It doesn't matter if you're at a networking event, a job interview, or a party — there's always a lot going on when you're meeting new people and trying to make a good first impression. There are names to remember, hands to shake, and conversations to start. And you can only hope that, through it all, you stick out in people's minds.
But, almost of all of us make a mistake or two. And a few missteps may lead to some misconceptions that don't reflect who you truly are. "Making some key mistakes, like seeming uninterested or forgetting someone’s name, may create an image of you that may not be true," Christie Tcharkhoutian, a licensed marriage and family therapist and professional matchmaker with Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. As they say, "first impressions are lasting impressions," so that last thing you want to seem is disinterested.
"A first meeting is important because it leaves an impression in someone’s mind about whether or not you are a person they’d like to invest in and pursue building a relationship with," says Tcharkhoutian. "Whether in business, friendship, or finding a partner, a first meeting can give someone a lot of information, both verbally and non verbally, and our brains are wired to categorize that information."
Here are a few mistakes experts say we all tend to make when meeting new people. By staying away from them the next time you're meeting someone new, you'll increase your chances of making a great first impression, and truly winning them over from the start.
1. Avoiding Eye Contact
Meeting someone new can be so stressful, you might be tempted to glance away and find anything else to stare at, as long as it isn't them. But do try to take a deep breath, and make eye contact as often as possible.
"Making eye contact conveys a certain sense of confidence, self-assuredness, and trustworthiness whereas avoiding eye contact speaks to insecurity and nervousness," health and wellness coach Caleb Backe tells Bustle. But by maintaining eye contact, you will show someone you're interested and engaged in what they have to say.
2. Giving A Weak Handshake
Even though it seems so simple, your handshake is one of the first things people use to form their impression of you. "If the shake is weak or forceful, both can be off-putting," life coach and etiquette expert Mary Frances McGraw tells Bustle. "A quick grasp of the other person's hand, one to two pumps (slight movement up and down), and then letting go is the appropriate way to shake hands." And one that will convey all sorts of confidence .
3. Blanking On Their Name
It's not easy to remember everyone's name, especially if you are meeting many new people at once. So if you forget, don't panic.
"Failing to remember someone's name is easily remedied by acknowledging that you forgot," etiquette expert Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, tells Bustle. "Confess and say 'I am so sorry. I have completely blanked on your name.'" Once they repeat it, try some of these handy name-remembering techniques, so you don't have to feel awkward again.
4. Seeming Distracted
Some of us may be the habit of glancing at our phones, but that doesn't mean it's OK to do so when meeting someone new. "Even if it's just to check the time, it gives the impression that you're not interested in the other person or what they are saying," says McGraw.
So hold off until after your conversation, when you can discreetly glance at your phone to catch the time, or make sure you don't have any important missed calls.
5. Relying On Your Phone As A Crutch
While a quick glance may be OK at the right time, that doesn't mean it's acceptable to keep your phone out on the table at a lunch meeting, text underneath the table, or take a call while at a networking event. And yet, it's something so many of us do, either out of habit, or because we use our phones to help soothe our nerves.
But, even the mere presence of a phone on the table may cause others to take you less seriously. As Backe says, "When making a first impression you're going to want to come across as genuine, caring and friendly. If you're just using your phone instead of engaging in conversation with a new person, you're showing that person that you don't value them or their time."
6. Sharing Too Much Information
Meeting someone new can be exciting, too, so you might be tempted to tell them all about your commute, and how you were late because your dog wouldn't go to the bathroom. But try not to. "An initial meeting should involve as little personal information as possible," says McGraw. "Too much is a turn off in business and networking."
Instead, when in a professional context, keep your convo short, and sweet. Once you get to know a person, you can certainly share your heart out. But doing so when you first meet — especially in business settings — can be a bit overwhelming and a tad unprofessional.
7. Waiting For Your Turn To Talk
It's always obvious when someone isn't truly listening to what you're saying, but instead waiting for their turn to talk. Try not to convey this in a conversation with someone new, either. "A great way to make a good first impression is to be engaged," Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer at Beenverified.com, tells Bustle. "Listen to what the person in front of you is saying and respond to it accordingly. Parrot back some of their words, so that they know that you have heard them and ask them relevant questions, which incites them to keep talking. The thing most people want most in the world is to be heard."
8. Using Closed Off Body Language
When meeting someone new, you'll want to seem as welcoming as possible. So do a quick scan of your body language, and don't be afraid to be more open. "Remove any barriers that are in the way," Youst says. "Come out from behind a desk, remove sunglasses, and gloves. You do not want anything to get in the way of making a new connection. If you are seated, stand up for an introduction." These moves will show the other person you're keen on getting to know them, and that you're happy to see them.
9. Not Having Anything To Say
If you go all deer-in-headlights at parties — as so many of us do — save yourself by having a few go-to conversation starters stored up in your brain. Not only will it save you from that awkward silent moment, but it'll also help you engage with other people.
And if you can't think of anything, the best remedy is asking the person about themselves. "Most people like to talk about something they know a lot about," Lavelle says. "It will also give you the chance to pick up on something they have said and expand on it, using those active listening skills, all while you are maintaining good eye contact and after, a vigorous handshake."
10. Leaving The Convo Too Early
While you don't need to devote your entire evening to one person, resist the urge to bounce too quickly from one person to the next. "Especially at a party or networking event, it can be easy to let your eyes wander and see who else just walked in or if you should be joining another conversation, but nothing can make someone feel more special than your full, undivided attention," says Tcharkhoutian. "The best potential connection is the one right in front of you."
11. Forgetting To Exchange Contact Info
If you're trying to build a network of people, you will need to stay connected. And the best way to do that is to exchange contact info on the spot. "Make sure to ask for their card and tell them you’d love to follow up [or] sit down for coffee and continue the conversation," Tcharkhoutian says. "We are only as a good as our network and you never know where one connection can lead!"
So the next time you're mixing and mingling at work event, snag a few business cards. And the next time you're being introduced at a party, have some convo starters ready to go. Little tricks like these will win people over, and ensure that you always make a great first impression.