5 ways to make a good first impression
Whether you’re on a job interview or just meeting another parent from the PTA, the first five minutes you spend with someone can often determine how far that relationship will go, says Nikisha Johnson, an instructor in the communication program at University of Phoenix and a program director for a nonprofit organization.
“But because we’ve gotten so used to communicating online and via text today,” she cautions, “our first face-to-face interactions are not always as substantive as they can be.”
Here are five tips for bucking that trend and making a solid first impression every time:
Be in the moment.
Being mindful when you meet someone for the first time means being present and in the moment, and not being distracted by electronic devices.
“We live in a world where we are constantly multitasking and checking our email,” Johnson says, “but that doesn’t make a good first impression. Even doing something very innocent like checking a text to see where your kid is could be perceived as being distracted.”
Tailor your conversation to the setting.
It’s best to keep the very first conversation you have with a new person in the context of the situation in which you meet them, Johnson suggests.
For instance, if you’re meeting someone at a work event, the best topics would relate to your current employment and career. Likewise, if you’re introduced to another parent at a school function, initial topics should be on the children or the school.
“Conversations in proper context help people establish common ground and get comfortable with one another before branching out,” says Johnson, who recently interviewed a candidate who mentioned her personal life when asked about weaknesses. “Talking about her personal life was totally out of context and inappropriate in that setting.”
Match your body language to the conversation.
Johnson suggests making occasional eye contact and standing or sitting without crossing your arms, which can give the appearance that you’re guarded or defensive.
“If you’re telling someone that what they’re saying is fascinating but your eyes are wandering around the room, that’s not going to make a good impression,” she says.
Pay attention to the flow of dialogue.
“It’s important not to interrupt people and talk over them,” Johnson says. “That may sound like simple common courtesy, but because so many of us are accustomed to social media interaction, people today tend to overtalk loudly, abbreviate and interject.”
It’s critical to listen carefully and remember that communication should be two ways, she adds.
Ensure that your clothing is appropriate.
Find out ahead of time what an occasion calls for, and choose apparel that is both appropriate and makes you feel at ease.
“Everyone likes to say they aren’t judgmental, but the truth is we do judge people on first impression,” Johnson explains. “It’s paramount to put your best foot forward by dressing appropriately.”