17 March 2022
Every day we encounter new people: standing in line for our morning coffee, in business, book club, restaurants, etc. Like it or not, our brain automatically starts processing information about that other person and starts forming an impression. It processes the other person’s demeanor or body language, physical attributes, attire, voice and language, and puts it in perspective of the environment. If you want to leave a good impression, here are some ideas.
The way you stand and present yourself with gestures will give a lot of clues.
- Posture – This not only includes standing erect but turning toward the person when you speak with them. Fidgeting or nervous movements can be off-putting. Crossing your arms is an unconscious attitude of closing yourself off.
- Eye Contact – This does not mean staring at someone. It is appropriate to look at them in the face especially when introducing yourself. If you find it dreadfully uncomfortable, look at their forehead instead. It will make them feel that you are looking at them. Gradually, you will adjust your gaze and be more at ease.
- Listen – Actually process what the other person is saying. Don’t text; make occasional eye contact; nod in response; ask reciprocal questions. For example, if they ask you what you do for a living, give a polite and accurate response and then follow by asking what they do.
Dress Appropriately for the Occasion
The “right” outfit doesn’t have to be the latest fashion or brand new. Wear something you are comfortable in but realize that certain situations require different clothing options. If you insist on wearing jeans to a formal, church wedding, then be sure they are your best jeans and they are clean. Add a nice shirt and perhaps a sweater or jacket and you are sufficiently compromised between your comfort level and the etiquette for the situation.
There are certain things you might say to close friends or family that you would not want your boss or teachers to hear. You need to use a similar filter when meeting new people. You don’t know their likes, dislikes, background, or passions. Avoid judgmental statements. Aim for neutral topics. Avoid profanity or even mild swearing.
Try small talk. “I’ve never been here before. Is it always this crowded?”
Be polite. Say thank you or I’m sorry as appropriate. Be genuine and honest because insincerity will show in word choices and behavior.
A relaxed, subtle smile can go a long way, but don’t force it. Allow the other person to actually see your face. If you are wearing a hoodie, push it back so that they can see your reactions and feel comfortable around you; this isn’t a poker game. If you feel some tension like a tight jaw, slightly part your lips which should ease the tension and calm some nerves.
As with so many things, practice helps, especially if you are planning to go on job interviews or meeting potential in-laws. Everyone would like to be accepted for who we are from the start. First impressions are pretty much unconscious. While you may not nail it every time, using an approach that includes kindness and courtesy will go a long way.