Do you find it hard to connect with
new people? Have you ever come away from an interview, a business meeting or a personal
visit, feeling that it just didn’t go quite as well as you hoped?
First impressions mean a lot. Get them wrong, and you lose business and
career opportunities, as well as potential friends and contacts. But get them
right, and life will go that bit more smoothly.
So here’s your guide to making a great impression on people when you’re meeting
them for the first time, or very early on in your relationship.
- Remember Their Name
One very basic step is to be sure to remember the names of anyone new you’re
introduced to. If you clearly can’t remember what their name is the next
time you meet, you’ll give the impression that you simply weren’t
interested. And if you want to get in touch with them in future, you’ll
look a bit of an idiot if you ask for “that chap in the third office on
the right with a blue dinosaur sitting on his computer”.
- Smile and Shake Hands
Body language is crucial: we make instant,
unconscious, judgments about people based on their body language. Just
think how you feel when you meet someone for the first time who won’t make
eye contact, or who leans in way too close. Two simple steps to appearing
friendly and confident are to smile warmly and to shake hands – firmly,
but not so firmly that you crush anyone’s fingers.
- Show Up On Time
Another basic but essential step is to always be on time. Being late will
create a bad impression before people have even met you – not exactly the
best way to get off to a good start. Being prompt shows that you value
their time, and that you’re organized. Don’t turn up too early
though – appearing at someone’s office half an hour early means you’ll
have to sit around until your appointment, and showing up at someone’s
house early is not terribly polite: if your hosts are anything like me,
they’ll still be running around with the vacuum cleaner...
- Pay Attention to Your Clothes and Grooming
Give yourself enough time to dress in well-fitting, flattering clothes
that send the right message. That might mean a
suit for a business meeting, casual smart wear for meeting your
significant other’s parents for the first time, or something creative and
zany when going for that job interview at an advertising agency. Whatever
the actual style, your clothes absolutely must be clean. And of course
you’d never dream of showing up reeking of sweat, or with greasy hair, but
double-check your appearance in a mirror too – spinach between the teeth
happens to the best of us...
- Take a Small Gift
In most situations, taking a small gift for the person or people you’re
meeting is a lovely gesture. (I wouldn’t recommend it for job interviews,
as this would probably come across as a bit weird and could even be
interpreted as an attempt at bribery.) How about bringing a box of
chocolates for a client’s office when you’re visiting them, or a bottle of
wine for your hosts at a dinner party?
- Watch Your Language
Until you get to know people, it’s worth keeping things clean. Don’t tell
off-color jokes or use curse words. This particularly applies when meeting
older folks, or in a business context: language which might go down fine
with the same people after-hours might fall very flat in the office.
- Have a Positive Attitude
Most of us are quickly put off by someone who grumbles constantly. Even if
you had a horrendous journey to get to your meeting, or you’ve been suffering
with multiple health problems, your new acquaintances don’t need to be
told the details. Stay upbeat and cheerful, and people will warm to you.
How do you create a great first impression? What have others
done at a first meeting that’s really impressed you?
Written on 4/8/2009 by Ali