Meeting someone for the first time and making a good first impression can seem challenging at the best of times. Humans being can be very judgemental, judging each others’ appearances, career choices, financial status, social graces, intelligence, humour – the list goes on and on. Add in circumstance, mood and location, and it seems like a miracle that any of us ever connect at all! And while there is a certain amount of inexplicable influence on why we’re attracted to certain people, like anything else in life, there are some helpful guidelines to enhance your first impressions.
First Impression Enhancers
1. Remain enthusiastic and interested – but don’t overdo it. When we communicate with someone we’re meeting for the first time, one of the keys to making it a comfortable experience is matching. It’s a human instinct to be wary of anyone that is really different than us – so we tend to look for similarities to ourselves in others as signs that it’s ok to trust them. Energy/enthusiasm levels are just such indicators. Instead of trying to force a first impression on someone, try instead to first observe where they’re at, and match that level of enthusiasm. We’ve all met people where we’re left with the impression that they were too interested (which translates into desperation), or too aloof (which translates into them being snobby or just not interested). Communication is just as much about listening as it is expressing. Beginning on an even keel so you can move up or down from there is a good start.
2. Eye Contact. The old saying, “The eyes are the window to the soul” is no accident – when we look into each others’ eyes we’re connecting with each other on some level. The key is finding that balance between too much and too little. You need to look long enough to make a connection, (a couple glances here and there won’t be enough), but you shouldn’t look so long so that you make the other person feel uncomfortable. Take your cues from each other – if someone is constantly looking away, give them some breathing room and don’t stare. If you find them trying to engage you in eye contact, look back at them and try to relax, realizing you’re communicating on several levels at the same time, not just verbally.
3. Make a good last impression. The last moments you share with someone are just as important as, if not more than, the first ones. Use the fact that you now have more knowledge of the person than you did when you first met. When saying goodbye, be warm and friendly (but not overly so), and try to end with a sentence that includes their name, like, “It was great to meet you, Tom.” It can also be helpful to add in a personal reference to your conversation, like, “Good luck with the marathon!” or “Have fun on your vacation!”. This shows that you were listening during the conversation, and that you care, even if it’s to a small degree, about what’s happening in their life.
Remember these tips are guidelines – you should in no way be changing who you are to the point where you feel uncomfortable, just realize that before someone gets to know what a great person you are, they may need a period of observation to get comfortable first.