It’s an old cliche, but it’s still true — You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So how do you make sure that first impression is a good one?
The impact you make starts before you even leave your house.
It may seem overly obvious, but having good hygiene is important if you want to make a good impression.
This means bathe or shower regularly. Brush your teeth each morning. Floss and brush your teeth each night. In the U.S. and many other cultures, use deodorant. Brush your hair. If you use cologne, perfume, or any other scent, use a light touch.
Keep your clothes clean and in good repair. If buttons fall off, replace them. If hems or seams tear, fix them. If there are holes that there shouldn’t be, patch them if they can be patched, or relegate the item of clothing to what you wear when cleaning. Make sure your clothes send the message you want them to send.
The actual meeting has a huge impact on the first impression you make on someone.
Confidence makes a good first impression. Cockiness or nervousness, not so much. In order to come across as confident, you need good posture. Slouching comes across as though you have low self-esteem or are exhausted. You also need to avoid fidgeting and nervous ticks. Tapping your feet or twirling your hair can send the message that you’re bored or don’t understand the conversation.
One of the things I sometimes do when I’m feeling nervous or shy is fold my arms in front of me. I try to remember to not do this, because I know how it comes across to others. It makes me look like I don’t want to be there. It makes me seem disapproving and judgmental. And it definitely makes it seem like I’m not interested in what anyone else has to say. Rather than folding my arms in front of me, I generally keep them by my sides or with my hands clasped loosely in front of or behind me.
Another way to show interest is to lean in slightly, especially when you’re sitting. This gives the impression that you care about what the other person is saying and want to hear more.
While maintaining good eye contact does show confidence, it does a lot more than that. It show honesty and sincerity, as well. It’s important not to stare, though. Eye contact shouldn’t be constant. That makes folks uncomfortable. This isn’t usually a problem, though. As we think about what we are hearing or saying, our eyes shift briefly as though we’re looking in our mind. If maintaining good eye contact is tough for you, try mirroring the eye contact of the person or people you’re meeting with. Don’t copy them exactly; not only would that mean you’re overly focused on eye contact rather than the conversation, but it would come across as creepy.
“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” – Mother Teresa
A smile is one of the easiest ways to put both yourself and others at ease. If you feel too nervous to smile, think about something that makes you happy. You don’t want to burst out laughing inappropriately, but you do want an easy smile.
This is covered in a previous post: The Minimalist Guide to Small Talk
If you follow all of these tips, you’ll find yourself making a good first impression.