It’s unfortunate that something so insignificant usually has such a large impact, but first impressions tend to set the tone for future interactions in the business world. Are you confident that you’re getting the art of the first impression right?
Helpful Tips for a Positive First Impression
Whether you want to or not, you form first impressions about everyone you meet. From a blind date to a random stranger on the subway, you can’t stop yourself from forming opinions about people.
“In forming those first impressions, we automatically attend to and parse relevant information about somebody, based on how important they are to our own motivations,” explains Karla Starr, author of The Science of Luck. “Our split-second reactions to other people are assessments of their value to our own social world. Outside of the lab, our impressions factor in everything from what we’ve heard about them to how often they blink.”
Naturally, everyone you come into contact is also forming first impressions about you. In a business meeting setting, where you’re interacting with a potential client, employer, or business partner for the first time, their impression of you can determine how your relationship will go.
Here are some tips for ensuring their first impression is a positive one.
- Pay Attention to Your Appearance
Like it or not, appearances are everything. Before you even say a word, people will make split-second judgments, based on how you look. As superficial as it may be, you have to think about what you’re wearing and how you carry yourself.
Exactly what you wear and how you carry yourself will largely depend on the situation, but there are some specific things you can do to increase your chances of being taken seriously in a business meeting setting. For example, a nice watch can pull an outfit together and tell people that you pay attention to the details, just as a fresh haircut can make you look younger and more professional.
- Give a Firm Handshake
When meeting someone new, a handshake says a lot about you. Giving someone a limp hand says you’re weak, submissive, or lazy, while a firm handshake exudes confidence and strength. Always give a firm handshake and hold it for two or three seconds, if appropriate.
- Make Eye Contact
Another important, nonverbal factor is eye contact. When you make eye contact with someone, you’re conveying that you’re speaking directly to them (or listening to what they’re saying). A lack of eye contact says you’re distracted, or possibly being deceptive.
- Use the Other Person’s Name
There’s something powerful about hearing your name spoken. Whenever possible, try to inject another person’s name into your conversations. This makes them feel special and actually makes them more likely to take the time to remember your name. Notice the difference between these two statements:
“Yeah, I agree with what he said when he mentioned bringing on a new supplier.”
“I think Frank had a really good point when he discussed that new supplier. Where was that supplier located, Frank?”
It’s extremely simple to use someone’s name, but it makes them feel valued, important, and known. Try your best to get better at using names and people will think more highly of you.
Make Every Interaction Count
A first impression isn’t etched in stone, but it takes a long time to alter one after it’s been created. When it comes to a business meeting, make sure you’re valuing each interaction you have with people. You never know when your first impression will influence some future decision or relationship.