We’ve all blown first impressions before and we’re still standing. That means they aren’t important, right?
First impressions often times set the stage for an entire relationship, or lack thereof, and if you can learn how to master them you’ll start seeing better results all across the board.
In your work life, personal life, even love life, first impressions separate the winners from the folks who talk about some day being winners. Here are 7 ways make these crucial moments count.
1) Use a CONCISE greeting
This point one is #1 because it’s the first point of interaction, not to mention the most-commonly screwed up.
And as Wikipedia notes, the greeting we choose, combined with our physical presentation (#2) are the biggest contributors to the mental image we leave someone with.
Now, we all have that friend who manages to say too much when first meeting someone. He/she opens up into their relationship, pet, and family problems before the other part has muttered a “nice to meet you.”
While there is a lot to be said for candid honesty and being passionate, this sort of greeting doesn’t go too far in settings where you’re being judged professionally or on some other merit.
Instead, you odds are much safer with a greeting like “pleasure’s mine”. Then, let the other party do the talking. It’s okay to plan this greeting in advance – they key is to say less and by doing this convey a position of power while commanding respect.
2) Look the part
We all mess this one up, sometimes to an extreme, often times without knowing it!
I’ve sat down at meetings with coffee splashed across my dress shirt, or worse, wine from the night before…
But looking the part, as I mentioned above, is at least half the equation here.
For men it usually amounts to running a bit of gel and a comb through ones hair and tucking in a nice shirt and tie. For girls, well I have no idea but do have a serious respect for the time it takes to prepare oneself.
If you fail to look decent but talk well, you’ll cut yourself shorter than if you looked great and talked average. Stress the important things, those people remember.
Keep in mind, people look to salient (less-obvious) clues for gathering intelligence on you, and a big one is just someones appearance and demeanor.
3) Listen, play off of someone
Following your short greeting, it’s important to listen to what the other party is saying. If you over-plan your first impression, this becomes tricky and you’ll likely say something off-handed or just fail to say anything.
So keep in mind you need to listen. Playing off someone else’s initial remarks shows poise and will earn you instant respect.
Pleasant example: “The weather was beautiful on the drive up here.”
“Not as beautiful as your home, Mrs. _____.
Humorous example: “I bet you spent forever on that cake.”
“And I bet you spent forever on your hair, but I’m not a betting man, really.”
Showing an ability to play off of someone else’s comments gives yourself an extra aura of confidence and awareness people will surely find attractive.
4) Rid yourself of stress
This one is tricky. However if you find your mind wandering to a moment of stress, like something nagging you, you’ll often face-plant mid conversation. We all do it.
So before you head off the big meeting or big date, try to free your mind of whatever it is that’s worrying you.
Don’t turn to alcohol (unless it’s free). Instead, just take a few deep breathes and maybe have a laugh at yourself too.
Freeing up your mind will really help you interact smoothly and pleasantly.
5) Make the right amount of eye contact
The right amount of eye contact basically equivocates to showing someone you care about what they are talking about.
Making too much of it, well, that’s not really a problem. Everyone has their own style. But if you fail to make eye contact you may appear aloof or careless. You may even appear scared.
It’s important to practice making eye contact in first impression situations, so even if it bothers you try and get out there and stare ‘em down.
6) Be comfortable with the mic
If you have acheived all of the above, you need to be comfortable speaking when the conversation drifts your way.
That means confidently telling folks what you do, why you do it, and a couple other interesting facts about yourself.
If you can’t manage this, or stammer, or act confused, all your efforts will be wasted.
If you can show composure and speak with a bit of authority, you’ll really drive the nail in.
Plan a few tidbits about yourself in advance, but keep them malleable to the dynamics of the situation.
7) Use a concise good-bye
Just like your introduction was concise, the good-bye should be brief and professional as well.
This shows you’re used to meeting new people, are comfortable breaking from a conversation, and above all could make the other party wish for more of your company down the road.
The alternative is a prolonged exchanged, which usually ends up in awkwardness or worse, you don’t get to finish a sentence.
Now get out there!
First impressions, at their finest, should be natural. It’s okay to blow a few along your way to perfect though.
If you adopt the 7 techniques above to heart, or at least a few of them, you’ll see some good results.
What do you think though? Are first impressions as important as I’ve made them out to be? Do we get second chances?
Let’s pick this topic apart in the comments.
Greg Narayan is the lead editor of Dear Blogger. When he’s not answering your WordPress questions or helping folks decide what to blog about, you can find him on the tennis court hitting Federer-esque backhands.