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How to Make a Good First Impression

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
First Impressions Making Good First

No matter how much we might think that we are non-judgemental every one of us is ‘guilty’ of making first impressions about people, whether that is in business or in other aspects of our everyday lives and, never more so than in a work environment is this so true. It’s estimated that it can take as little as 3 seconds for us to make an initial first impression about somebody we meet for the very first time and this is whether we do that consciously or sub-consciously. Granted, we’ll have all been in social situations where we can laugh and joke to our friends about our first thoughts about them when we first clapped eyes on them and many of us will be able to relate to the fact that, in many instances, it’s only once we’ve allowed ourselves to get to know a person better that we’re more able to gain a more accurate opinion about them. The difference in the workplace, however, is that whilst we’ll still naturally make a first impression about someone, we may never be in a position to meet with them again. Therefore, first impressions can prove to be everlasting and can make or break a business relationship which can result in the gaining or losing of thousands of pounds worth of business in some cases.

Impressions Before You’ve Even Met

In business, what’s even more challenging is that people will often make a first impression about you even BEFORE you’ve actually met. It’s all based on the subject of perceived status and business hierarchy. Most business people will often know the job title as well as the name of the person they’re going to be meeting, before they’ve even met. As a result, they will likely form an initial impression of a person, simply based around their ‘status’ within a company. For example, if the person you’re meeting is in a higher ranked position to yourself, you’re already likely to be thinking that this is a person worth getting to know as they could be a valuable contact. If they hold the same or similar status to yourself, then you’ll think them worthy of your time. However, if their status is below that of yours, then you’re far more likely to keep them somewhat at a distance or, at best, tolerated. Obviously, this is taking this to the extreme but, nevertheless, it does occur and does demonstrate just how important first impressions are.

So…How Do You Make A Good Impression?

Firstly, it’s important that you both assess and identify your physical appearance, personality, lifestyle and career goals. By doing this, you will be able to create a visual image of the kind of person you wish to be perceived as. This will then be reflected in the way you dress, your grooming, your accoutrements such as the watch and the jewellery you wear and the car you drive and its usually either one or several of these aspects which is likely to form a part of a person’s very first impressions about you. It’s not just designer gear, however, that will determine how you’re perceived.

Body language too will be closely observed. The way you carry yourself, the way you speak, move your eyes, gesture with your arms or hands – all of these will be giving off signals for people to create their own first impressions of you. Even when you speak, whilst this will be a more clearer indication of the qualities you have as a person to do business with and will, to a large extent, enable people to form opinions about your intelligence, knowledge, skills and experience in a particular field, it’s often the WAY you speak that will be remembered more than WHAT you actually say. Having polite manners, showing courtesy, being positive and energetic, coming across as reliable, honest and trustworthy and even smiling all help to give off a positive impression too.

Basically, all the things we’ve spoken about here are a reflection of what you portray as a person to a complete stranger. They are all facets of business etiquette that will combine to enable others to form a quick opinion about you. And, whilst you need to be yourself, it’s often useful to spend a little time observing how other successful business people are able to command the attention of others. Mostly this can be put down to years of practice and refinement when it comes to how they portray themselves because without making a positive and lasting first impression, they might not even get to the stage of discussing business, they’ll simply have left a negative impression on somebody who, when recalling that particular person, will firstly remember that first initial impression that they formed.

Look At Your Corporate Culture

If we take some of the examples shown above, it’s interesting to think that certain elements can be perceived very differently by different people. For example, a Rolex watch or a Ferrari sports car might be seen as aspirational by some, yet some people might think “what a show-off!”. Animated gestures with your arms and hands might demonstrate your enthusiasm to some but may be perceived as ‘over the top’ by others. And, a sales person’s confidence might come across as arrogance to some people.

Basically, there are no fixed rules as such about how you make a good impression. The areas discussed here are simply the main aspects that people tend to look at when forming first impressions so, it’s always a good idea to get a feel of what is and isn’t appropriate etiquette within your own specific corporate environment to gain a better idea of how to create a positive first impression as it will often be this that will ultimately determine your success or failure.

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