When thinking of how to make a good first impression, a lot of anxiety can come into the mix. How do you charm the socks off of a complete stranger? How do you make them remember you for longer than five minutes, or impress them enough to make them want to learn more about you? Sometimes it can seem like a tall order, but getting on people's goods sides in the first three minutes of meeting them actually isn't all that hard. I'm not over-generalizing when I say that we all enjoy the same qualities in a person — friendly, upbeat, excited-to-see-you people will always ring in as tens on our likability scales. Think about it: When was the last time you spoke with a surly, abrasive person and thought "loved her." No.
But even though being friendly and enthusiastic sounds like common sense advice, sometimes it's still a struggle to help put that vibe out there. Awkward moments happen, social anxiety sets in, cat catches your tongue, and all of a sudden you have your foot in your mouth and all your words are coming out wrong and your first impression is getting away from you. I get it; the struggle is real and I'm here to help. Below are seven ways to make a bomb first impression.
1. Think Of The Goal Of The Impression
Are you going to a dinner party? A networking event? A fun little get together? Do you want to come across as interesting, funny, professional? Before bursting through the doors, take a moment to determine what you want the goals of the night to be — meaning, how do you want people to remember you? By pinpointing that, you'll set the mood for the evening. Vanessa Van Petten, social and emotional intelligence researcher and contributor to Forbes said, "As you get ready or when you are driving over think about what kind of people you want to meet and what kind of interactions you want to have." This will help you focus on what kind of energy you're going to burst in through.
2. Skip Out On Bad Days
Did something happen at work that made your teeth set? Are you in a mood that's convinced everything is going wrong? If so, maybe bow out of the event or shindig you're planning to go to because your bad mood will be all over your face and will take over your first impression. Van Petten explained, "People who go to cocktail events or mixers after having had a bad day typically continue to have a bad day. If you are in a depressed or anxious mood, others will pick up on this from your facial expressions, comments and body language." If you're having a lousy day and don't think you can turn your mood around, just go home! You'll be able to meet these people again when you're feeling more like yourself.
3. Look Excited to Be There: Smile!
And I don't mean a timid, subtle-upturn-of-the-lips smile. I mean a full-on "I'm so excited to meet you" type of smile. Imagine if someone let loose such a reaction after meeting you by the bean dip at the party — wouldn't you feel extremely flattered and kind of curious to learn more? Yea you would. We all naturally gravitate towards the friendly, energetic people in the group, so become that person and show your enthusiasm for being there with your pearly whites.
Lifestyle writer Jenna Arak at lifestyle site The Everygirl pointed out, "It helps to make a good impression when those you meet believe that you’re a generally friendly and easy-to-get-along-with human being. Smiling helps with this."
4. Use Their Names
Soon after learning your new buddy's name, try to incorporate it into your conversation a couple of times to establish you're focused and are interested in spending time with them at that moment. It's a little intimate and really helps you to cross over from "stranger" into "new acquaintance." Keith Rollag, author of What To Do When You’re New: How to Be Comfortable, Confident and Successful in New Situations, shared on Psychology Today, "Calling people by name soon after meeting them makes a terrific first (or second) impression." So casually pepper it in while you're chatting, and they'll like you the better for it.
5. Show That You're Interested
Think of the last wet blanket you spoke with at a dinner party: How did you walk away feeling? Like they're your favorite person, ever? Probably not. Don't be the wet blanket — act like you're interested in being there. Show enthusiasm and really get involved with the stories or facts they're sharing about themselves — ask them to elaborate and get them to share a little more. It's hard to create a bad first impression when all you want to do is learn more.
Rollag said, "Give them the full focus of your attention and ask them questions. This approach conveys respect and interest, and people tend to gain energy by talking about themselves." If you walk away making someone feel good about themselves and interesting, there's no way you'll make a bad first impression.
6. Keep The Conversation Positive
If you open up the conversation talking about how annoyed you were you missed the first train or how your roommate ate your food, your new pal might make the snap judgement that you're just a permanent crank. Instead, keep the conversation skewed towards the upbeat and positive. Management expert Peter Economy from entrepreneur site Inc. suggested, "This is not the time to rehash the story of the lady who cut you off and took your parking spot, or the dog that messed up your front lawn that morning. Your upbeat attitude and positivity will make for a great first impression." Veer towards happy, entertaining conversations and leave your gripes at the door.
7. Follow Up After The Event
Just because the heels have been taken off and you're back in your sweatpants at home doesn't mean the first impression is done and gone. If you really want to create a lasting one, make sure to follow up with the people you met after the event to stick in their mind. Arak confirmed, "In my humble opinion, the best way to make a great first —and lasting — impression is by following up and following through." Whether it's emailing (or Facebooking) them a message saying how nice it was to meet them, sending over a link about something you talked about, or taking it a step further and suggesting to meet for coffee later that week, taking that extra step after the night is over will really help them remember you fondly.
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