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20 Ways to Create a Great First Impression


Photo by Anemone Jones

Making a good first impression is important in any kind of social interaction, whether it be a job interview, date or opportunity to make a new friend.

The way people perceive you within the first few minutes will color their judgment of you in any future interactions.

Although many people feel it is unfair to be judged based upon a five minute conversation or even a just a glimpse, first impressions are an unavoidable part of life.

Here are the top twenty ways to create a good first impression during your first meeting. By implementing even just a few of these tips, you can improve your appearance, conversational skills and body language almost immediately. Some of these tips are incredibly basic, but sometimes are overlooked even by the best of people.

1. Your clothing says a lot about you whether you like it or not. Clothes that are wrinkled, stained, torn, too baggy, too tight, unstylish, ugly, garish, smelly and ill fitting always send the wrong message.

2. Personal hygiene is nonnegotiable. Even if you are well spoken and fascinating, neglecting to do things like showering, wearing deodorant and brushing your teeth will drive people away.

3. A good posture not only makes you look more attractive, but it projects a more self confident image that people who slump cannot pull off.

4. Failing to make eye contact with the person you are talking to looks weird. If you find it uncomfortable to make eye contact, try looking at a person’s eyebrows instead – they’ll never know the difference.

5. A good handshake often goes unnoticed, but people will always notice a bad handshake. Don’t crush the other person’s hand and don’t shake for more than a second or two. If you have sweaty hands, try to surreptitiously wipe them dry before shaking hands as many people find wet hands unappealing.

6. Keep your arms uncrossed. People tend to interpret crossed arms as you being guarded, defensive or nervous even if you’re just cold and trying to warm yourself.

7. Avoid complaining or criticizing anyone or anything during your first conversation with a new person. Negativity can leave a bad taste in their mouth even if your complaints are valid. If you don’t like something, just lightly say that it’s not your cup of tea and move on.

8. If you have a tendency to talk fast, slow down. Many people have trouble understanding fast speech, especially if they’re not used to your style of talking or there is background noise. Talking slower will also give you a chance to think before you speak so you can evaluate your next comment and hopefully avoid saying anything stupid.

9. Your conversation shouldn’t be all about you. Even if someone asks you to talk about yourself, keep it short and always make sure to keep the conversation going by asking the other person a question about themselves. People love being asked questions and getting an opportunity to talk.

10. Smiles and a little laughter are always positive things unless you’re at a funeral or equally somber event. Don’t overdo it though – laughing or smiling too much can come off as fake.

11. Remember the other person’s name and use it in conversation. People love it when you use their name – it signifies that you are taking a personal interest in them.

12. First meetings are not the time to start an argument. Respect the other person’s opinions and never tell them that they are wrong even if it’s blatantly obvious.

13. To show that you are paying attention, make sure to nod and make approving noises every once in a while. You can also use verbal cues like “That is so interesting,” or “Tell me more.”

14. Match your clothes appropriately to the event you are attending. If you are going on a job interview, wear a suit. A date in the park might call for jeans, but a trendy restaurant requires something nicer. It’s usually better to dress up than down – better you should show up to an event in an outfit that’s too nice than look like you just rolled out of bed.

15. The words you use during your conversation will determine how the listener judges your intelligence level, socio-economic background and education. Avoid cursing or using slang. Don’t overuse big words or you’ll come off as pretentious.

16. Make sure to speak loudly enough so they person can hear you, but not too loud. Avoid speaking in a monotone by animating your voice and adding emphasis when needed. Clearly enunciate your words and avoid mumbling.

17. Do not invade the other person’s personal space by standing too close. For formal and business situations, keep around 4 to 12 feet between you and the other person. For friends and acquaintances, 1.5 to 4 feet is good. If you inadvertently get too close to a person and they move away, do not follow them – let them set the distance that they are comfortable with.

18. Control your hands. Instead of fidgeting and scratching, use your hands to add weight to points you are trying to make or to animate your conversation. Otherwise, keep your hands by your side.

19. Jokes are great as long as there aren’t too many of them and they come naturally. Either you’re funny or you’re not. People can tell when you’re trying too hard.

20. In terms of cologne and perfume, a little bit goes a long way. Too much scent can irritate people with sensitive noses or cause allergies in others.

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Useful Resources

First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You

Impressive First Impressions: A Guide to the Most Important 30 Seconds (And 30 Years) of Your Career

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This article was contributed by Ryan Embly from the life insurance website LifeCover. Both Ryan and LifeCover are based in Vancouver, Canada.

December 28, 2010   1 Comment