First impressions are, as I’m sure you know, incredibly important. This is especially true in professional settings, in which a first impression can set the tone for the entirety of a meeting, interview, or even business relationship. For that reason, it’s vital that you do everything you can to make sure your first impression is a positive one.
While there are countless different ways to present yourself and act in various situations, there are some things that will impress just about anyone. Here are six of some of the best and most universal ways in which to make a first impression — AND why they work.
1. Sit up straight.
Slouching in your seat can be a sign of laziness, weakness, or being disinterested. The same applies while standing: keep your shoulders back and chin up at all times. Even if the person you’re meeting does not consciously take note of your posture problems, it’s very possible that he or she could form a less than ideal opinion of you based on this. Subconsciously, you seem less powerful and therefore less impressive as a potential employee or business associate.
2. Make eye contact.
Avoiding eye contact can make you seem nervous or agitated, or just plain shy. Even if you are usually an introverted person, first impressions are all about seeming confident and personable. Don’t overdo the eye contact — no staring! But make sure that you’re being respectful and matching the other person gaze for gaze. This will make a more lasting impression, which is ultimately what you want out of a first meeting.
Smiling is contagious. There’s a reason we smile back at people when they smile at us, after all! Smiling makes a great first impression because it gives the other person a sense that you’re friendly and likable. Even after the meeting is over, your smile will remind others that you were a more outgoing and nice person. This also conveys familiarity, which people naturally seek out. When making a first impression, you should try to make the other person feel as comfortable as possible. Smiling does that for you.
4. Don’t say “um” too much.
Even if the person meeting you doesn’t initially pick up on this habit, it will ultimately contribute to a more negative first impression of you. Saying “um” and “uh” is something that almost everyone does, but that doesn’t make it any better. This makes you seem unprepared and uninteresting, and sometimes even less intelligent or experienced. It can also make you seem immature, if you’re a younger person. If you have trouble managing this habit, try speaking more slowly. This actually does wonders, because it allows you to pre-form every word before you say it. “Think before you speak” has never been as important!
5. Make your first impression in person.
Sometimes, you don’t have any say in the matter. For instance, now many companies will conduct Skype or phone interviews before bringing candidates in for an in-person interview. However, whenever possible you should try to make your first impression in person. For starters, you will be more memorable. It’s hard to gauge how much you like someone or how good a job you’re doing without getting cues from the other person. Body language is important, so in person is always best.
6. Chat a bit first.
Being able to chat with whomever you’re meeting is a sign that you’re comfortable and relaxed. If you were nervous about the meeting, it would be hard to make small talk before diving into the real business of your meeting. However, chatting with the other person tells him or her that you’re confident and prepared for your meeting.
Featured photo credit: Richard.Asia via flickr.com