You only get one chance to make a good first impression. That's why it's important to smile, make eye contact, shake hands firmly, and dress appropriately.
Even if you manage to accomplish all of the above, you can instantly ruin that strong first impression once you open your mouth and say any of the following eighteen words or phrases.
1. "It's nice to meet you. And, you are who again?"
Unless this chance meeting is some sort of fluke and you ran into this person unexpectedly on the street, there's no excuse for you not to know this person's name. This meeting was planned. It was scheduled in your calendar. And, the fact that you don't know the other person's name shows them just how much this meeting meant to you.
I understand that you can get nervous and mistakes happen. But you can avoid embarrassment by practicing the other person's name by repeating it over and over - before you get to your meeting.
2. "Um" or "Uh"
Those are filler words that we often utter either in the beginning of a sentence or in-between ideas. It's a, "hold" word. And while these words are commonly found in everyday conversations, Steven D. Cohen, an award-winning speaker who leads career and academic workshops on public speaking at Harvard Extension School, argues that "they often detract from the listener's ability to understand a particular message."
Before answering a question immediately, pause, think, and then answer.
3. "How much money do you make?"
What good could come out of asking someone this question? The reason? Because asking someone else how much money they make is incredibly rude and personal. In fact, it's absolutely none of your business what they earn or what they have sitting in their bank account.
You wouldn't ask them about their medical history, so don't assume that it's acceptable to discuss their financial history.
4. "Hope you don't mind that I was late."
What? Is your time more valuable than the other person's? They have a life as well and they took the time of out their busy, busy, busy business schedule to meet with you. The least you can do is be on-time.
If something out of your control happens, like getting a flat tire, be respectful enough to give them a heads up (like a quick call or text) so that they aren't just sitting there waiting for you. You might also offer to meet them another time at their convenience so that you don't waste their valuable time.
5. "I couldn't stand my last boss. They were such a jerk."
Even if this is a fact, you don't want to start this relationship off with a negative venting session. If you're this open to someone you just met, then how can they be certain that you won't complain to others about them? Even worse, what if your former employer is a personal friend with the other party? You're definitely going to regret bad mouthing that individual.
Save the complaining for when you're at home or socializing with your closest of friends. You don't want this to come back and haunt you.
6. "Let me be honest."
Jeff Haden writes that this phrase "implies you haven't been honest, or open, or forthcoming up to this point."
"If you need to say something difficult, just say it. Don't pretend you're saying something you shouldn't say-because if you really shouldn't say it, don't say it."
I've personally found that this is phrase intimidates others and is something I've had to cut out of my vocabulary.
7. "I can't stand this weather."
Unless you live in San Diego, it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer. We all know it. We all experience it. If you didn't dress appropriately for the meeting then that's you fault. More importantly, it shows that you aren't prepared and just like to complain.
Small talk is fine, but I think you can find something better to discuss than the weather.
8. "No. That can't be possible."
Says who? You?
This is one that my friend Murray engrained in me. "It's perfectly acceptable to be a voice of reason or list your concerns, but telling someone else that something is impossible shows that you're negative and aren't confident and creative." Anything is possible and who are you to say it's not.
9. "Sorry. I got a case of the Mondays."
I understand. Sometimes you would rather sleep-in on Monday - especially after you've spent all Sunday discussing the latest episode of Game of Thrones. And, there's definitely been times when you're not at 100% on Monday morning - we all need to get back in the rhythm. But, stop complaining about Mondays. Stop using Mondays as an excuse.
If you're that unhappy at work then do something about - like becoming a freelancer so that you can work during your most productive times.
10. "Do you believe in God?"
I was a bartender for a while. And one of the most important lessons that I learned was that you never discuss certain topics at the bar. And one of them is religion.
Religion is personal and people can get excited or offended when talking about their faith. This is a conversation that you can have later after you know each other better - but never in the workplace. This is definitely an area that you don't want to go near when you just met someone.
11. "Who are you voting for this November?"
Just like religion, people are passionate when it comes to their political views. That's why this is a topic that you shouldn't approach when meeting someone for the first time.
As Andrew Hally, vice president of product and marketing at Bullhorn, informs Glassdoor, "If it comes out that one person is a very passionate believer from one end of the spectrum and another is a passionate believer on the other end of the spectrum they can have a hard time working with each other."
12. "Hun" or "Sweetheart"
Pet phrases like "hun," "sweetheart," or "darling," may fly in places like restaurants, but they're not professional. And, some people can understandably get offended by these phrases. Can you imagine walking into an interview and saying "John Smith here. Nice to meet you, hun." What are the odds that you'll get that job?
The same can be said with nicknames. For example, if you just met Katherine and instantly call her Katie, she may not be alright with this since she prefers Katherine. Only her parents can call her Katie. That's not a great impression.
To avoid that from happening, always use the person's legal name. And, if they're older than you are, call them Mr. or Mrs. or Ms.
13. "Congratulations! When are you due?"
This is the worst possible thing to say to a woman if she isn't pregnant. Unless you're 100% certain, never ask this question. There's a very good chance that you'll never be forgiven - ever.
Do you want to be around people who only talk about themselves. Do you really look forward to hearing your self-absorbed colleague boast about their sales figures? Of course not.
Now, imagine hearing the "I" word the first time that you ever meet someone. You'll probably be left with a bad taste in your mouth.
Don't just talk about yourself. Ask questions about the other person and actually listen to the reply. Engage in a conversation so you both get to know each other better.
15. "Let me tell you about last night..."
If you're meeting someone for lunch on Wednesday and you're telling them about your shenanigans last night and why you're not feeling 100%, do you think that they'll be impressed? You're not in college. You're an adult. That means partying all night during the workweek is a big no-no.
If for some reason you did go out and you do have a hangover, you don't need to tell the other person right off the bat. Suck it up and get through the meeting. Remember, you know the consequences of drinking in excess. So don't complain about it the next day.
16. '"I think .../This may be a silly idea .../I'm going to ask a stupid question"
"These overly passive phrases instantly erode your credibility," writes Travis Bradberry, Co-author of 'Emotional Intelligence 2.0′ and President at TalentSmart. "Even if you follow these phrases with a great idea, they suggest that you lack confidence, which makes the people you're speaking to lose confidence in you." With this one phrase, your interviewee will generally hit the snooze button or at the very least, be somewhat irritated.
Bradberry adds, "if you're not confident in what you're saying, no one else will be either. And, if you really don't know something, say, 'I don't have that information right now, but I'll find out and get right back to you.'"
17. "A guy walks into a bar..."
Don't take the chance to offend the other person with your tasteless and twisted sense of humor. Even if you think that the joke isn't that bad you don't know how the other person will respond.
18. "You don't look like what I expected."
This could imply that you're disappointed or surprised by the appearance by the other person. And that could make the other party a bit uneasy or lead them to believe that you're disappointed.