“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This might be a bit of a cliché, but it’s repeated so often because it’s true. People make a lot of assumptions and judgements about a person based on just the first few seconds of meeting them. With such a short space of time to make an impact, you may not even have time to say anything before they’ve decided whether you seem confident or trustworthy. Obviously, as they get to know your real personality, some of these judgements can change, but why put yourself in a disadvantaged position? We have put together some tips for making a great first impression.
Stand with an upright posture, with your shoulders back and your chest out. How you hold yourself is the very first thing people notice about you, setting the tone for everything else. So, think about how you stand and what it says about you. Are you standing tall and with confidence, or are you lazily slouching?
2. Keep your head up
Similarly, how you hold your head makes a statement about how you feel about the other person. Bringing your chin down towards your chest is perceived as submissive, while tipping it back and looking down your nose can give you an unwelcome air of superiority. It’s best to try to keep it held up, with your chin parallel to the floor. This will come across confidently but not arrogantly.
3. Move with purpose
How you move can also give people a sense of how you feel about yourself and others. Once again, you want to look confident and in control, so you want to use slow, graceful and purposeful movements that make everything look effortless. Acting with fast and jerky movements tends to be less impactful and makes you look erratic and out of control.
4. Body language
Many people know that standing with your arms folded or across your body can make you look defensive and closed off, which isn’t the sort of impression you want to give off when meeting someone for the first time. Instead, keep your body language open, trying to look self-assured and friendly.
5. Genuine smile
Smiling at someone lets them know you are approachable and friendly. It also shows the person you are talking to that you like them and you are interested in what they’re saying. Not smiling can make you seem uncomfortable and unwelcoming.
However, do not try to fake a smile. You can tell when someone’s smile is genuine because their eyes have a sparkle that’s hard to fake. Our brains can recognise how the shape of the face should look and when it feels off. Just as an honest smile can help foster trust between two people, an insincere smile makes you seem cold and untrustworthy.
6. Eye contact
They say the eyes are the window into our souls, so what better way to make a positive first impression and create real connection than through eye contact? If you avoid meeting someone’s gaze, you look nervous and seems like you have something to hide. When meeting someone new, try to maintain eye contact for at least long enough that you can make out the colour of their eyes.
When meeting someone for the first time, a nice firm handshake shows confidence and assertiveness. But beware of having too strong of a grip and crushing their hand. A handshake is a nice, friendly and assertive professional greeting, it is not a test of strength at a fairground so don’t treat it like one. You also need to avoid the (arguably worse) handshake – the so-called “dead fish”. This is when your hand is so limp that there is nothing to hold. Remember, your handshake should not be too hard and should not be too soft. Practice and make sure it’s just right.
Bear in mind that some different cultures and religions have different etiquettes around handshakes. In some religious groups, men and women do not touch, and in some countries, it might be more appropriate to bow to each other rather than shake hands. If possible, do some research before your meeting to be able to greet them in their preferred way. However, as long as you’re polite and respectful, people should not be offended by a genuine mistake.