The Importance of Making a Good First Impression
Our impression of someone is formed within a split second. With that in mind, we need to be at our best when we meet people for the first time. Whether you are making new connections at a networking event, meeting potential clients or prospective employers, we need to be aware of all the factors that people take into consideration when we first meet them.
Making a good first impression is essential in order to build a platform for the relationship to continue. Maybe the future of the relationship is not in your control such as attending an interview. Nevertheless, to be in with a fighting chance of developing that relationship, we need to make good, lasting first impressions.
It´s all about perception. To come across well in social situations, we need to be perceived as approachable, honest, reliable and trustworthy, along with many other positive attributes that makes us warm to people. In general, most people are good at projecting a positive image onto others. However, not everyone and not always. I´m sure that you have met or heard of people who are socially awkward. That´s not to say that they aren´t sociable and likeable characters. It could well be that they don´t have the skills or lack the emotional awareness that is intricately woven into the very fabric of social encounters.
Projecting an image towards others involves a short two step process.
We have to decide what image we want to project in any given situation. Although this may be situation specific, we are going to assume the fact that we want to be seen favourably in the eyes of others.
This is the thought process and control that drives the projection. It´s here that things can go wrong, even for those who are often immersed in different types of social encounters. Reading the other person´s experience in the here and now isn´t easy, neither is reading all the emotional cues that may be surrounding the situation. Misjudge these two important factors and we fail to see the encounter from the perspective of others. It is this lack of perspective during first encounters that can cause an obstacle to forming and nurturing quality relationships.
It is with the complexities of the second step in mind, that we are going to take an important look at why or how people fail to make a good first impression.
What not to do
It´s certainly a good move to showcase the best version of you. In particular, when attending interviews or presenting in order to secure business. However, it´s important to be yourself and let your positive attributes shine through. There is no need to exaggerate experience or talents in a boastful way. Even more so, when this involves denigrating someone solely for personal gain. Many people are driven to be competitive and that´s great. Having competition makes us both better. However, if that competitive nature is replaced by one of boastfulness and arrogance, people will see through any attempt you make to project a warm positive image. People may be drawn to narcissistic personalities at first, as they can fill the room with energy and offer a certain appeal. Though in most circumstances, over time, the true self comes through and people are repelled at the self-acclaimed superiority of the boastful narcissist.
Receiving praise for a job well done is a nice feeling but there is a marked difference between genuine praise and disguised praise. This is often referred to as a back handed compliment. For example, “congratulations on getting that new job. I´m quite shocked because they normally employ young people.” These so-called compliments are designed to put the recipient down and are driven by the sender’s insecurities and jealousy. It´s not difficult to spot disguised praise and those that do hear it are often repelled by the smug smile on the face of the sender.
There has been many a public figure fall from grace because they projected an image of a clean living life style but the reality was somewhat different. The point here is that those people who have perhaps lead a chequered life style and never tried to hide it are tend not to be vilified. Perhaps not admired, nevertheless, they are probably viewed more favourably than those who claimed but didn´t practice. Remember the old saying? “If you can´t walk the walk, don´t talk the talk.”
Not Being Genuine
Being humble is a noble attribute. I absolutely dismiss the notion that humility is born from a submissive personality type. However, it can be a bad thing. Well annoying to say the least. We can quite often be drawn to the humble nature of people, but false acts of humility executed only to fish for compliments are most certainly not endearing. People that are bent on a quest to be more likeable through acting out scenarios of humility are perceived to be insincere. If it´s inside you, it´s going to show itself at some point. Let´s make sure it´s the genuine likeable you.
Not listening to someone is a sure-fire way to get the meeting closed early. If you are only interested in your own previously arranged agenda, the other person will switch off. The key is to listen more than you talk. Those people that listen with genuine interest, normally make the best impression. Don´t monopolise the conversation.
People make judgements
The old saying of “you only get one chance to make a first impression” is something you have probably heard many times. In as short a time as just a few seconds, people make judgements on others they meet for the first time. We make these judgements based on:
- Dress code
- Body language
Once these first impressions have been formed, they can be very difficult to undo. For this reason, be it in your work life or personal life creating a good first impression creates a platform for the ongoing relationship to build on.
There are many things that you can do to create a good, lasting first impression during interviews, presentations, client meetings and business negotiations. It´s essential to appear natural, competent and comfortable with whatever it is you are communicating. Although on occasions this may be far from reality, you can with practice, learn how to make a good, lasting first impression.
What are your thoughts?
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