There is no doubt that the first impression we make on others is a lasting one, so how can we make it a great one?
A lasting impression can occur in less than five seconds. A single glance at our appearance can provide a lot of information to a person we have never met but need to impress.
We are judged by our overall physical appearance. It is not just our clothes that will be judged but our personal grooming: hair, skin, hands, and general cleanliness.
If we are meeting with clients we want to wear as close to the same apparel they wear, and the same goes for organizations where we may be seeking employment. A formal business suit is not always necessary, however appropriate and clean dress is imperative.
Our Face and Voice
A smile and direct eye contact is crucial when meeting new acquaintances. We should avoid speech that is too loud or soft and filled with inappropriate jargon, clichés, or jokes. If we have an accent that is foreign to our audience, we can improve the clarity of our speech by simply slowing our delivery to a steady pace and pronouncing every word in a confident manner.
What to Say
We are always at ease with people who share common experiences. Small talk is the best way to start a rapport with a person but the sooner we find common ground the easier the conversation will progress and the sooner we will gain a positive impression.
Our Reputation Precedes Us
Time is money and being on time means you respect both the people you are meeting and monetary factors involved in their presence. When we arrive in a timely manner, we establish a reputation for trust, something that works for us before anyone judges what we look like or say.
From the first moment we meet someone we want to try to reinforce any positive attitudes they have about us, shape a positive attitude toward us that they may not have formed, and reverse any negative attitude they have established in those first crucial seconds or through previous contact with others.
Establishing that first great impression has a lot to do with our ability to persuade. There are three key parts to successful persuasion: use of our credibility, use of appropriate emotion, and using logic in presenting facts in both verbal and written communication.
There can be times when we are introduced to a group of people by another member of the organization. If we are lucky we have established a reputation that can be used to our instant benefit. The person that is introducing us may be the key to that good fortune, so we should let them complete their introduction and follow up on it in a positive but modest manner. If we have the good fortune of someone introducing us with a favorable comment concerning our success with a client, work with a charitable organization, or something similar of a positive nature, we can make a short comment about that compliment but should do it in the most modest manner possible.
Have you ever noticed that the best communicators and brightest people listen – really listen? Look the person straight in the eyes, do not interrupt, try to understand what they really mean, and show them you are listening.
Concentrate on learning a person’s full name, use it frequently, and avoid nicknames.
Many times actions speak louder than words and basic common courtesy can make a good, lasting impression. Remember the little courtesies: when in doubt precede the last name with a Mr. or Ms., ladies first, smile, listen carefully, and show genuine interest in who you meet.