Do first impressions count?
The answer is clear: YES. Often, we form an opinion about a person before he or she even speaks to us.
Communication consists of 2 parts:
Verbal, when we say and listen to the words spoken out loud;
And Non-Verbal, also called a body language.
While it’s not true that body language makes up 93% of the meaning when people communicate, it is true that the way you hold and present yourself will make an impact on your audience.
When we first meet someone, we instinctively look at:
Can I trust this person? And
Can I respect this person?
In other words, is this person competent? Is he or she worth for me to spend my time with?
No one trusts a shifty-looking, hunched-over person who doesn’t know what to do with his hands and can’t stand still. There are people who simply will not look into your eyes when having a conversation with you. When you shake their hands, their limp, damp hand conveys no trust in them and puts us in an alert mode.
Confidence is extremely important when meeting someone for the first time, but you are likely to be better perceived if you smile at the other person with genuine warmth and sympathy, rather than producing an overly-firm handshake. A quiet confidence presents a competent, self-assured person. A loud, brash confidence is nothing but a mask of inner insecurities. Understandably, your body language would be very different in professional environment to, say, dating situation so it’s very important to think about the situation you’re about to be in beforehand and choose the best posture/ presentation for it. Do not be afraid to practice different postures for different scenarios. When in conversation, your body language is being constantly interpreted by the other person on both conscious and subconscious level, so being aware of how you present yourself to the others is an extremely important skill to master.
Let’s take a look at one of the most critical aspects of making that all-important first impression: what you wear and what you accessorise with. We all have certain styles we are comfortable with; each of us has a favourite colour, a top we simply love or a jacket we would not go anywhere without. When we put an outfit together in the morning, we do so with a view to communicate a message with that outfit. Tried and trusted outfits make us feel safe and secure; bold, new outfits give us confidence and courage to try new things that day.
It’s the same with accessories. We see them in all shapes and sizes around us; some people keep them to the minimum whilst others over-accessorise, as if to hide behind them or apologise for something. If you over-accessorise or choose unsuitable items, it could also be a sign you’re trying to divert attention away from yourself and you are doing so to mask your low self-esteem.
So how do you present yourself in the best light possible? Here are my seven top tips on making a good first impression:
Start by looking at your clothes and accessories. Remember, less is more. Choose simple, elegant and quality pieces that convey taste, self-respect and quiet confidence.
Do you get comments on your current outfits and accessories? Are they good or bad? If they have not always been complimentary, I would recommend putting a few outfits with accessories together and ask a few trusted friends for an honest opinion.
If you have not been aware of your body language and what yours tells those around you before, start from today. Notice how you carry yourself, what you do with your hands and how you stand, how much personal space is between you and the other person. Start with those you feel close to and build up your confidence. Don’t be afraid to ask for a feedback.
Listen to yourself when conversing with others. How does your voice sound to you? How does it sound to others? Do you communicate differently at home to how you communicate at work? Start being aware and practice different tones and methods. For example, at work you would need to employ an assertive tone whereas at home, you’d speak softly to your children.
Remember it’s the quiet, unobtrusive confidence that gets you noticed, the kind of confidence that is built on self-respect and achievements. When you first meet someone and you turn the spotlight on that person regardless of what your own strengths are, it is a charming way of saying, ‘I’m not the centre of the attention, you are!’. This skill will bring you respect and admiration for years to come.
Be aware of your body language; stand tall with your head up; let your body mirror the other person whilst keeping a healthy distance between you; maintain eye contact; smile. It’s absolutely normal to feel nervous at times; but it doesn’t need to show. Remember, the other person is probably as nervous as you!