From the first moment you meet someone, they are--consciously or unconsciously--judging you.
Even before you've opened your mouth, they've started the process of assessing who you are and what you're about.
That's why it's important to pay attention to the cues you're sending out--especially the ones you don't normally register. Here are seven things to be particularly aware of in yourself:
1. The way you treat others.
How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about who you are. People will draw conclusions about your character based on how you treat others--especially people in service positions, those who aren't in a position to help you, and those who are different from you. Do you show the same respect and courtesy to all?
2. The way you stand.
Body language is a reflection of your inner self. Are you slumped and slouching, or standing (or sitting) tall and confident? Is your posture open or closed? Are you aware of others around you and mindful of them in your movements?
3. The way you dress.
When you invest time and energy in your appearance and clothes, it shows attention to detail and self-respect. On the other hand, too much attention to appearance can make you look superficial and even vain. Aim for the middle--something appropriate to the occasion that reflects your personality in a low-key way. And remember, there's never a place for unkempt or dirty clothing.
4. The way you tip.
People always watch how others tip. Depending on the level of service and the size of your tip, you can send a message that you're a straight-down-the-middle conformist, that you refuse to reward poor performance, or that you're open-hearted and generous. The choice is yours.
5. The way you handle your phone.
If you can turn it off or leave it alone, you look calm and in control. But if you're constantly taking peeks, you appear more anxious and fidgety. Points of etiquette are important, as well: Do you excuse yourself to take calls, or force everyone to listen to your one-sided conversation? Make your phone as unobtrusive as possible to leave the best impression.
6. The way you express yourself.
The way you use language is a visible window into how your mind works. Think about whether your speech is measured and eloquent or quick-fire and sometimes scattered, how formal or informal you are in addressing others, even your word choices--do you tend to use absolutes like "always" and "never," or are you a more moderate fan of words like "maybe" and "uncertain"?
7. The way you value time.
When you're punctual, you appear proactive and on top of things. When you're late, on the other hand, people are quick to judge you as disorganized, inconsiderate, or both. The same kind of judgments hold true for other time-related issues, like procrastination or letting meetings drag on past their purpose.
The bottom line is that people will judge you whether you like it or not. It may be that you genuinely don't care what other people think--even though that's a rarity. For most of us, it pays to be attentive to the messages we're sending and the ways others are likely to see us.