DO YOU HAVE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION?

  You could be unknowingly sabotaging your business and personal relationships with bad body language.

You could be unknowingly sabotaging your business and personal relationships with bad body language.

Adult temper tantrums are ug-ly.

I introduced a new friend to some of my family members the other day and was completely embarrassed by my cousin. My cousin was not in a good mood and had no qualms of showing her displeasure, even to a perfect stranger. She stood 10 feet away from the rest of my family and when I introduced her to my friend (from 10 feet away I had to shout a little), she turned her back and gave a dismissive hand gesture. I was shocked and embarrassed.

It immediately made my friend feel super uncomfortable because she was hanging out with a group of people she was not familiar with. And it made the rest of us feel uncomfortable. When an adult, who is supposed to have the skills to be able to handle her emotions around others in a social situation, acts like a petulant six year old in a group, it makes others feel helpless and uneasy.

Note: if you’re dealing with something in your life that is overwhelming you with emotion, try to stay home if it’s not necessary to socialize. If you can’t stay home and you must socialize at an event, realize that reasonable people are understanding if you’re humble and kind and say that you’re going through something tough. They’ll be totally sympathetic if you’re quiet. People will empathize with you all day long when you’re honest. However, in a situation where you don’t think even telling the truth is acceptable, suppressing emotions and feelings for a short time to get through social or business situations may have to be the answer. It’s not ideal and can be hard, but it’s called being a mature adult.

As we all walked to dinner, my cousin trailed 15 feet behind the rest of the group and although she said nothing, her bad mood hung in the air like a black cloud over the whole group. We all tried to chit chat and leave her be, but the negative energy was palpable and affected all of us.

At dinner, my friend treated us all and gave us her recommendations on good dishes. My cousin decided to get up and buy her own dinner. My friend, unfortunately, also ended up sitting next to my cousin, who kept her back turned to her the entire time. If anyone spoke to her, she would frown and turn her back and face away even more, shaking her hand and head in a dismissive gesture. She did it twice to my friend.

In the middle of dinner, my friend abruptly got up from the table, grabbed her things, mumbled a quick excuse, and literally bolted. I don’t blame her! It would have been funny how quickly she ran from us if the actual situation was not so horribly un-funny. This is a new friend of mine and I’m not sure the friendship will even go forward now. I sent her a number of apologies and flowers and she gracefully accepted them, but my cousin pretty much wrecked the first impression this woman has on my whole family. Not just her.

Horrible first impressions can kill a lot of opportunities.

Do you do things that might turn people off?

A spaghetti handshake. Eyes constantly looking over your shoulder as if they are looking for someone else. Non-committal responses (mm-hm) to what you’re saying while looking around, maybe at the floor, but not at you. Bad breath. Talking about themselves. Slouching. Messy hair or too slick hair. Distracting, unkempt outfit.

You’ve encountered people like this. What did you think about them? Most likely you’ve written them off and can’t even remember most of the people who’ve done it to you because you’ve erased them from your mind. Or you have a negative memory of them permanently stuck in your head.

Most of the time, people’s first impressions of you is established in 5 to 7 seconds. It doesn’t take long. That first impression will most likely stick with them for a long time. Or make them forget you in an instant. Or even worse, want to forget you. Those 5 to 7 seconds are crucial. Whoever said that people ‘should not judge a book by its cover’ had a lot of faith in mankind. In real life, though, people make snap judgments about others all day long.

We live in a world where people have a never-ending flood of information and people in their faces. It’s too much. We must assess situations and people quickly to determine if they stay or go. This is why giving a great first impression is vital. It can make or break deals. Dates. Relationships. Meetings. New clients. A better job. Friends. Whatever the situation is, people are making rapid judgments about you and writing you off if they don’t feel good around you.

Does your body language convey the message you want it to communicate?

  In business and in personal relationships, you have 5 to 7 seconds to make that great first impression. Use those seconds wisely.

In business and in personal relationships, you have 5 to 7 seconds to make that great first impression. Use those seconds wisely.

You probably have noticed we talk about the importance of body language and image, a lot. For good reason. It makes up close to 93% of your communication.

What you verbally say is, of course, meaningful. However, what your face, tone of voice, body, and image say is 10 times more critical to your overall message. Here are a few tips to improve your body language when communicating with others:

 

  1. Smiling or showing a calm, pleasant expression lets people know you’re happy to be in their company. That makes them feel good about you
  2. Making frequent eye contact tells them you’re listening and paying attention.
  3. Facing them with your body instead of squaring off to the side makes them feel like you’re open to them and what they’re saying to you.
  4. Leaning in, in appropriate situations, makes them feel like you consider what they’re saying important.
  5. Speaking in a kind, open tone instead of a “know-it all” bossy or arrogant tone makes them feel listened to, more trusting, and not like you’re trying to force something on them.
  6. Focusing and being interested in what they are saying makes you seem more interesting to them.

These seemingly small physical cues create strong positive feelings in others. It helps them feel important and valued, which makes them feel good and more open to you and your ideas. A good start to a great first impression!

Is your outfit and your grooming polished, sharp, and attractive?

You don’t have to be Gisele supermodel attractive to make a great first impression. Not at all. You just need to pay attention to some physical appearance basics. Consider these few things when assessing your wardrobe and grooming:

  1. Do your outfits fit and flatter your body or do you look unkempt and sloppy?
  2. Are your clothes modern, fresh, and current? Being stylishly “with-it” subconsciously suggests that you are up-to-date and ahead of the game in other areas of your life. (Not to be confused with “trendy” or “faddish”.)
  3. Does your haircut suit your face and the persona you want to portray? 
  4. Is your hair-color looking fresh and clean? Or do you have grim roots showing? You may think people don’t notice things like that. They do.
  5. Do your shoes look nice? Or old and scuffy looking?
  6. Are you clean and smell nice? Fresh and neutral is best for first time meetings. Most people think their perfumes or colognes make them smell good, not realizing that others may not have the same taste as them and affect them negatively. Or worse, cause an allergic reaction. Perfumes contain some of the highest allergen ingredients in the world.

If you’re not paying attention to those details, believe me, other people you’re meeting in business and dating situations are. Most people don’t want to do business or progress a relationship with someone who is unkempt, unprofessional, or has poor grooming or hygiene.

Putting reasonable effort in your appearance communicates to others that you are the type of person who will put effort in other areas in your life. Like your work. Or your relationships. It speaks a lot more about you than you realize.

Some people mistakenly think that if they do not put effort in their grooming and wardrobe it will convey that they are confident, independent, and don’t need other people’s approval. Unfortunately, that backfires for two reasons:

  1. Like we said above, most people don’t want to do business or progress a relationship with someone who is unkempt, unprofessional, or has poor grooming or hygiene.
  2. Other people tend to make things about themselves. They are then perceiving your lack of effort, not as confidence, but as a message that you don’t consider them worth the effort to look good. And then they don’t like you.

Appealing style and proper grooming are some of the easiest communication tools to enhance.

Fortunately, improving your wardrobe and grooming is easy and doesn’t take years of psychological analysis. If you recognize you haven’t been putting enough effort in that area of your communication, and you already understand what looks good on you, you can start improving today!

If you don’t have the style or grooming knowledge, you might want to consider a professional image consultant or personal stylist to successfully guide you down that path.

Either way, refining and polishing your non-verbal communications will bring more success into your life and business.

And remember, in a first meeting with someone, don’t throw a tantrum if you’re over eight years old. Unless you never want to see them again. Then go for it!

Great solutions come from great ideas and we want to hear yours! What do you do to improve your image and first impressions? What are your personal challenges when it comes to putting forth a good first impression? What are some memorable first impressions you've experienced from others, good or bad?