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.
Now that you havethat down, here are some things to always put into practice when meeting someone for the first time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“There is this amazing sushi restaurant on Harbor.”
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.