Making a great first impression is actually fairly simple. Make eye contact. Smile. Listen a lot more than you speak. Ask questions about the other person.

And if you think other people are going to like you, they usually will: Research shows that when you simply think other people will like you, you're relaxed and seem friendier.

But what if you're somewhat shy and insecure when you meet new people? (I am.) How can you manage to believe other people will like you... when deep inside, you're never sure they will?

Try this -- but first, some back story.

I know a really famous person. Not Internet famous. Famous famous: Even if they don't know what he does or why he's famous, people immediately recognize him as somebody. (Partly that's because he's incredibly charismatic; here are some ways you can be, too.)

So even though he usually tries to blend in, it doesn't work. He is who he is, and people want to meet him.

And here's what nearly all of them do:

  1. They come to him. (Obvious, sure, but you'll see why that matters in a moment.) 
  2. They make direct eye contact.
  3. They shake hands in an eager and excited way.
  4. They tip their heads forward a little, nonverbally (and unconsciously) saying, "I am honored to meet you."
  5. They hold the handshake for an extra beat (think the Nelson Mandela handshake) like they're a little reluctant to let go.
  6. They say simple -- yet powerful -- things like, "I'm so glad I got the chance to meet you."
  7. They smile. Big smiles. Broad smiles. Genuine smiles.

And then they keep making eye contact. They keep smiling. They make it clear that they feel meeting him is awesome.

All of which raises an important point: What if you did the same thing every time you meet someone new?

What if you didn't worry about comparative levels of status. What if you didn't worry about whether you're wearing your emotions on our sleeves. What if you didn't worry about making yourself vulnerable. What if you stepped forward, boldly and enthusiastically.

What if you treat every person you meet with the same enthusiasm you would show if you met one of your heroes?

How would the other person feel when you treat them that way?

Certainly you would make a great first impression. But you would also make a lasting impression, since:

Granted, it's not easy. It isn't for me. Confidence is situational, and there are plenty of situations where I'm definitely not confident. (I can speak to a crowd of 4,000 and, while initially nervous, feel very confident. But when I meet a few people individually afterwards... I'm back to feeling shy.)

Which meant, when I met new people, I often didn't come across as well as I could -- my shyness could even make me seem aloof or detached.

That was not my intent, but unfortunately... I know it's was the impression I left. 

But not the time I met Hugh Jackman. I forgot all about feeling shy or insecure. (After all: Wolverine!) I didn't think about coming across too excited, too thrilled, or too, well, anything.

Like the people who my famous friend, I was just glad to meet him.

And I let it show.

Now, whenever I meet someone new, I try to flash back to that moment. Shy or not, all I have to do is treat that person as a person I'm genuinely delighted to meet, someone I'm genuinely honored to meet... because they are.

Every person you meet is someone you should be delighted to meet.

Try it. Imagine that each person you meet could turn out to be one of your best friends. Or one of your most important connections. Or one of your biggest customers.

Then treat them that way. Right from the start.

When you do, the chances are are much greater they will turn out to be exactly what you imagine they could be, because they will match your level of openness and interest, and be much more likely to show you who they really are.

And even if you never see that person again, that's okay: For a few moments you will have made them feel special.

Which is the gift that keeps on giving. 

Published on: Oct 22, 2018
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