What You Should Know About Good First Impressions
Interview, important meeting, first date … Like it or not, the first impressions people have of you can significantly affect the way they react to you. If you get it wrong in a work environment, you could lose a client or not get a promotion. If you get it wrong in a social environment, you could struggle to make new friends or develop a relationship.
“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover”
You’ve probably heard this saying. But even when we try not to, we do tend to make a judgement about people. This first impression of them could be all that you remember them by.
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How important are first impressions?
Making good first impressions really does matter, especially if you want to come across with confidence and impact.
It takes just a very quick glance for someone to evaluate you when you first meet them. In literally just one second, the person forms an opinion about you. They’re basing this on your body language, your appearance and your demeanour.
Bad or good first impressions can literally make the difference between success and failure. First impressions can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo. That’s why it’s so important to get it right. The last thing you want to be doing when you meet someone is to give away any sign that you lack self-confidence or you feel uncomfortable.
Any negative first impressions you give will set the tone for the relationship that follows. So, regardless of whether it’s in your career or your social life, giving the best possible first impressions is vital.
How to make good first impressions
More often than not you’ll have prior warning before you meet someone new. That means you have time to prepare.
You don’t need hours for this; you don’t even need minutes; just a few seconds will do as long as you know how to make the most of the time you’ve got. You need to think about your body language, facial expression, eye contact, voice and posture.
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Tips for making the best first impression
There are some simple things you can do to help you come across well during that first introduction. So here are some practical tips you can start practising straightaway;
Be conscious – Be conscious of how you’re coming across – Think about how you look and sound when you introduce yourself to people. Introducing yourself is something you tend to do the same way every time. So it’s worth making sure you look right and you’re not doing anything to distract the person. Why not ask someone you know well to watch you the next time you introduce yourself to someone. Then get some feedback.
Facial expressions – Your facial expressions send out many messages. Your aim is to make sure all these messages are positive. Try to smile and have a positive expression as you introduce yourself. Some people do this naturally because of their personality, others have to work at it. Think about where you stand here and make the necessary adjustment – it’s worth it.
Handshake – Shake the person’s hand firmly but not too firmly. You’re looking for a happy medium. Some people think it’s impressive to have a really strong grip but it’s not, it actually distracts the person. Try also to make sure you physically engage the person’s hand properly … don’t just grip their fingers, it doesn’t send out a confident message.
Eye contact – You can give a huge amount away with your eye contact. Some people find it really hard to look someone in the eye when they introduce themselves. Don’t fall into this trap. Looking the person directly in the eye tells them you’re confident, you’re comfortable and you’re glad to meet them. Looking away tells them the exact opposite.
Message – What do you say when you introduce yourself to people? It’s essential that you tell the person your name. Some people forget. Listen when they tell you their name. Then remember it and use it when you address them, particularly if it’s a work situation. If you’re the only person in the room to remember peoples’ names, you’ll stand apart from the rest.
Voice – Try to speak clearly and loud enough. This is obvious you might be thinking. Well it’s surprising how many people mumble or speak so quietly that you just can’t hear what they’re saying. You certainly don’t hear their name. So be conscious of this and practise speaking clearly and perhaps slightly louder than you normally might if you see yourself as a quiet person.
Posture – Be aware of your posture. Some people look apologetic before they’ve even spoken. Why? Because their posture lets them down. They stand with their shoulders hunched and head down slightly. So do your best to stand tall. Try to physically pull your shoulders back and raise your chin when you introduce yourself. This will send out a much more positive message.
Distance – Don’t make the person feel uncomfortable by getting too close to them when you shake their hand. In other words try not to invade their personal space. This could distract them or make them feel you’re putting them under pressure. At the same time, don’t stand so far away that it makes shaking their hand awkward. Just find a distance that feels comfortable.
Presentation & time keeping – Make sure you dress appropriately for the occasion and look clean and tidy. Be courteous and polite and turn up on time, that way you’re less likely to look rushed or under pressure because you walk in with a calm and measured demeanor. These might seem obvious tips but so many people forget what an impact they can have.
Be disciplined – Have the self-discipline to use the second or two before the person shakes your hand to prepare yourself. Remind yourself of the things you should be doing to look impressive.
So as first impressions are so important, how can you be clear about the impression you first give people? Why not try taking our Reality Check questionnaire? The questionnaire is part of the 4 Step Confidence Plan. It gives people a chance to tell you anonymously about the first impression you give.
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