Meeting people is essential in every sphere of life, be it business or casually. However, what matters most is the impression that you leave, as this will determine if there will be a second meeting as well as how they will receive you will during the second meeting.
Thus, you must know what first impressions entail and how to leave a lasting one.
To this end, we have drawn up this article to help you master the art of the first impression.
We will, however, begin with knowing what First Impressions are.
WHAT IS THE FIRST IMPRESSION?
First Impression has to do with the events surrounding your first encounter with someone for the first time. This is the totality of the mental image you create as soon as you meet the person.
Admittedly, first impressions are dependent on one’s physical appearance, posture, gender, verbal language as well as body language; however, time is also a factor that could reveal the accuracy of the first impression.
Studies also show that it takes an average of 7 seconds to form a first impression. Short, right? The truth is you might not have the time to express yourself verbally within the 7 seconds. Here is a relatable situation that might help you understand first impressions.
While in an office, a lady steps in, and the first thing you notice is her clothes. She is wearing a simple dress and looks almost flustered. She also walks with a slight stoop. You immediately start analyzing everything your eyes and brain have processed.
You imagine that she is a mid-class citizen because of how she dressed. Also, you assume that she is timid, has low self-confidence, and might not know how to express herself because of how she stoops while walking.
Consequently, you have imagined, analyzed, and concluded your assumptions about the individual without the person saying anything.
Thus, any further judgment will be shaped around your first impression of the individual, and therefore, you must strive to give off an excellent first impression.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Research has shown that first impressions are greatly affected by body language and nonverbal communication. In the same vein, one’s outward appearance also has a small hand in how others perceive him or her.
Additionally, your facial expression can affect one’s first impression of you. Very expressive people tend to be more accepted and liked than less expressive people.
Thus, being able to give off positive emotions can earn you an excellent first impression.
To this end, certain factors affect first impressions and help you express yourself non-verbally. They are:
- Handshake and Posture
- Facial Expressions
- Clothing and Accessories
- Follow Up
Handshake and Posture: As soon as you meet a person for the first time, a handshake is inevitably the first and last form of bodily contact with the person. Thus, being the first contact, it says a lot about you to the other person and vice versa. When you receive a firm handshake, you subconsciously conclude that the other individual is confident. Also, a weak handshake that ends too quickly may show some level of timidity or low confidence level. Therefore, how firm your grip is can give an insight into your personality. Admittedly, you are not expected to give a bouncy handshake that is too hard; however, you are merely aiming at showing self-confidence via a firm handshake.
Your posture is another factor that happens to be among the first things an individual will notice. People who walk briskly with an upright posture are perceived to be confident and secure. On the other hand, if you’ve got a hunched or slouched posture while walking, then you are tagged as a somewhat timid and weak person.
Facial Expressions: As much as your posture matters, your facial expression also plays a crucial role in first impressions. No one wants to approach someone who may look too serious and uptight; we sometimes tag such people as unapproachable or mean. However, when you come across a person who smiles a tad bit, then your first impression of the person tilts toward the positive.
Also, while conversing with someone for the first time, the individual’s body language can either encourage you to keep talking or to keep quiet. People who show interest in your conversation by occasionally staring at you, smiling, and chipping in one or two points are rated a hundred points on the positive first impression scale. Although maintain eye contact is also vital for you to master; a lengthy stare down could give off the wrong impression.
Clothing and Accessories: The famous saying, “How you dress is the way you will be addressed,” couldn’t be more accurate in this context. The way people perceive you can be positive or negative based on what you are wearing and how you wear what you are wearing. If you look wealthy, then everyone will assume that you are wealthy and talk to you in like manner.
However, if you look haggard, then be prepared to be treated shabbily. Admittedly, this has nothing to do with necessarily expensive accessories or clothing items; it is all in the presentation and how you wear it. You will most likely perceive a man with a beautiful wristwatch or strong cologne as powerful. At the same time, a lady with a trendy handbag or an elegant wristwatch can also leave an excellent first impression. Additionally, dressing to suit the occasion will give you an opportunity to a good and lasting impact.
Punctuality: When you are meeting a person for the first time, and you had a stipulated time for the meeting, if you show up earlier than expected, you already created a good note. However, if you show up later than agreed, the person’s first impression about you tilts towards incompetence and disrespect. More to this, he/she will see you as being unserious, and your excuses may be baseless and unreliable from the start. Thus, arriving a bit earlier than the agreed time will earn you an excellent first impression.
Follow Up: After the initial and personal first impression, another factor that will further improve how people perceive you are following them up. This will help, especially when you had a positive first impression. After meeting an individual for the first time, you can simply send a short email to help improve and build the relationship. When you reach out to the person, you have sealed the positive first impression you gave initially.
HOW TO GIVE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION
1. Be Punctual
Honestly, nobody likes to associate with a latecomer, whether it is in a business setting or execution of a project, as this may likely cause a setback.
Doing this regularly portray you negatively to your colleagues or clients and such may push them away. No matter how valid and convincing your excuses are, they just may not bode well with you, especially if it’s your first time of meeting with them.
Therefore, when meeting up with someone, plan to get there a few minutes before the stipulated time.
Additionally, give room for other issues that may come up, such as traffic delay and taking wrong turns.
Furthermore, you should go earlier as agreed than appearing late. This way, the individual or group you are meeting will see you as being time-conscious and well-organized in getting things done efficiently.
2. Look Presentable
Your physical appearance says a lot about you, even without voicing anything.
The individual you are meeting doesn’t know you previously; thus, he or she will first judge you from your appearance. Your appearance is a totality of what you are wearing as well as your carriage.
You do not need to look too expensive to create a good impression as you might even end up intimidating your new acquaintance.
Another tip is to dress to suit the occasion as well as the person you are meeting. For instance, you can’t dress casually when meeting with senior staff of a multinational company, except, of course, you are meeting in an informal setting.
Additionally, the culture of the particular country or setting should be adhered to; this will depict respect for their values as well as customs.
3. Be Original
Striving to make a good first impression may imply you are trying to fit in to some extent. However, you shouldn’t get lost trying to fit in, that you become unoriginal and lose yourself.
Creating a good first impression is easier when you are yourself. When you are real, it is easier for you to be confident and build trust with the person. Additionally, you will be respected and branded as someone with integrity.
4. Remember to Smile
There is no easy way to explain the power of smiling.
When you smile at someone, you are meeting for the first time, you break the ice and give off a good first impression. Also, smiling puts you and the other person at ease.
Admittedly, no one knows what to expect when you are meeting a new acquaintance; therefore, smiling goes a long way in creating a fixed starting point.
However, be cautious with smiling as overdoing this might give off an insincere or suspicious vibe.
5. Use your body language
Body language is a collection of unspoken or nonverbal forms of communication that relate to one’s genuine emotions. This cuts across your facial expressions, gestures, and posture.
When trying to make an excellent first impression, your body language says a lot about you before you even get the chance to speak.
Your body language should project self-assurance and confidence when you meet someone for the first time. Here are some body language tips that could help create a good first impression:
- Stand upright
- Maintain eye contact
- Give a firm handshake
When you do these, you will realize that you and your acquaintance are at ease with each other. It is usual for you to be a bit nervous when meeting someone new; sometimes, you unknowingly stutter, bite your nails or develop sweaty palms.
These habits may be subconscious; thus, the best way to keep them in check is by being aware of them and controlling them. You can relax by taking occasional deep breaths and trying as much as possible to hide how nervous you are.
6. Make Small Talk
Small talks should be your go-to move in breaking the ice when meeting someone new. Various topics could interest your acquaintance, other than the weather.
Prepare before meeting someone, especially when the meeting was planned. You can ask casual questions without sounding too interrogative and make small talk based on what interests the person.
When you do this, you create a cheery and good first impression.
However, you should note when the other person doesn’t seem chatty. Read the person and back off to avoid being tagged as a pest.
7. Be Optimistic
Everyone has problems, and they will instead not be reminded about their woes or hear about yours. Therefore, when discussing with someone, try your best to sound upbeat and positive. Even if you are nervous, try to put up a positive attitude.
Also, if you are faced with criticism, try to see the conversation to the end, while keeping a positive attitude.
Learn as much as you can from the meeting and keep contributing as expected. Additionally, maintain your smile and a cheery demeanor, as this will show that you are approachable.
8. Be an active listener
An active listener is someone who concentrates on what the other individual is saying, instead of planning what they’ll say next.
When you are conversing with someone, and you are more interested in what your reply will be, your train of thoughts will distract you from what is being said.
Thus, when you are meeting someone for the first time, be an active listener; ask intelligent questions based on what you are discussing.
Talking about something else doesn’t only distract your speaker; it also gives off a feeling that what he/she is saying is not as important as what you want to say. Therefore, endeavor to give suggestions only when asked.
9. Be courteous
Everyone accepts someone that is polite and has good manners; thus, it is key to creating an excellent first impression.
A rude individual will only drive future meetings and engagements away. Courtesy goes beyond the cordial greeting, please(s) and thank you(s); it extends to your attitude while a conversation is ongoing.
Try to keep your mobile phone aside while discussing with your new acquaintance, as it could be a distraction.
Additionally, try to avoid getting sidetracked by other people as he or she is entitled to your full attention.
Do your homework
It is always exciting when someone knows some details about you before you share them, details that could be available on your LinkedIn profile or your company website. Although it could not work when it is an unplanned meeting, you can look up the person you plan to meet.
For instance, a job interview or a consultation provides an adequate avenue for you to look up the individual and find out as much information as possible before the meeting.
As a result of this, you will be branded as competent and trustworthy, especially when you find a way to chip in your knowledge when necessary.
OTHER TIPS TO MASTER THE ART OF THE FIRST IMPRESSION
- Allow the person to speak first: When meeting someone for the first time, allow the person to take the floor and lead the conversation while you tag along and ask appropriate questions. If you choose the story immediately, it could indicate dominance, thus, reducing the trust level. When people feel that they are understood, warmth and trust will blossom.
- Avoid filler language: A conversation will be engaging when it flows seamlessly; however, when you use filler words like “ah,” “um,” “like,” you could exhibit some sort of hesitation. This will indicate that you are grasping for what to say. One way to avoid this is by asking appropriate conversations to make the conversation flow. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a silent moment to collect your thoughts and frame the next train of discussion.
- Maintain eye contact: When we say eye contact, we are not referring to a staredown. People who keep eye contact are seen as intelligent and sincere, while those who do not are tagged, insincere. One easy way to do this is to imagine a triangle around the mouth and eyes of your acquaintance and alternate your gaze between these points.
- Respect personal space: It is not uncommon to see someone who doesn’t want to chat with you, especially when the meeting wasn’t planned. If you meet someone whose body language indicates that he/she wants to be left alone, then do just that. Also, when talking with someone, ensure that there are at least 1.5 feet (45cm) of personal space between both of you. You can measure the length between your elbow and your fingertip to regulate this space.
- Make the other person comfortable: When having a conversation with someone, you should ensure that the other person is relaxed. Avoid speaking loudly and using vulgar words. Opt for soft speaking and decent words, don’t make fun of someone else. Also, respect others, and don’t let others get comfortable while disrespecting you. Avoid the use of slangs, except, of course, if the person is comfortable with it. Thus, while discussing, take note of the person’s body language and facial expression. This will help you stop or change the course of the conversation.
The secret about making a positive first impression is that you have only a few seconds to pass any message across. When this happens, it can hardly be undone; thus, you must meet new encounters with your best behavior.
The tips above can be applied in any setting, whether it is an interview, an unplanned meeting, or even a meeting. If you work on your verbal and nonverbal etiquette, you will surely create an excellent first impression.
However, if you flopped the first meeting, you can make up with the second encounter. If there is none, you have the opportunity to make it right with other people, as we meet people every day.