6 Simple Ways to Make a Fantastic First Impression
Warmer weather means more socializing, and more socializing means more opportunities to meet new people. As a guy on the shy side, I've never relished social situations where there are dozens of new people to meet, and, thus, dozens of first impressions to manage. To most of my friends though, my discomfort would probably come as a surprise. That's because over the years and with just a few simple strategies, I've honed my skills at meeting new people and making a (mostly) fantastic first impression. (See also: 5 Great Ways to Network That Don't Feel Sleazy)
Here are my top six tips to impress with first impressions.
1. Get a Grip
No matter how perfect the attire, how coiffed the hair, or how articulate the speech, a limp and non-committal handshake is all your new acquaintance will remember. Socially or in business, when you first meet a person — as you're going through those initial introductions and niceties — anticipate the handshake. Be prepared and return it with commitment and confidence, while maintaining eye contact.
2. Be Cling-Free
If new social situations make you uneasy, it's tempting to cling to one or two friendly faces you know. As safe as it feels, avoid this tactic. Making a fantastic first impression means picking up the conversation after a friend has introduced you, mingling, and embracing the awkwardness of meeting new people with humor and a sense of adventure. You don't have to work a room like a silver-tongued politician; heck, you don't necessarily even have to be a gifted conversationalist. But what wins every time — what leaves a good impression — is effort. (See also: Spice Up the Conversation by Skipping "What Do You Do?")
3. Come Bearing Gifts
A sure-fire way to make a great first impression is to arrive with a thoughtful gift in hand. Even the smallest token (a bottle of wine, some good chocolate, a small bouquet of flowers) creates immediate social credit and communicates volumes about who you are. But choose the occasion carefully. According to EmilyPost.com, occasions for host or hostess gifts include casual dinner parties, weekend visits, or parties where there's a guest of honor. If you're the "plus-one" or the newest face at any of these types of events, a small token of appreciation sets the stage for a making a great first impression.
4. Master Non-Verbal Cues
While some common body language statistics are often overstated or applied too generally, we can all agree that important parts of communication happen verbally and non-verbally. Maintaining good posture, eye contact, and pleasant facial expressions are the big three components of body language to be aware of if you're trying to make a positive first impression.
Without getting into the minutiae about how to stand, hold your arms, or point your feet, just remember this: Try to keep your physical communication consistent with your verbal communication. Acknowledge the power your body has to reinforce or detract from what you're saying and perhaps more importantly — the power it has to speak on your behalf when you're silent.
5. Be Curious and Open-Minded
Engaging with new people takes a healthy dose of curiosity and open-mindedness. Try not to let differences in religion, politics, lifestyle, or career choices prevent you from expanding your social horizons or making new professional connections. If it helps you feel more comfortable, look for the common ground that can fuel good conversation. Asking questions, divulging a bit about ourselves, and not letting distractions derail the flow of conversation are the keys to getting noticed in the right way.
Of course, we don't always mesh with every new person we meet, and sometimes it's obvious in the first five seconds that a new acquaintance will never be anything more. But making a good first impression often takes a bit of a creative role playing. If you can't muster any genuine interest, fake it and consider a bit of well-intentioned acting a social skill-building activity.
6. Buzz (Off!)
Sadly, in our modern, hyper-connected world, this doesn't go without saying. When you're meeting new people, it helps to prevent interruptions by silencing cell phones and other electronics. Constantly checking who's calling or texting is an efficient way to stifle a conversation or alienate yourself from a crowd by implying you'd like be somewhere else with someone else. Even if others are doing it, avoid the reflexive phone glance if you want to make a good first impression. Wait to check your phone discreetly outside or in the bathroom if all the beeps and buzzes leave you feeling simply Pavlovian.
While it may be true that we never get a second chance to make a first impression, we do get many opportunities to perfect our skills with different people and in different settings. Part art and part science, making a fantastic first impression might take a bit of practice. A misstep or faux pas here or there isn't the end of the world — it's just a lesson to remember for next time.
How do you make a good first impression? What's the most common mistake you see others do that sabotage a positive first impression? Make a good impression here by sharing in comments!