Whether you're an anxious person who is worried about how people will perceive you, or someone who'd like to do damage control after making a bad first impression, know that it is totally possible to turn things around and adjust everyone's opinion of you. It may sound impossible at first, especially if you feel like you've already made quite a negative impact. But trust me when I say there are lots of little ways to show more confidence, appear more self-assured, and thus project a better image to the world.
With that said, you aren't wrong to worry about whether or not it's possible to update everyone's opinion. "They say it takes seven positive interactions before mending a bad first impression. That is how powerful first impressions are," author and life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle. While that makes it sound like you're SOL, I swear it's a good thing. As Rogers tells me, it essentially means everyone's perception can be manipulated for the better.
And it doesn't have to take a ton of effort. "If you dress for the part, feel genuinely happy, lengthen your body, ask people questions about themselves, and look them straight in the eye, it's a home run," she says. Read on for some more ways to feel comfortable, give off positive vibes, and completely change how you're perceived.
1. Embrace Your Personal Style
If you're like me, you probably dash out the door in the morning wearing any old thing. And that's OK to do most of the time. But if you really want to make a great impression, slow down and take the time to truly get dressed. "When we 'dress up' or wear something we feel really great in, others take notice," Rogers says. "There's something to be said for 'looking the part.' If we can walk into a room with our head held high thanks to a fabulous outfit, your confidence is changing others' perceptions of you in an instant."
2. Practice Giving Off Kinder Vibes
While you certainly don't have to walk around with a 24/7 smile — if that's not your thing — know that it is possible to throw off kind vibes in other ways. "Eyebrows are a big tool for showcasing emotion. Play with them and your expressions," Rogers says. "Eyes are another ... Try it out in the mirror and see how your face portrays what it is you are feeling. And if you can radiate kindness just from your face, people will notice."
3. Put Those Shoulders Back
While the temptation to hunch may be strong, keep in mind that poor posture can make you appear less than confident. So push those shoulders back. "If your shoulders are pushed back, they will appear broader and you will appear taller. It's a power stance and it conveys confidence," Rogers says. "Follow your body's lead and others will immediately respond."
4. Ask Plenty Of Questions
When meeting someone new, or mingling in a group, focus on being that amazing person who asks lots of great questions. "People love sharing their stories," Rogers says. "Stick to a few simple questions (and add a few followups for good measure) and you'll see people instantly start to like you."
5. Make A Healthy Amount Of Eye Contact
It's totally normal to struggle with eye contact, especially if you're a nervous or anxious person. But it is worth working on. "Avoidance of eye contact clues into others that you are not confident or sure of yourself, which probably isn't even true," Rogers says. "It could just be a bad habit. So make sure you practice eye contact in the mirror every day to get used to it."
6. Relax Your Body
While it can be tricky to relax when you're outside your element, it's important to give it a try by slowing down, uncrossing your arms, and relaxing your face. "When you are physically relaxed, other people perceive that you are comfortable with yourself," says confidence expert and trained therapist Karol Ward, LCSW.
7. Tell Yourself "I Matter"
One of the best ways to get good vibes from others is to put them out yourself. So the next time you go out, remind yourself you matter. "Try to do a mental pep talk for yourself prior to an event taking place, and recognize that your presence and your unique strengths and personality and body type are all important," clinical psychologist Dr. Ariane Machin tells Bustle. "This positive and empowered attitude will help you shine."
7. Go Anyway
When trying to make a good impression, it's important to actually show up. So put all sorts of get-togethers and networking events in your calendar and make a point to go. "If we choose not to attend situations or events, we will never have an opportunity to know others and, in effect, they will not get to know us either," Machin says. "Even if you don't feel like going somewhere, take a risk/opportunity and put yourself out there." You'll likely be glad you did.
9. Fill Your Brain With Positive Thoughts
People can totally tell when you're focusing in on negative thoughts. That's why — while it may be easier said that done — it's important to get rid of that negative self-talk and try to be a bit more positive. "If you say something positive to yourself, such as 'You can do it," you will be helping create the scene," says licensed psychologist Marni Amsellem, PhD. "People generally respond well to positivity."
10. Truly Listen To What Others Are Saying
Remember what I said about asking questions? People will remember whether or not you actually listened to them. Which is where the practice of "looping" may come in handy. As author Francis Cole Jones says, "If someone is telling a long, involved story, say, 'I'm just going to interrupt you for a second to make sure I’m following. You said, XYZ happened. Is that right?'" By asking questions like these, it shows the speaker you're listening, and it allows them to clarify anything that was missed. "Either way, they are left thinking you are a great listener."
11. Take Up Plenty Of Space
If you're feeling shy, it's normal to shrink up, fold your arms, or slouch. But in order to make a good impression, you're going to want to take up more space. "Extend your presence," psychotherapist and executive coach Aimee Bernstein tells Bustle. "When you take space energetically, people see you as more powerful and you feel that way yourself." To try it out, stand up taller, put your shoulders back, or gesture more to fill the space. It doesn't have to be over the top, of course. Just enough to show you feel comfortable enough to move round and truly "be" where you are.
12. Be Your Charismatic Self
The more comfortable you can be in any situation, the better. So go ahead and be your charismatic self by laughing, smiling, spinning yarns, or doing whatever is most "you." "Research shows that energy is contagious," Bernstein says. If you go into a room radiating this great energy, people will take notice. And you'll hold a positive spot in their brain as a result.
13. Decide How You'd Like To Define Yourself
Before heading into a situation where you'll need to make a good impression, try filling your brain with a few positive words and use them to define yourself. "Pick three adjectives you want the attendees to use to describe you," Cole Jones says. "Doing this helps to focus your energy." And it helps give off more of those positive vibes.
Which, of course, is what this is all about. Whether you're meeting someone for the first time, or doing damage control after a bad first impression, there are ways to change how people perceive you. It just takes a little effort.
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