What First Impressions Are You Making?

We’ve all heard about the importance of seizing the one chance we have to make a good first impression. However, did you know that within 20 seconds of meeting you, a person will assume they know much about you based upon what they see? Your appearance, body language and nonverbal communication will create a lasting first impression which will serve as a foundation for them to decide if you are worthy of their continued interest and energy. Most often, their initial impression of you will remain unchanged. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for leniency due to a bad day or stressful moment.

Whether you like it or not, your professional success and personal fulfillment depends largely upon making a great first impression and living up to the expectations you’ve set for yourself through your behavioral choices. Let’s explore how you can ensure the right impression every time.

Be authentic.

It’s amazing but true, that we were all born with a device to help us assess another person’s intentions in a mere tenth of a second. I like to call this device a “BS meter” and it helps people of all ages and backgrounds to intuitively feel if someone is being fake immediately. By being real and uncontrived, you automatically send a signal to others that you can be trusted. As you know, trust is the most important ingredient in any relationship. Pure intentions go a long way when making a first impression.

Decide upon your intention.

It’s impossible to have pure intentions if you’ve put no thought into defining what your intentions are. For example, if you are going to a professional networking event you’ll want to put off a different kind of energy than if you are headed to a barbecue at the house of a close friend. By putting thought into the people you’d like to meet or the kind of interaction you’ll have, it will ground you to focus on the type of energy you want to exert for the event. This will lead to a more confident and natural interaction as you make your first impression.

Check out your flair.

Popularized by the 1999 comedy film, “Office Space,” where restaurant employees were required to express themselves through buttons pinned to their uniform, “flair” refers to the extras you wear to showcase your individuality. Whether it is make-up, jewelry, purses, shoes, watches, your choice of clothing or hairstyle, others will pay attention to such details when sizing you up initially. Put thought into what you want your flair to tell others about you when they first lay eyes on you.

Get interested.

Nothing is more painful than being stuck talking to a person who makes everything all about them. I’m sure you know the “all about me” type of person I’m describing who never reciprocates in any conversation. This type of one-way dialogue is annoying, and once someone is pegged as a selfish communicator, others avoid them at all costs. By simply showing a genuine interest in others, you will send out a contagious energy that leads to better conversation and the possibility of a lasting connection. Simply by showing interest in others, they will become interested in you.

Know when to stay behind.

We’ve all had days or moments when we’re feeling anxious or just plain down. No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible not to send off negative vibes from our body language or expressions when we’re feeling this way. Part of sending a good first impression is knowing when to follow your gut when you’d really rather be alone. Avoid putting yourself in a situation where others may unfairly label you as unfriendly or rude by knowing when to stay behind.

Stand tall.

The importance of posture is not to be ignored when making a good first impression. Simply by holding your head high with your shoulders back, you send a signal to others that you are confident with a strong presence. It also tells others that you are open to having a conversation. Not convinced? Think of the last time you were at a function and saw a person who was slumped over, arms crossed, with their head down, avoiding eye contact with others. What did you assume about them? Chances are, you assumed they were unfriendly or disinterested in being there. Chances are, you went out of your way to avoid them.

Get ready. Every encounter presents an opportunity to expand your professional contacts by making a good first impression.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla, SPHR is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for nearly 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at elizabeth@changeagentsee.com or visit her company’s website at www.changeagentsee.com.