We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good impression. But do you really know why or how to make that first meeting magic happen? If it’s so important, we thought we should consult the Body Language and Relationship Experts – Allan and Barbara Pease, to find out and pass on their advice. Here’s their responses:
What’s the Best Way to Make a Good First Impression?
During first impressions, our ancient brain searches the other person for signals of aggression or friendliness. Early humans relied on the ability to read the image and body signals of others to work out if they could be trusted or posed a threat. Our brains still operate this way tens of thousands of years later –
“People form up to 90 percent of their opinion about a new person in under four minutes. And most of that opinion is formed in under ten seconds!”
It does not matter whether it’s a work or personal meeting – if you screw up that first four minutes by the way you appear, behave or speak then it will be a struggle to win that person over. Fortunately, you can strategically dress to suit the occasion and train yourself to use positive body language and create trust. Your overall body language behaviour continually impacts how well you will or won’t succeed, face-to-face.
Here are 6 strategies for making a good first impression:
1. The Heart Hello
Before Covid, people shook hands. Now handshakes are scary due to the risk of germ transmission, so we recommend a germ-free alternative – the Heart Hello.
Do the following-
- Place your hand over your heart
- Smile (with your teeth visible) and lean forward
- Maintain eye contact with the person you’re greeting (this allows you to be connected to them but not submissive)
Here’s how it looks:
The Heart Hello achieves several things; first, it makes the other person feel welcomed and accepted. Second, it maintains physical distancing and its germ free. And third, it allows you to read the other person’s full body language signals, which is harder in an up-close handshake.
2. Smile with Your Teeth Visible
Smiling is a primate appeasement gesture showing others that you are non-threatening. Our research shows the more frequently you smile, the closer others will stand to you, the more eye contact they will give you, the more likely they will be to touch you and the longer they want to stay with you. In other words, smiling is great for your work and personal life! Practice your smile in front of the mirror – a genuine smile wrinkles the outer corners of the eyes, lifts the corners of the mouth up and shows the teeth.
3. Palm Power
When used correctly, palm power invests its user with a degree of authority and silent command. Palm-Facing-Up is a non-threatening gesture that’s been used since caveman times to show that the person is not holding any weapons. If you give a presentation and continually use the Palm-Down position, you’re more likely to suffer rejection from your audience.
Avoid finger pointing. The pointed finger is a symbolic club with which the speaker figuratively beats the listener into submission. If you are a habitual finger pointer, practice the palm-up and palm-down and you’ll find that a combination of these positions can create a more relaxed atmosphere and you’ll have a more positive effect on the people you are talking to.
4. Left Hand-Holding
Practice holding folders, papers and drinks in you left hand. We typically greet each other, open doors, move a chair or wave goodbye with our right hand. So, if your right hand is free of objects you’ll avoid looking clumsy. This strategy may seem obvious at first but few people pay it much attention.
5. Territorial Respect
We each carry a bubble of space around our body called Personal Space. Its width depends on population density and what culture the person is from. If you are standing close to someone and you notice them move back, they’re telling you this is the amount of space they need to feel comfortable with you. Keep your distance and resist moving forward.
6. Dress For Success
The Secret when it comes to choosing ‘what to wear’ when it comes to work, is to ask yourself how the other person expects you to be dressed. For you to appear credible, approachable, likeable, authoritative, knowledgeable and successful, how would you be dressed in their opinion?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
When you practice these techniques you will become more successful at making a positive first impression every time.
Is There Anything Else I Can Do to Improve the impression I make?
Practice mirroring. Mirroring others’ Body Language is what we do when we feel comfortable around them. So, copy the positive body language gestures of the other person to build rapport. Practice in front of the TV with the sound turned Off. Take a positive body language gesture, such as someone using their palms visible while talking, wait three seconds, then use the gesture yourself.
Make eye contact. Research shows Gen Y and beyond make less eye contact with others, most likely because they’ve been raised with less face to face contact and more screen time. Eye contact is one of the fastest ways to build rapport, older generations expect it, and you should practice it if you want to make a good first impression. In Western society, we meet the gaze of others for 70 percent of the time and look away for 30 percent.
How Do You Know if You’ve Made a Good Impression?
Watch for positive and negative body language reactions from the other person. Crossing arms, looking away, sitting back in the chair or moving their body away from you are all signs they don’t like what you’re saying. If this happens, ask a straight question: ‘I can see you have a question. Would you mind if I ask what it is?’. Then you have an opportunity to respond.
If you’re making a good impression, the other person may respond with positive gestures, such as leaning in, smiling, opening their palms as they speak.
If I Have Made a Bad Impression on Someone, How Can I change Their View of Me?
In face-to-face interaction, body language accounts for 60 – 80 percent of the impact of the messages you are communicating. People who understand this and use it are the most persuasive and convincing people in society. When you know how to make people feel relaxed with you, they will be more open to your ideas. Those who don’t understand how this works have difficulty making friends and being convincing. You have an advantage over other people if you understand this.
If you do make a mistake or notice the other person is not responding to you the way you’d hoped, pointing out your mistake in a humorous way can break the tension and give you an opportunity to start again.
It’s important to remember it won’t happen overnight. These skills take time to develop, and practice will make perfect.