People’s impression of you can either make or mar. Human beings are thinking beings hence the tendency to be highly judgemental and draw conclusions quickly. These impressions are not necessarily a true reflection of who or what you are, but are often drawn at the point of interaction, especially the first time.
So how do you define impression? The Oxford Dictionary defines impression as an idea or feeling or an opinion you get about someone/something, or that somebody or something gives you. From this definition, we can deduce that the impression we give people about us is derived from the energies we give off either positive or negative.
I got a wake up call sometime last month, when I posted the results of a personality game on Facebook where I was adjudged ‘cold’ when it comes to love. As harmless as I thought the post was, it generated some controversial comments that gave me a rethink.
Almost fifty percent of my friends who commented agreed with the post while the rest fifty percent thought otherwise. For a moment I doubted myself!!
People’s impression of you can either make or mar you
But on further soul searching, I realised that those who thought me cold were basically acquaintances. Those that have interacted with me on very few occasions, those that I had to relate with on very few instances on the course of my job and worse still those who have seen me yet again stand my ground without backing down on very important issues.
Whereas those who thought otherwise were people I would call close friends. These are people I grew up with, lived with, dined with, people who know me in and out. Those I would like to refer to as privileged to interact intimately with me to know that behind my serious look (all thanks to introversion), is a very simple soul.
So where and how did this ‘cold’ claim come about? My face and disposition!. I had to tell myself that one truth, that I don’t have the most appealing face when I’m not smiling or relaxed! And my disposition largely screamed ‘back down’!. I’ve been told by people how they initially thought I had built a solid wall around me until they came close only to find that the wall is so thin you can literally push it down with a finger.
So before it’s beginning to seem like this article is all about me, the bone of contention is, not everyone you meet is going to get the chance or time to know you up close. A lot more people are going to breeze in and out of your life and the impression they have of you in the first few 7 seconds they meet you is key.
How to create a great impression when meeting people for the first time.
According to science, it takes a person about 3 to 7 seconds to make an impression when meeting people for the first time and so regardless of where you are, be it at work, business meetings, social situations e.t.c. you have a very short time to put up your best in order to have a great interaction while cementing your reputation. The other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, body language and demeanor, your mannerisms and of course, how you are dressed.
If I were given the opportunity, I would live life not minding what anyone thought of me, and without a care in the world, but you and I know we live in a world of impressions. There are rules and laws guiding our activities and falling short of any could present you as anti social.
So how can you make a good first impression.
*Present yourself appropriately because your physical appearance matters. There is an adage that says “Dress the way you want to be addressed”. What you wear or how you are dressed for a first meeting goes a long way in shaping people’s opinion about you. So dress appropriately for all occasions.
*Smile. A smile for a lot of people is the most memorable feature you can leave after a first meeting and it’s also a good way to put the other person at ease. When you smile, you also decrease stress hormones which invariably helps lower anxiety. So when next you are meeting people, always wear a winning smile to endear others to you.
*Right Handshake. In the Corporate world, a handshake is internationally accepted as a sign of politeness and proper handshakes convey confidence.
A proper handshake however is not supposed to come off as a tight squeeze or a limp one, (which may send a sign of weakness to the other person), but must be something in between these two. Firm yet warm.
*Introductions. As earlier mentioned, you invariably want your first few seconds to count when meeting another person or people for the first time. Throwing in a bit of introduction when addressing people is very crucial. Sentences like “I am Sade, and it’s a pleasure to meet you” or “Great to meet you” or “Thank you for having me” e.t.c. can go a long way to break any icy situation. It’s also a good way to break the tension after the other person greets you.
*Speak clearly. There is nothing like meeting a person who communicates clearly and effectively. Speaking with confidence is a great way of communicating on a first meeting. Unfortunately introverts or people with anxiety issues may find this rather difficult especially in social situations. With a lot of practice however, (which is what I do when I need to address people), it is an art one can master overtime.
Great speaking portrays you in a positive light giving the impression of an intelligent and confident personality, thereby, giving whomever you are addressing a reason to want to listen to you. However, when speaking, be careful not to come off as too loud as this may be distracting, but take your time to communicate calmly and clearly.
*Make eye contact. So this is an interesting one because the connotations and consequences of making eye contact varies for different cultures. In Africa, the part of the world where I come from, making eye contact, especially when an older person is talking is viewed as rude or disrespectful. So the proper thing for the younger party to do is to look down when being addressed or reprimanded by an older person. In America however, making eye contact shows respect to the person you are meeting with. Likewise, in the Corporate world making adequate eye contact portrays confidence and of course interest in the other person and the message they are trying to convey. However, take breaks every now and then, so they don’t think you are starring, which of course will have negative connotations and also don’t look away too much so you don’t seem distracted.*Body Language. Use your body language to project confidence as well as self assurance. In that short moment of creating a good impression, you want to have the right expression, gesticulation, a winning smile, adequate body movement, good eye contact e.t.c. The right amount of body language on a first meeting will help project you as confident and automatically build trust and puts both you and the other person at ease.
*Be punctual. You don’t want to appear unserious on a first meeting and trust me, not everyone will be interested in your excuse, no matter how genuine, for running late. Regardless of the situation you are in, social or business, lateness is taken as a sign of un-seriousness.
Plan to arrive earlier than scheduled allowing flexibility for possible delays in traffic or taking wrong turns on the road. Arriving at a venue early is way better than running late and having to make excuses. This is crucial because it is a good first step towards creating a great first impression.
In all of these, what comes to mind is “why do I have to put up a show just because I want to impress someone or a certain people or to be accepted?” Unfortunately, that is how our world operates and no one wants to be ostracized or labelled negatively in any situation whatsoever. The truth is creating a great first impression does mean you need to “fit in” to some extent,but the idea is not losing yourself in the process of pretending to be someone you are not. Be yourself even as you try to promote yourself abiding by the tips aforementioned.
Shade works with The Punch Nig. Ltd. Connect with here https://www.facebook.com/folashade.awoseyi