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Making Good First Impressions

When you meet someone for the first time it can be daunting. I'm introverted and have been quite shy in the past; that doesn't mean I can't make killer first impressions. If I allowed that to be an excuse I would do what I did at University, which was keep to myself, stay in the corner at the few parties I was invited to and only speak to people I already knew.

I look back and cringe at all the wasted opportunities at meeting someone that could have made an impact on my life, but avoided because my shyness was a safety net that kept me secluded in fear. Meeting people shouldn't be difficult, and there are a few things we can do to ease the process.

Once we are given insight into an area such as meting people, or boxing, or Internet security we start to see things in a new light. We have the secret keys to understanding, opening our eyes to what many people do naturally but that we might need a structure to work from. This is perfectly fine, we can't be experts at everything. The following is a gentle nudge into that insight. This is something that has helped me greatly in opening up and not being afraid to meet new people.

Of course I didn't develop this myself, I had to be shown the way by someone more knowledgeable in the area. While I reviewed a lot of sources, Charlie Houpert from Charisma on Command has been a huge influence. I recommend checking out his YouTube channel as there is a lot of cool stuff on there.

To make a good and lasting first impression you need to instil four things with the other person in the correct order. Doing these out of order will hinder your efforts. These are emotions or states that you want the other person to see coming from you. The emotions are:

  1. Positivity. Having fun and being uplifted.
  2. A feeing of Trust
  3. Respect
  4. Genuine Interest

Positivity

Starting at the beginning we want to show our positivity. The easiest way to do this is to provide energy into the situation. If you watch Will Smith enter a room on any talk show he is a guest on you will see how pumped he makes everyone just by entering the room. We can't all have his energy at the start, so the baby step is to have a great answer to the first question nearly everyone asks: How are you?

The default answer to this is "Good thanks, how are you?"

What does that actually do to improve the conversation let alone your positivity or fun? It is a waste of potential. Imagine instead that when asked this simple question you state enthusiastically "I'm fantastic thank you", or "I'm doing awesome".

The important take away here is that you are exuberant and personify the trait you are claiming to be. Saying "I'm awesome" in a monotone does not convey the sense of awesomeness. This must be real to create a shift in attitude. The best way to achieve this is to genuinely feel good about your life. For some of you this might be difficult but we only need to focus on small changes to make big impacts.

Practice smiling in a mirror so you can see how others will see you. Even record it on your phone and play it back. We want to see a genuine smile. Fake smiles don't touch the eyes and usually the mouth goes left to right. A genuine smile pulls your mouth up and crinkles the eyes. Think about something positive or fun. Be silly in the moment to see what a true smile of yours looks like. You can then re-create that when meeting new people.

Trust

This is mainly done with body language. The two biggest aspects are touching and eye contact. Ensure when you meet someone you shake their hand and make eye contact for a good few seconds. If you feel game you can even give a bro hug to a guy, or air kiss a girl if you feel it is appropriate. A firm shoulder clap also does wonders but pick your times. Make sure you give the person your undivided attention for a few seconds.

When in group situations you need to touch everyone in the room before moving on. This might mean a simple hand shake with eye contact while repeating their name. You can't expect trust without making eye contact, especially when you are speaking.

Reveal your palms to others when speaking. They should be rigid, not floppy. This shows you have nothing to hide. During the conversation reveal something that may be embarrassing to you. Don't try to play it cool or hide awkwardness. Own it. You might be at a party and don't know many people. Admit you are feeling lost at the party and don't know anyone. Say it with a genuine smile and maybe a chuckle. Owning this vulnerability builds trust as you are happy to share yourself with others.

Respect

Respect may be implicit from context. If you are a CEO of your company then respect is usually implied. If respect is forced before establishing trust then people can feel manipulated. The easiest way to gain respect is to lead the conversation. Be comfortable in steering the conversation to topics you are interested in. For example when someone says something interesting you might say "Hold on a second, you just did X, tell me more. What was that like?"

Show genuine interest here. Don't just blow smoke up their butt and definitely don't fake it.

Genuine Interest

Showing interest is fairly easy when we are steering the conversation, but to make others feel at ease with us we need to make a connection. Within in a few minutes of talking about a topic you often find something in common. You know when you have made a connection by them nodding along with you as you speak, and maintaining eye contact. Now is the time to turn it back on them.

You might say something like "I've been talking for a while now. What is your story?" Leave this deliberately vague. If they want to share something they will go right into it. If not they will probably ask "what do you want to know?" Answer with "whatever you are interested in and care about." It is a rare person that won't have anything to say after that.

During the entire discussion use their name often. Everyone loves to hear their own name as it brings a connection to the discussion. It shows you are interested in them.

Follow up

There are a lot more things we can do here, with plenty of exercises to practice. There are far more things here than can be covered in a single article. Give the above a try and you will see a marked improvement.

If you still have issues and would like some help please use the contact form to discuss hiring me as your personal coach. Everyone needs a hand once in a while.

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© AJ Watson