Importance of first impressions

first-impression-3They say that it takes maybe only three seconds, for you to evaluate another person when you meet for the first time. During this short span of time, you form your opinion about the other based on many things which you are subconsciously evaluating, which may include – overall appearance, dressing, body language, behaviour, mannerisms, etc.

Sometimes it can be extremely difficult or in fact nearly impossible to reverse or undo these first impressions therefore making these first meetings extremely important, for it is this interaction which may set the tone for the relationship that follows in the future.

So, whether it is in your career or social life, it’s important to know how to create a good first impression.

Whitney Johnson, one of the world’s most influential management thinkers says “First impressions matter so much because they happen fast, and they are stubborn”.  To put it very simply, our relationships and interactions will not only be a lot easier but also a lot better  if we are able to immediately start off strong.

Following are some strategies you may use to make certain that others see the best in you from the very beginning.

§  Be Open and Confident

Remember that when it comes to meeting someone for the first time and you are making a first impression, body language as well as overall appearance matter a lot.

Your body language should be used to portray appropriate confidence and self-assurance. You should stand tall, have a pleasant smile, make eye contact and greet the other person appropriately – men with a firm handshake and women with the relevant greeting and gesture. This will help you to project your confidence and encourage both you and the other person to feel at ease and interact with confidence.

Most people get a little nervous when meeting someone for the first time, some even to the extent that they react with nervous habits or begin to perspire. But you can try to keep these habits in check by being aware of them and develop the confidence to put the other person at ease.

§  Be Yourself and at Ease

Thoughts and feelings transmit themselves,  so if you are feeling uncomfortable and on edge, this will be communicated and can make the other person feel tense and  ill at ease. This would also make very sure that a wrong impression is created.

On the other hand, if you are calm, confident and relaxed the other person will also feel more at ease. This will help to build a solid foundation during a first encounter and help to make the first impression a good one contributing to a long lasting and fruitful relationship.

§  Be focused and engaging

When trying to make a good impression people make the mistake of trying to impress the other person with their vast knowledge. But the fact remains, that your aim should be not to amaze or impress the other but to focus on building a relationship through creating a conversation that’s memorable, involved and engaging. You need to try to draw out the other person and listen to what they have to say. The more comfortable and better you make the other person feel, the more likely that they will form a positive impression of you. A common thing that people look for during this first meeting and uncertainty reduction process is similarity. You will often find that similarities, not differences, produce feelings of attraction and help relationships to blossom.

Normally people love to talk about themselves so all you need to do is ask thoughtful, open-ended questions. It could be about family, interests, job and assignments at work, etc. All this will help to develop camaraderie naturally.

§  Build rapport

Finding something in common and building a rapport around it is key to the direction set for the future relationship. The commonality could be very simple, that you may have graduated from the same university, have a similar hobby, or kids of the same age etc. The reason being that you have a topic to talk about can create a bond on a human level. You may take advantage of social media to find out about someone. At a professional level it’s perfectly normal to have viewed someone on LinkedIn while for others even Facebook is a very good option. The purpose is that gathering material for small talk is necessary.

As mentioned at the beginning you have just a few seconds to make a good first impression and it’s very difficult if not almost impossible to change it. So it’s worth making an effort and giving each new person you meet your best shot.

Much of what you need to do to make a good impression is common sense, but the pointers discussed above will help make you conscious of what you need to do.  With a little extra thought and preparation, you can make every first impression not just good but great.

Follow up
After every meeting keep in mind that when the conversation is over, your job isn’t done. In order to ensure that your first impression sticks, ( especially when you would like to further the relationship ) it’s a good step to acknowledge the meeting . You may write and text a short message or email a personalized note of appreciation.  Underline the importance of the meeting  to you and recap any key points discussed. You may want to show that your meeting and conversation had an impact on you and you would like to further the relationship.

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