Everyone knows the cliche “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.“ Getting off on the right foot when meeting someone new cannot be overemphasized. People tend to stereotype each new person they meet based on their first impression, even if they don’t mean to do so. We get a first impression of a new person that creates a mental image of his or her personality in our minds. That image often lasts and can affect the relationship that follows. This is true whether you are meeting a potential client, a new boss, a new employee, a colleague or a classmate.
However, knowing the importance of making a good first impression is one thing and achieving it is quite another. For one thing, the advent of social networking sites such as Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter and the like, have made it possible for people to get a ’first impression’ of you before they ever meet you. Before a business meeting, interview or date, the person you are meeting might Google your name to learn more about you. That will certainly affect their impression of you before you walk through the door. Be sure that your online profile(s) reflects a consistent image of how you want to be perceived. For instance, a conservative, business-savvy profile on Linked In should not be undermined by unflattering photos of you on Facebook. If your online profile makes the first impression, then let it be a good one.
That said, most people will reserve judgment until they meet someone face-to-face. There are some things you can do to help make a good first impression when meeting someone new. It starts with body language. Tone of voice and body-language make up 93 percent of communication and words make up the other seven percent. Here are some tips.
- Dress appropriately. There is no need to be a slave to fashion, but clothing that is clean, crisp, and fashionable says that you have self-respect.
- Stand straight and tall. Hold your head high. Posture says a lot about your mood, confidence and energy.
- Relax. Sit straight, but don’t be a robot.
- Don’t fidget. That means no fingernail biting, hair twirling, doodling, or napkin crumpling.
- Smile. Whether you show teeth or just grin, a smile says ‘welcome.’
- Make eye contact. Focus on the person with whom you are speaking.
- Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, or you may be stuck with that label forever.
- Be confident and outgoing. Self-confidence is very appealing to others.
- Have a positive attitude and reserve complaints or criticisms for another time.
- Avoid controversial or potentially offensive topics such as politics and religion.
- Be a good listener. Try not to hog the spotlight. Having a genuine interest in others is key.
- Be humorous. Don’t use lame jokes or lines, but do try to inject levity into an exchange.
- Be interesting. Consider with whom you are speaking and discuss topics that might be of interest. If you’re not sure, then ask about his/her hobbies and listen closely.
- Finish on a good note. Show you had a good time and keep them wanting more.
To prepare for meeting someone new, mentally rehearse before you enter a room. Visualize how great the exchange will unfold. See and hear it. Imagine how great you will feel at the meeting. See yourself smiling, being positive, and having a great time. See the excellent outcome in your mind. This can be effective to get you into a great, relaxed mood even before you start.
Remember, a good or great first impression can create a positive role in the minds of the new people we meet. When we meet them again, we are often drawn back into this role. Sometimes it happens almost unconsciously until you after a few minutes notice that you have fallen into your old role. You may not always be drawn into that role, but when it does happen, it sure is nicer to have a positive than negative role.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression on us.” Arthur Schopenhauer
© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.