First Impressions

Perception is reality (it’s also an interesting TV show, but that’s not relevant). People are judged based on their appearance, just as much as they are on their actions, and first impressions truly do count. Think of your first impression as a photo of yourself. Every time someone thinks of you, they will picture that image. That’s not to say that the image won’t change over time (like Dorian Gray’s portrait), because it will, it just takes time and effort; but if you give a horrible first impression to the person interviewing you for a new job, or a prospective client, chances are they aren’t going to give you the chance. With that in mind, here are a few tips to making a great first impression.

Be Punctual

There are few things more disrespectful than being late; paraphrasing an old military adage “If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re 10 minutes late”. In addition to showing that you respect a person enough to show up early, it gives you a little extra leeway in case of unforeseen delays. Often before an appointment (job interview, doctor appointment) you will have paperwork to fill out, and being early gives you time to do this as well. If, due to some unavoidable act of God, you are going to be late (your alarm not going off doesn’t count), then phone ahead as soon as possible to let someone know.

Handshake

You can tell alot about a person by the way they shake hands, and unfortunately it’s something that a lot of people need to work on. Your grip should be firm; you don’t want to be crushing their hand, but you definitely don’t want to be a dead fish

A great instructional video by The Art of Manliness

Eye Contact

They say that the eyes are the window to the window to the soul; while I wouldn’t go that far, the ability to maintain eye contact is something that many people lack. Sometimes they are hiding something, sometimes they are just nervous, but people who avoid eye contact are usually considered less trustworthy than those maintain it. In general, maintain eye contact when you are approaching someone, and for about 3-4 seconds at a time while talking with them; briefly look away, and then back to their eyes. Don’t stare at them, and try not to be creepy about it. If you find it difficult to look them directly in the eyes, then try to focus on the bridge of their nose; assuming you aren’t too close to them, or go cross-eyed, then they most likely won’t be able to tell you aren’t looking them in the eye; eventually it will get easier to look them in the eye.

Dress Appropriately

I’m going to cover dress codes, and what you should wear in particular situations in a later article, but if you are going for an interview (depending on the field), then you should probably be wearing a suit. If you’re not sure on what suit to wear, then check out my article on buying a suit. Dress shoes should be shined, your clothes should be clean and pressed, and they need to fit you. Most men either buy their clothes too big (thinking it will hide their weight, or because they don’t know better), or too small (trying to show off); neither of these options is appropriate for a professional setting, and clothes that fit you properly will make you look better than anything else will. I will cover proper fit more in a later article. You don’t want to be over or underdressed; if you are going to a pre scheduled event (wedding, party), call ahead and ask the host what the dress code is if you aren’t sure. When in doubt, overdressed is better than underdressed, because you can always remove a jacket or tie if needed . If you are giving a presentation, going to a job interview, or meeting clients, you should probably be wearing a suit (depending on the target audience). At the very least, you should be wearing a dress shirt, tie, and trousers. In all other situations, wear clothes that fit, look good on you, and are appropriate for the situation.

Speak Clearly

Don’t mumble, and don’t yell. Be clear and concise; make sure that your voice isn’t too high-pitched – studies have shown that people with a deeper voice are taken more seriously, but that doesn’t mean that you need to sound like Morgan Freeman (that would be cool though), just don’t go overboard.  I shouldn’t need to say it, but don’t use profanities. Bad language is never appropriate in any professional setting, and should be avoided as much as possible in personal settings as well.

Be Confident

Confidence is a major key to success in most things you do. If you don’t believe that you can do something, then chances are you can’t; but when you have confidence in yourself it shows, you feel better about yourself, your happier, and more productive. Confidence comes from an unwavering belief in yourself. It’s not about knowing that you are better than everyone else (that’s arrogance), but from knowing that there is nothing that can stop you from accomplishing your goals, and that, for whatever faults you may have, so long as you continue to be the best person you can be, then nothing can stand in your way.

Grooming

It should go without saying that you should be showering daily, and using deodorant. If you are going for a job interview, you shouldn’t use cologne (there are a few reasons that I will talk about in a later article), but it’s okay most other times; just don’t use too much; a spray or two on your neck, and one on each wrist is enough. I know someone who thinks it’s okay to slather it under his arms like deodorant; It’s not. As far as deodorant goes, find one that you like; I like Old Spice. If you can, try to layer the scent i.e bodywash, aftershave, and deodorant of the same scent. This will stop the different fragrances from conflicting, and make you smell like one good thing, and not half a dozen average things. If you are using cologne, I recommend a simple antiperspirants, instead of deodorant; if not, then a combination antiperspirants/deodorant is the way to go.

Brush your hair, and your teeth. If you use hair product you will probably have the tendency to overdo it before a big event, so use less than you think is enough. If you have a beard, make sure it’s neat and tidy. If you are going for a job interview for a position in an office, or something along those lines, I would recommend shaving the beard entirely. Being clean-shaven is a more professional look than sporting a beard, but if you absolutely refuse to shave it, then trim it, and make it as professional looking as you can.

Body language

Most of what I’ve covered here falls under the banner of ‘non-verbal communication’; the things you are saying when you aren’t speaking. Body language is a very interesting subject, but is a bit too complex to go into too great detail in this article (I will most likely cover it later). For now, the best advice I can give you is to stand up straight, don’t fidget, don’t cross your arms, and don’t forget to smile. If you are interested, here is an excellent documentary on ‘The Secrets of  Body Language’. It’s quite interesting, and I highly recommend you have a look.

Although these tips will help ensure you make a positive first impression, it would probably be a good idea to stick to them in general; making a great first impression on your first day of work is pointless if you are going to act like a classless arse the rest of the time. As always, comments are appreciated. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What else do you think I should have included? I think it was pretty good, but then, I am a little biased.

Until Next Time

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