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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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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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