We all have been warned not to judge a book by its cover.
However, the first impression you make can set the tone for an interview, a meeting with a potential client, or even a personal relationship.
We are often so eager to prove how smart and capable we are that we forget to do the most important thing – establishing trust. Nothing else you say will have merit if your new contact has determined you to be unlikable or untrustworthy. Even in a strictly business scenario, skills and expertise can become secondary. As Amy Cuddy writes in her book Presence, “From an evolutionary perspective it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.” Of course, you will need substance to maintain the relationship once you have established it. However, you need to first get in the door if you are going to prove yourself.
Here are 5 ways to ensure that your first impression is a good one:
Give your undivided attention.
Don’t look out the window, don’t check your watch, and, for the love of God, put away your phone! A person who senses that you are not fully present will feel uninteresting and unimportant. They will also feel disconnected from you. When you give someone your full attention, you are showing them that they are important to you and that you value their time. You will appear more interested and invested in your own work, as well.
Give credit to others.
Choosing to recognize the work of your friends and colleagues reveals that you are a team player. It also shows that you are paying attention to the big picture. Giving praise to others not only makes them feel good but also demonstrates that you are secure enough in your own capabilities not to become overly competitive. This strengthens your connection with your peers while simultaneously highlighting your own strengths.
Choose your words wisely.
Avoid negativity whenever possible. You are not dealing with problems; you are confronting challenges. You do not have to attend the weekly budget meeting; you get to. Your boss didn’t make you compile the quarterly reports; you had the opportunity to do so. Repeating these kinds of phrases can have the added benefit of changing your mindset. When you look for the sunny side of your daily life, you are sure to find it – and you would be wise to project it to others.
Admit your mistakes.
We have all endured failure, and the ability to admit yours makes you more relatable, and, by extension, more likeable. Choosing to share your mistakes with others demonstrates humility and maturity. It also shows that you can be trusted to reveal the whole truth, even if parts of it show you in an unflattering light. Sharing your perceived failures can also help you to cope with them, as people are usually more understanding and appreciative than you would expect. They may even have a similar screw-up in their own past that the two of you can bond over.
Many of us, when we are eager to make a good first impression, have a tendency to get overexcited and talk too much. This might be the worst thing you can do. By unintentionally dominating the conversation, you will appear either nervous and immature or pretentious and self-centered – neither of which leaves a favorable impression. Instead, choose to listen more than you talk. This will help you to connect with and understand the person who you would like to be close to. You will appear wise, mature, capable – and ultimately more likeable. You will also learn much more quickly this way.
“It’s pretty simple, pretty obvious,” said Vincent D’Onofrio, “that people’s first impressions of people are really a big mistake.” We often put far too much stock in a first impression and miss out on what could have been a truly fantastic business partnership or personal relationship. Don’t be a victim of this limited thinking.