Eight Ways To Make A Positive First Impression
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A first impression occurs in a situation when one person first meets another person and an instant mental image and impression of that person is formed based on a wide range of characteristics such as their age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent to name a few.
So, how does this impact us in the workplace? Well, this first impression can be formed in a matter of seconds and is very difficult to change once it has been made. This initial impression will also govern an interaction between the parties, so making a positive first impression is vital. However, this does not mean that you have to conform and change who you are.
Having lived in the UAE for over 20 years, I have developed a few tips and techniques which l often share with my team so they can leave positive impressions on people they meet.
1. Attire When a person walks into a room, a building or even your office, one of the first things you notice is what they are wearing. The way a person dresses can tell you a lot about them and their personality. Last year, I was in a government organization waiting to hand in my ID, when the lady in front of me was asked to come back wearing appropriate clothes. She has a jacket on with a high-neck top and a skirt, which was about two inches above her knee. The skirt was the issue here. As this lady turned away, you could see her embarrassment, which l also felt for her. When l came to hand in my ID, the dress code guidelines were clearly stuck to the counter for all to see. If you are not sure about the guidelines, call them and ask.
2. Punctuality A client once said to me, “arriving on time is late.” I took a moment to think about this and saw that he did have a point. If a meeting is at 2 pm and you arrive at the building at 2 pm, then will you reach your meeting on time? I believe that getting to the actual venue 20 minutes before the meeting is safe. There have been many occasions where l have reached the building, only to find that there are 10 people in front of me and each one takes approximately 2-3 minutes to process. On other occasions, security will not allow you to enter until the person you are meeting has answered their phone and confirms the meeting, which can also take time.
3. Preparation When l talk about preparation here, I’m not just referring to preparation for the meeting, or getting the documents in order. It’s more than that. Finding some topics of interest to discuss while you are perhaps waiting for all the attendees to arrive, and looking up the contact on LinkedIn so you know a little more about their background and think of topics you may have in common.
4. Genuine Be natural and don’t try to "fake it." People can be very perceptive and generally dislike someone who tries to know it all. Making a positive first impression is not about wanting to tell the other person what you know and how good you are at something. It’s more about creating a memorable encounter and showing a genuine interest in the other person, listening and responding to what is being said or asked, rather than what you think is being said or asked. Your smile and laugh also needs to be genuine. There is nothing worse than a cheesy smile from someone when you walk into the room because throughout the conversation, your mind will take you back to that.
5. Body language Culture plays a big part when it comes to body language. I’ve witnessed quite a few situations where inappropriate body language has been a real conversation stopper and left a few people feeling embarrassed. Know the culture and understand what is considered offensive and if you are unsure, research or ask questions.
6. Names and titles Remembering names can be quite a challenge, especially when there are more than three people. One of the ways l remember names is to write them down in the same order they are they seated. If someone tells me their name and l didn’t hear it or have difficulty in pronouncing it, I ask them to spell it.
7. Be professional When asked a question about a person whom you do not like, a country you have never visited, respond in a professional manner. No matter how tempting it can be, try to refrain from talking badly about a person or country, you never know who that person knows or which country they are from.
8. Be honest If, during a conversation, a person reveals a challenge they often face at work and you have also experienced something similar, share this with them. Don’t forget, we all face trials and tribulations at work; they are all just packaged differently and when we find we have something in common, it helps to build a rapport, and in turn, leave a positive first impression.
Creating a positive first impression is situational, so prepare yourself. If you are attending a conference with industry experts, then dress appropriately and follow the guidelines. Likewise, this would be completely different if perhaps you would be having dinner with your partner’s colleagues. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a positive first impression.