12 Easy Ways to Avoid a First Impression Catastrophe
There’s no turning back the clock once you’ve made your first impression. Find out how you can prevent a disastrous first impression with these tips.
Whether it is meeting your best friend’s girlfriend for the first time or trying to score a highly coveted position at a Fortune 500 company, first impressions count. We have made good impressions and we have made bad impressions. We have been impressed by some and repulsed by others. No matter which way you look at it, you cannot deny the importance of impressing someone the first time you meet them.
According to an article published on Forbes’ website, it only takes seven seconds for people to form an opinion of you. As tough as it may be to make a good impression in such a short amount of time, that’s just the way it goes and you have to roll with it. Making a positive first impression will give you a much better chance to prove your worth, especially if the person you are meeting has already decided that they like you.
In a world where social media often takes precedence over real life, we tend to forget that people still judge books by their covers. From the way you smell to the type of shoes you wear, nothing evades the scrutiny of a person trying to form an opinion about you.
How to prevent first impression disasters
You can never fully control how a person thinks. What you can control, however, are the variables that you may be able to tip in your favor. Here are some of the variables that can help you make a great first impression.
#1 Be on time. Don’t underestimate the power of punctuality. Being tardy not only showcases your complete lack of respect for the other person’s time, it also shows them how bad you are at time management.
If you can’t manage your time well enough to make it to an important meeting at the assigned time, how are you supposed to be productive in a new company? Is this the type of attitude you’d show to big clients? How can anyone count on you if you’re not there when they need you? These are the thoughts that will be going through people’s heads when you waltz into a meeting late.
Whenever you have a big meeting, make sure you consider possible hindrances to you getting there on time. Make allowances for traffic, a late bus or a long line at the train ticket booth. You’re better off being too early than being a little late.
#2 Dress to impress. How you look is extremely important when making a positive first impression. Remember to always dress for the occasion. Never show too much skin unless you are interviewing for a position as a pole dancer. You will be surprised at how many points you will chalk up by putting some effort into the way you look.
Ensure that there are no loose threads hanging off your sleeves, press your suit the night before, iron out all wrinkles from your collar, check for rips in your stockings, shine your shoes and so on. If you’re not sure about what to wear, ask someone if there’s a dress code that needs to be followed.
#3 Practice personal hygiene. Donning a perfectly pressed suit is not going to do you any good if you smell like an alley cat, have dirt under your nails or look like you’ve never been acquainted with a comb. Personal hygiene plays a very important role in ensuring that you impress the person you are meeting for the first time.
Take a good shower and groom yourself beforehand. Boys, make sure that you trim your nails, brush your hair, put on deodorant, don clean socks and tuck in your shirt. Ladies, you should know the drill by now but as an extra tip, remember not to go overboard with the makeup, jewelry and perfume.
#4 Proper handshake. Besides the way you look, your handshake is also one of the very first forms of self promotion that you can offer to people. According to a piece published on Everyday Psychology, your handshake actually reflects certain personality characteristics. Those with firm grips are assumed to be more open and outgoing whereas those with limp handshakes are assumed to be shy and anxious, a negative impression.
The article also states that, “completeness of grip, temperature, dryness, strength, duration, vigor, texture and eye contact” all come into play when people judge a person’s handshake. The article concludes that a weak handshake tends to generate less favorable impressions, so work on your handshake if you want to make a good first impression.
#5 Appropriate small talk. Whether you are meeting your girlfriend’s folks for the first time or trying to ace a job interview, small talk will definitely come into play. This is a way for both parties to break the ice. What you talk about will set the stage for what is to come next. [Read: Don’t know how to small talk? Use these easy tips!]
Don’t overdo the small talk by keeping the topic from progressing. But do try to focus on topics that are appropriate. Only your instincts and common sense can guide you when it comes to picking the topics. For example, if your interviewer is someone who seems very serious, stay away from cracking too many jokes as you may be seen as crass.
Find common ground and ask questions about it. Pick a topic that you believe your interviewer would know about such as one of the paintings you admired in the lobby or a sculpture standing near their building. A friendly conversation with your interviewer can pave the way for a future office friend. [Read: 8 tips for being good friends with your coworkers]
#6 Eye contact and smile. Nonverbal communication is just as important as the verbal form when making a good first impression. Exude confidence by holding eye contact when you introduce yourself, but not so intently that you might bore a hole through the person you’re talking to.
Smiling is also a surefire way to show the person you are meeting that you are open, friendly and happy to be there. Don’t overdo it and pull a Joker grin on them because that’s just creepy. Don’t hold your smile like a pageant finalist either, because they might think you’ve just had a Botox shot. Instead, go for a slight, pleasant smile that reaches your eyes.
#7 Do your homework. If you are meeting your partner’s family or friends for the first time, make it a point to study and remember their names. People love it when you know who they are even before they introduce themselves as it shows them that they are important enough for you to want to impress.
As for interviews and meetings, make an effort to remember your interviewer’s name and store useful tidbits that you garner through the initial small talk. Use this information when the opportunity arises. This will convey that you pay attention to detail. Also, it’s very important to do your homework on the company before the interview. Interviewers like it when you are aware of what the company does and what it believes in.
#8 Be aware of nervous habits. If you’re someone who outwardly displays nervousness and anxiety, try your best to curb the impulse. Biting your nails, tapping your feet, playing with your hair and so on are all examples of nervous habits.
Do not let these things get in the way of making a good first impression. Practice what you are going to say with a friend and get them to prompt you every time you display these habits. You will then be more aware of your body language, and this allows you to become more in control of your little habits. [Read: Do you get nervous when someone compliments you?]
#9 Do not complain. Whether it is saying something to your blind date about the horrible traffic and bad weather or something on a professional basis like telling your interviewer why you left your last job, don’t sound like a spoiled, complaining brat.
Complaining will paint you in a very unflattering light. No one wants to deal with a whiner and it will do you a world of good to remember that. If you must say something negative, try to make it sound like constructive criticism instead. [Read: Are your negative comments caused by jealousy?]
#10 Prepare questions beforehand. This is especially important if you are trying to make a good first impression with a future employer. Interviewers have said that the questions posed to them at the end of an interview carry plenty of weight when deciding whom to hire. It shows the candidate’s attentiveness and interest in securing the position.
Think of what you would like to ask your interviewer before you even attend the meeting. Subtly showcase your intelligence and passion when doing so.
#11 Mind your words. Watch your language as poor grammar, cussing, racist slurs, bigoted remarks and uncouth jokes are no place in an interview, first date or important meeting. Watch what you say and don’t let your enthusiasm get the better of you. It’s fine to be yourself, but try not to offend anyone, least of all someone you’re trying to get to like you.
#12 Hide your mobile phone. It’s ridiculous how glued people are to their phones that they don’t even realize how rude it can be. If you are meeting someone for the first time, put your phone away and focus all of your attention on this individual. If you are trying to make a positive impression, then doing anything on your phone, even if it’s just glancing at the screen to check the time, may be deemed as rude.
At the end of the day, always remember to be confident without being cocky. Smile, hold eye contact, be genuine and most of all, be polite. The more charming and intelligent you come off as, the more likely people will like you.
First impressions last for far longer than you can imagine. With these 12 tips for better first impressions, you can become more confident when meeting new people. It takes practice to perfect these steps, so get started now!