Researchers have found that a first impression is made within the first seven seconds after you meet someone new. When you meet someone for the first time, they are taking a rapid inventory of your gait, your smile, your handshake, and how you present yourself. As you are making your approach, they are deciding if they can trust you, if you are genuinely nice, if they want to know and work with you--so many questions are answered in those first few critical seconds based on what they see, and how you make them feel.
"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." ~ Maya Angelou
With Maya's quote in mind, don't be terrified of those first seven seconds. How you make the other person feel during the course of your conversation is more important than even those first few seconds. Try these nine ways to a great first impression that will take you beyond those first few seconds and on to gaining respect--and maybe even a new job or client.
1. Be mindful of how you appear to others
From head to toe, you want to be sure that you are portraying the image that presents you in the best possible light. Prepare yourself well ahead of time and put your best self forward--clothing, hair, accessories. This will make you feel your best and ultimately leave a great first impression.
2. Be on time
Nothing shoots you down faster than being late for an initial appointment or meeting--even just a minute or two. Always give yourself more than enough time, allowing for traffic delays or parking hassle. Always be on time.
3. Watch the body language
Your body language silently speaks volumes. Studies have proven that it has four times more influence on first impressions than anything you actually say. Genuine smiles are a winning ticket for creating a great first impression, as is a firm handshake and purposeful eye contact. Stand tall and be proud of who you are.
4. Turn off your cell phone
Nothing kills a great first impression faster than someone's cell phone making constant vibration or sounds. Turn it off. And don't even think about responding to a text message or answering your phone if it rings.
5. Begin the conversation
You can put yourself and others at ease and guarantee a great first impression by engaging in a bit of small talk to loosen things up. Prepare ahead of time and learn something about the individual you are meeting or about the company they represent and then begin the conversation with one thing you have learned. Or simply begin by asking them, "How has your day been going?" And remember to smile.
6. Keep it positive
This is not the time to rehash the story of the lady who cut you off and took your parking spot, or the dog that messed up your front lawn that morning. Your upbeat attitude and positivity will make for a great first impression.
7. Pay attention
You create a great first impression when the person you are meeting feels listened to and is made to feel that he or she has a captive and interested audience. Lean into the conversation--body language again--to communicate that you are really listening and interested.
8. Don't forget your manners
Any time I witness good manners--"Please," "Thank you," or "Please, you go first"--I immediately take this as a sign of a good person that I can trust. Good manners and being humble always leave a great first impression.
9. Just relax and be yourself
Remember that most people are just as uncomfortable or anxious as you are during a first meeting. Tell yourself that you are good enough and see what you can do to make the other person more comfortable--if they're comfortable, you will be more comfortable. So take a few deep breaths, relax, and go be your fabulous self.