Throughout my early life, almost an even number of people took an immediate or early liking to me, as an immediate disliking. It has taken me a while to figure out where I went wrong in the latter cases. I do believe my bipolar behavior has certainly played a part in both cases, but I’m luckily more stable than I used to be, and more aware of my past blunders. I’m so happy that I have more control of my moods. Symptoms like irritability, grandiosity, and inattention (self-focus) played havoc on some relationships. Periods of social anxiety and shyness were also obstacles I had to get past. The latter issues I worked through over time with the help of my wonderful therapist. Running through practice interactions ahead of time were most helpful for me.
Here are six suggestions for making a good first impression:
- Eye contact, but not excessive – People want to feel you are focusing on them and not paying attention elsewhere, and yet prolonged eye contact can feel awkward or even intimidating. The right balance makes the difference in whether you make a new friendly connection, or not. Walking by someone you’ve seen a lot, but never met, with no eye contact says “I don’t want to meet you.”
- The right kind of smile or other facial or body language – Facial expressions and body language that are friendly or supportive (and properly match the situation) make others feel at ease. Excess gestures again can be awkward. Avoid a depressed or angry look, if at all possible, unless you are in the company of someone with whom you are very close, who understands. Acquaintances and strangers are not comfortable with negativity, as much as we’d like not to have to fake feelings. When I’m feeling unwell and irritable, I make an effort to keep to myself for a while. Or if I must admit feeling unwell, I briefly mention it and move on to business or something more positive.
- Remembering the person’s name and maybe something about them (perhaps positive and comfortable) – When you first meet a person make a huge effort to remember their name. Repeat it in your head a few times or use mnemonics to help solidly keep it in your memory. In cases of recent acquaintances, bringing up a small tidbit of a previous conversation is also attractive, but try to make it a positive tidbit.
- Interest in the other person and ability to find common conversation ground – People love it when you ask them questions and show interest in them, but they should also ideally reciprocate. Try to create a balance. Finding common conversation ground sparks conversations that each can easily contribute to. No one wants to be treated like a student unless they ask to be or really are a student.
- A reasonable amount of humility – “Know it alls” clearly turn people off by their implied superiority. It’s OK to talk about something you’re knowledgeable about or felt good about on occasion, but do combine that with questions to the other person so they can share expertise in some area, or just self-promote in moderation.
- Immediate expression of respect or happiness in seeing a person, if possible – Whether you just run into someone you haven’t seen for a while or are greeting them for the first time in the morning at work, a smile and reasonably enthusiastic “Good morning, Joe” or “Nice to see you again, Florence” makes a huge difference in the continuing interaction. It’s amazing how important those first seconds are.
What other actions do you find help bring about a good first impression? What else doesn’t? Please take a look in the comments to see the ideas of other bloggers.