As Lil Wayne says, "I always believe that to be the best, you have to smell like the best, dress like the best, act like the best."
Whether it’s a job interview or a date, first impressions matter. Even though half our social and professional lives are conducted online with the help of social media, the first few seconds of meeting someone in the flesh leave a lasting impression on us. According to psychologists, a first impression is formed within a split second upon meeting someone new, and creates a mental image of that person and what they are like. Phil McAleer, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow says, “From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person's personality”. First impressions are a highly subjective and individual response, they can depend on lots of factors like age, gender, appearance, culture, body language and voice.
Keep reading to find out how to make a good first impression, and some tips to remember when meeting someone new.
The key words here are neat and tidy. If someone appears to be looking after himself or herself – showering, shaving, brushing hair, washing clothes - we assume they are a capable and well-balanced person. Of course your choice of outfit must depend on your personal style and the context of the interaction that is about to take place. If you are interviewing for a job in a coffee shop a suit might be overkill, but if you have a meeting at a corporate office it might be best to leave your sneakers at home.
The words we speak are important, but our body does a lot of work communicating for us too. And although we may not consciously acknowledge the body language of those around us, we are all experts at deciphering the messages encoded in physical movement. Every conversation or interaction we have we are giving off physical signals and interpreting those of others around us. For a first impression we want our body language to say that we are confident, engaged and happy to be here. This means eye contact is really important. Avoiding eye contact seems distrustful and disengaged. Crossed arms or fidgeting like tapping your foot or rubbing your hands says you’re uncomfortable, and makes those around you uneasy as well. If you’re feeling nervous concentrate on slowing down your breathing, as this helps slow down your body as well.
Overall try to smile, make eye contact, and actively listen to what is being said around you.
Everyone loves polite people. Manners are much more than saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Paying attention to manners and being polite is really just a way of communicating respect. You might be paying your respects to an individual, or a business, or a first date. For instance, when you are introduced to someone, tell your new acquaintance that it’s nice to meet them and repeat their name in your response. If you are filling up your glass of water, fill the glasses of those around you first. During conversation, refer to people by their name because this shows you have taken the care to remember it. Always thank your host for having you and taking the time to speak with you, that you really enjoyed it and that you are looking forward to hearing from them. Of course these sentiments can be paraphrased to something that sounds natural coming out of your mouth.
Another good tip is to ask people a couple questions about themselves, rather than getting stuck talking about yourself the whole time!
These all seem like basic common sense and they are. But when you’re meeting someone for the first time and you want to make a great first impression, paying attention to your manners really communicates that the interaction taking place is important to you.
It takes very little effort to arrive on time, but contributes hugely to making a good first impression. It might mean an earlier wake up or catching the train before the one you usually would. This helps to avoid possible delays and it is a very simple step to assist in impressing someone. When we run late to a meeting or an interview, even if we have a perfectly good excuse, it gives the impression that we don’t prioritise that commitment highly enough. Of course it happens sometimes and that’s a part of life, but if it can be done showing up ahead of time to a meeting or interview is sure to get you off on the right foot.
Even though we’ve been talking about first impressions in real life, it is worth mentioning that these days your presence online also has the potential to make a big impact on the way you are perceived. If you enter your own name into a search engine you might be surprised by what pops up. Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology conducted a study that revealed it takes a similarly short amount of time for a first impression to be formed about a webpage as it does when meeting a person. It is increasingly common for future employers to use advanced search engines to examine the character of potential employees. This means unless you’ve got your privacy settings properly sorted, people may check up on your Facebook, Instagram and any other webpage connected to your name. It pays to think about what’s being uploaded under your name and what audience you would be comfortable to have see that content. Easy ways to increase your privacy online are to remove your surname from your username, adjust the privacy settings manually on Facebook and just to be safe, never upload anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see!
We’ve talked about the importance of a neat and tidy outward appearance when meeting someone for the first time, and how confident and open body language can put those around you at ease. Remembering your manners, making conversation and arriving on time are super easy ways to start a meeting on a good note. Overall, be yourself. Have a smile on your face and faith in your ability as you walk through the door. You’ve got this!
What are some of your best bets for making a good impression?