The power of first impression might just be one of the most studied phenomena in psychology. Latest research by a team of psychologists from Canada, US and Belgium proves that “as long as the first impression is challenged only within the same context, it will dominate regardless of how often it is contradicted by new experiences”. The lead author of this study Bertam Gawronski is convinced that although you might see a person from different angles after meeting him several times, your conclusions about the person will be heavily influenced by your essential impression about him.
Let’s find out what does these findings mean for the business world and what are the steps you could take to make people instantly like you.
Vital Blink of an Eye
Another research suggests that you have less than a second to make a great first impression. But don’t get anxious yet. In spite of such limited time to amaze, there are ways to lead your new acquaintance to liking you:
- Look neat and professional. Just before an important meeting make sure your clothes are ironed and stain-free, and your shoes are polished. Spend extra time to fix your hair and make certain your nails are natty and clean.
- Follow the meeting dress code if there is any. Outfit can help you to fit in instantly. For example, if you are planning to meet with a start-up owner and you know he’s not a fan of conventional business dress code, you might want to wear something more casual. In case you have no clue about the way people will dress, stick to conservative business outfit.
- It might seem basic, but sometimes we forget about the importance of odor. Don’t overuse perfume, but be sure you smell nice.
- Be punctual. Being late can easily ruin your reputation even before the introduction happened. Plan your trip to the destination in advance and arrive at least 5 minutes before the meeting starts.
- Arrange your handbag. Make sure you take all necessary documents and your business cards with you. The papers have to be well-organized, so when you need to use some pages you don’t spend precious time on searching for a right report or presentation. Take a pen and a notebook with you. Use gadgets like smart phone or laptop only if you are certain you can work on them fast and efficiently.
- Remember the name of the person you are planning to meet. Sometimes you might want to go further and make a quick research on the place of his origin, occupation.
- Smile! Warm and natural smile on your face will sway people over on your side.
Two Ears, One Mouth Principle
If you are looking for a safe way to gain someone’s favor, be a good listener. After the first greetings and necessary small talk direct the attention from you to the other person, express your deep interest in the person’s opinion. Such approach will help you to lead any conversation and get key insights about the prospective business partner, while giving an impression of you being a pleasant person to talk with.
- When meeting someone, remember to shake hands. Give the person firm and confident handshake. Maintain eye contact while engaging in shaking hands; this gesture is a great way to communicate sincerity and confidence.
- In fact, eye contact is your pillar, and not only while handshaking. The more you meet the eyes of other person, the better. It gives an impression of engagement and interest in the communication. Keep good eye contact, but don’t stare deep into his eyes. You don’t want to be considered aggressive or dominant.
- Talk clearly. If people don’t comprehend what you are saying they will disregard you and the company you present. Avoid slang and practice proper grammar while speaking at a moderate pace with friendly and confident voice.
- Use the person’s name often. This shows to your companion that you are paying attention from the very beginning and that you give him enough importance to memorize his name.
- Ask relevant questions and carefully listen what one has to say. Be open, friendly and very attentive. When having a conversation let your partner know that you are paying attention. Use phrases like “I understand”, “Interesting”, “Tell me more”, “I agree” and nod your head from time to time.
- Stay away from sarcastic remarks and off-color jokes. Avoiding jokes at the first encounter is probably the safest choice, but if you can’t help yourself, choose your jokes wisely, give preference to something short and neutral.
- Don’t challenge your partner’s statements during the first meeting. If you disagree with the person but count on the future rapport, try to ‘give up on the need to be right’.
- Exercise positive body language to support your words. One of the vital things people will notice is how you carry yourself. Always stand with confidence, with your stomach in, shoulders back and chest out. Don’t fold your arms, this posture displays aggression or disapproval. If you want to manifest confidence and composure lose the lip biting and stop wringing hands while talking.
There is a chance you might forget about some of these tips while meeting an important person for the first time. But the more you exercise these first impression principals the smoother your next meeting will go. Don’t give up if you think you weren’t able to engage and impress a person and remember, ‘practice is the best of all instructors’ 😉
Do you have some questions about a Great First Impression or you think we forgot to mention something important? Come talk with us! Leave your comment below!
Alona is the co-founder of Etiquette Tips – an online magazine that features articles on business etiquette, communication, dress code, table manners, international code of behaviour, gift giving, events & celebrations and more.
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