For some of us, meeting new people is a scary, intimidating necessity. For others, it’s an exciting and enlightening adventure. Either way, you’re going to meet new people in your life, and when you do, it’s in your best interest to make a great first impression.
Achieving that positive first impression isn’t always easy, especially if you’re in a new location or aren’t sure what to say. However, there are a handful of body language "hacks" you can use to assure yourself of a good reception, help you engage in a good conversation and eventually walk away with a warm, new acquaintance.
Try some of these moves the next time you attend a networking event (or any time you meet new people):
1. Assume a power pose.
This hack happens before you ever set foot in the room. Research shows that “power poses” can actually trick your brain into feeling more confident, resulting in easier conversation and a more poised demeanor. What this entails is standing up tall and raising your fists in the air, or taking up space by putting your hands on your hips. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute, and you’ll walk into that room feeling naturally more confident.
2. Maintain an “open” posture.
The position of your body can communicate a lot about what you’re thinking or feeling. If your body posture is “closed,” such as when your arms are folded or your head is down, people will think you’re not interested in having a conversation. If your posture is “open,” however, with your shoulders back and your head up, you’ll be seen as welcoming and friendly.
3. Touch (when appropriate).
Touching someone gives him or her an instant connection to you -- that’s why handshaking leaves a lasting impression when you first meet someone. Give a handshake, and when appropriate, venture into other forms of physical contact, such as a pat on your new acqaintance's shoulder. Just be sure to keep things appropriate: An unwelcome touch -- especially in male-female interactions -- can have more negative than positive power.
4. Stand up straight.
There are a few reasons why standing up straight can help you when meeting new people: First, you’ll feel and appear more confident, giving you an edge in an entry conversation. Second, you’ll naturally have a more “open” and welcoming posture. Finally, it will allow you to breathe in a fuller, healthier way, giving more power to your words and more oxygen to your lungs throughout the conversation.
5. Make eye contact.
This isn’t just an old wives’ tale or an obsolete tradition. There are many psychological factors at play that make eye contact between two people powerful. The eyes communicate many nonverbal cues -- some of which you probably aren’t even aware of. This is part of the reason why making eye contact with someone instantly makes you trust that person -- even if that's only slightly more trust.
It also shows you’re paying attention, and that you’re invested in the conversation. Make eye contact early, and maintain it whenever appropriate.
Occasionally gesturing with your arms and hands can make your words more compelling to other people. If you want to emphasize a certain point, punching the air can hammer it home. If you want to ask someone else’s opinion, an upward-turned hand can make the request more inviting.
The only danger here isn’t the type of gestures you can make, but the frequency of gestures you use. Too much gesturing will make you seem a little off your rocker. So, be reserved with your gestures.
7. Remain still.
There’s no need to remain perfectly still during the encounter; doing that can make you seem robotic. But, you’ll want to avoid needless fidgeting or motions that interfere with the conversation. For example, pacing around, tapping your foot or wringing your hands can make you seem nervous and unconfident. Instead, try to keep yourself (and your appendages) as in control and in check as possible. Doing so will make you seem more confident.
These body-language hacks can’t make up for a dull conversation or a rude demeanor, but they can start you off on the right foot with just about anyone. If you're still feeling uncomfortable with these hacks, practice them with friends or family members, or even in front of the mirror until you get the hang of them.