you’re so confident these days.

Keep Your Body Open

In addition to keeping yourself tall, you want your body language to be open and approachable. This means not crossing your arms across your chest, not speaking to someone with your body angled away from them, and make sure your facial expressions aren’t angry.

I understand that some people’s “default” face has a less than ideal look; mine looks sad, apparently. When I need to take my sad face off, I usually think of something humorous and a smile will naturally form itself. Try it out.

Genuinely Be Interested

I love talking to other people and I genuinely invest my attention in their stories. It’s important to develop an actual interest in getting to know other people and your face will naturally brighten up as they tell you their story. There’s no faking this. Well, that’s not true. The point is, it’s much easier to look like you care if you actually do—people can sense your energy and often respond based on the feedback they get from you.

Read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It has a very silly title that sounds like a how-to guidebook for losers, but that is definitely not the case. It’s a very valuable self-help book, one of the most popular actually. Carnegie teaches you how to actually be interested in people and even talks about a few interesting psychological effects. One of them is called the “Ben Franklin” effect.

Sounds awesome right? It really is. Basically, one day Benjamin Franklin realized that when someone else does a favor for you, they both are more willing to do so again in the future and they have a tendency to like you more.

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That seems crazy, but the psychology behind it is very fascinating and it’s an example of cognitive dissonance. To put it simply, what’s going on their head sounds a lot like this. “Wait, why am I doing this favor for him? That must mean I like him because why else would I do a favor for him? I only do favors for people I like so therefore I like him.” Obviously that dialogue isn’t literally running through their mind, but that’s the general idea.

Try asking someone to hold something for you as you tie your shoe, open a door for you, or watch your expensive $1,200 Macbook while you use the restroom (results may vary.)

Actively Listen, Focus on Them

More insight from Dale Carnegie’s book stresses the importance of active listening. A lot of people often blank out or eagerly wait for the other person to stop talking so they can jump in and talk about what they want to. That’s not active listening.

Everyone adores talking about themselves, some more than others. Carnegie stresses that when you are a good listener, people enjoy your company much more.

You want to give your complete attention to everything they say, nod as they speak, and look interested like I mentioned before. You want to be able to recall details from their story.

Occasionally repeat keywords they used because it shows that you’re really listening.

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“There is this amazing sushi restaurant on Harbor.”

“Amazing sushi?”

If you focus on the other person instead of yourself, you’re bound to make a great first impression and you will be labeled as a good listener.

Now that you have some of my tricks for making a great first impression, get out there and make some connections! You can use these in a personal and business setting, just make sure to tweak as you find necessary based off of the context of the situation.

More by this author

Vincent Nguyen

Founder of Growth Ninja

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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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