When you meet someone for the first time, do you get uncomfortable? Or do you automatically put on your friendliest smile, extend a hand, and greet that person with as much gusto as you can muster in order to make a good first impression?
It makes a quick glance of maybe three seconds for someone to make a snap judgment about the kind of person you are. In those seconds, they’ve already assessed your appearance, body language, demeanor, manners, and how you’re presenting yourself.
Apart from evaluating your appearance, during that first meeting, people are also asking if:
- They can trust you?
- Can I respect this person’s capabilities?
In a professional setting, these are the questions that people try to decipher before they decide if you’re worth making contact with. If they decide that you look or sound shady, they may not initiate further contact with you .But if you appear warm, trustworthy, genuine, and elicit admiration of open charisma, it’s a gift. Not many people have that, in my personal opinion.
I’ve met with some of the best money-makers in the world who have no communication skills whatsoever. I am not saying I am good at making first impressions (very, very, very far from that) but I do make a concerted effort not to create a bad one. That effort sometimes pays off.
It’s been said before but it is worth mentioning that “There are no second chances to make a good first impression”. So, it’s bad news or timing if you’ve just had a bad day or are not in the best of moods. You could just be tired or had an argument with your spouse of best-friend. Life happens.
It’s very unfair that way because what this new person you’re meeting right now is seeing is a small snippet of who you really are. Or worse yet, a sample of a you that’s just experienced something unpleasant. It’s not a good way to start a friendship or relationship.
It’s also unfair that this very first impression is probably gonna stick around for a while, if not for the entire relationship or friendship. Humans are hard-wired to remember these things, be it good or bad.
There are two different types of communications at work here and they are:
- Non-verbal communication
- Verbal communication
Your appearance makes a statement whether you like it or not. It’s not about wearing expensive clothes. It’s more about you taking pride in how you look to others. Does what you’re wearing fit the environment that you’re in…i think this is what sticks with me.
Body language is something we can learn and master. People pick up on that on a subconsciously. Are you openly engaging with others around? Are you smiling or flinching or wrinkling your eyebrows? Are you crossing your arms? Are you slumped over the table? Or are you energized and excited to meet other people?
Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, walk with confidence. Not only does this give out good vibes to those around you but even if you’re not in the best of moods, it might change your physiology.
Warmth. Are you smiling or distracted? Do you look like an approachable person or a closed-off one?
Confident handshake. Does it say ‘meh’ or does it say ‘Pleased to meet you”. Of course, no coach is going to advocate the extreme of pulling off a crushing handshake which may unnerve the other person even more. Is this a meet-up or an arm-wrestling competition?
What you say or talk about during that first meeting tells the other person a lot about you. Be a storyteller. You start with small talk about, I don’t know, the weather, your day, the place you’re in, your common friends and how you’ve met each other,
Work. what do you do for fun. Think about your life in mini stories. How your experiences make you the person that you are and what you feel comfortable sharing with a complete stranger. By sharing small snippets of your life in an interesting way gives the other person something to latch on to and a reason to share THEIR part of the story, perhaps you share a common ground. It’s a good way to break the ice.
Become a good listener. Being able to talk about yourself is important. But even more important than that is your ability to draw out a part of that person that makes a connection.
- How you feel about yourself.
- How you feel about the other person
- How that person feels about you
- How that person feel about themselves
The reality is, during that first meeting, the person could care less about how they feel about you. They care more about how you make them feel and if they fit in.
Maya Angelou – People will forget what you said but people will remember how you made them feel.
Leaning in when the other person is speaking, asking the right questions, appreciating their sharing, making eye contact, small nods of encouragement, Make follow up questions to show that you’re following what they’re telling you instead of nodding off with boredom. People pick up very quickly on that. A mistake we might make is to provide our own version of the story or an answer to the problems which were not asked for. People who are talking or sharing are rarely asking for a solution right away. Cutting them off or shutting the other person down mid-way destroys trust.
Matching your energy level with theirs. If they’re excited, be excited. If they are nonchalant, you may adopt the nonchalant stance. Giving them your undivided attention makes you very memorable.
If you ask the right questions and present yourself the right way, you don’t really have to divulge too much information about yourself, or say much. Asking the right questions and showing that you’re interested, you might just find yourself being classified as a good conversationalist. The irony, right?
Be that person that you want people to remember.
Here, I would like to say something about people I’ve met who goes very, very far to make a good first impression, to a point that I felt overwhelmed or intimidated. Projecting confidence if one thing, but I need to first trust this person.
And it is hard to trust a person who is overconfident.
Needless to say, you don’t want to be THAT PERSON who is respected but disliked…secretly. In fact, there might even be some form of suspicion lurking behind the entire relationship or friendship. You don’t want to be labeled as someone potentially manipulative or is a serial over-promiser.
Another good advice I got was to get the small talk out of the way, get the conversation going by breaking the ice, and then ask the right questions and showing genuine interest. And THEN, you will find the other person, in most cases, taking the floor. Let them take the lead once you’ve established that you’re a trustworthy person. If you elicit warmth and receptiveness, you’ve won half the game. People love to share, remember that.
On a personal front, this is a pet peeve of mine – people who are attached to their phones while still talking to me. It’s not a do-or-die, of course. Imagine if I was talking to a doctor or a CEO of a company, I would have to understanding enough to let the person answer his or her phone in the middle of a conversation. What if it was something truly, truly important? But if someone puts away his or her phone when they’re talking to you, it makes me feel like they’re really paying attention to me. Even a quick check or glance at their phones indicate their distractedness.
Be on Time
Many people, many, many, many, MANY people will tell you that being on time is not one of my best traits. So, I won’t lie. But if I am meeting someone for the very first time and it is for something absolutely important, I do not have an excuse to be late. Except for a couple of times when technology, the fault of technology, made it impossible for me to get things to work.
The sad news is that people are not interested in me being late, even if I have a good excuse. Even if it was a traffic collision, a car breakdown, a child falling sick, or even a being stuck in the lift. There’s no good excuse for running late no matter how reasonable they are.
As I have learned, if a meeting was important, I would or should have planned things ahead of time. I should have gone that extra mile to ensure everything goes on without a glitch. I know it’s impossible considering our schedule and the number of things we’re juggling but…the truth is, people don’t care.
One time, I was in the middle of a meeting and suddenly, there was a power outage and my internet was cut off. The bad impression was made. I was disorganized. It’s so unfair even when I think about it now. How was I to predict a sudden power outage? And despite the fact that I went back into the meeting via my phone with my mobile data, it didn’t change a thing. The first impression was screwed.
Be Myself, Being Honest
My personal favorite thing about meeting a new person is being honest. I find lying to be cumbersome. Let’s say we meet for the second time, I would have to remember what was said earlier so that I don’t contradict myself.
I hate pretending to be someone I am not because:
- It creates the wrong impression
- I have to upkeep it
- My low EQ and memory doesn’t allow me to enter the Hollywood league
- I get to say the same thing over the over again without trying too hard
A good thing to learn is to learn how to smile genuinely. It doesn’t have to be a winning smile – nothing like that. The saying ‘Smile and the world smiles with you” rings true here. A smile that is confident, warm, and says “I get you” will get you far as far as making good impressions go.
Experts believe that your positive attitude shines through and help you project a positive attitude. This is true even if you’re being criticized, given negative feedback, or when your nerves are wreaking havoc on your insides.
You don’t have to smile like an idiot, of course. But practice the understanding smile. The accepting smile. The smile that says, “Yes, I agree with you. It’s something I need to work on and I will be on it right away”.
Before you go…
I am no expert in making good impressions and I continue to study good communication to this very day. But here’s what I can tell you.
Being an entertainer teaches you loads of things about dealing with countless people in one event. Sometimes you fleet from one personality to another because the situation calls for it. I don’t want to say that it’s the best place to learn it but being an entertainer has taught me to read between the lines and form very quick reactions about what people are feeling.
I am highly alert about people’s responses because when I am on stage, sometimes, because of the lighting or the environment, I don’t see anything but the bright lights shining on the stage. But I can hear. I can perceive, I can guess.
I feel the same way about being visible on the internet through my writing, blogs, videos, instagrams and stuff. It makes me feel vulnerable and visible to all. Open to criticisms and praise. Although I have gotten better with handling criticisms, I am still awful with praise.
So, if you’re feeling the same, I just want you to know that you’re not alone.