“First impressions are always unreliable.” - Franz Kafka.
Kafka’s fictional world is stunning and beautifully layered but let’s respectfully disagree with him here. In a world where interactions increasingly take place over digital mediums and physical spaces, it’s time to reinvent the idea of first impressions.
Like everything else, one cannot box one’s personality when dealing with a dynamic group of people. Every new interaction involves little tweaks to one’s mannerisms and language to elicit a positive response from the other person.
List here a few actions that can help you impress someone well in the first meeting. Take these as cues and not ultimates. Add your personality quirks and liven up the conversation with confidence and humour.
Read the room
Observation is key here. If you already have a list of people in mind to initiate conversations with, notice their movements. Engage with them in a conversation when they look relaxed and free.
It’s not a good idea to break into a group of two when you see them engaged in a deep conversation. If there are three people in a group, join them and introduce yourself in as brief words as possible.
Lead with questions like, “How is it going for you?” instead of “What do you do?”. Some people don’t like to talk about their careers all the time. Worse, they might be having a difficult time at work. It’s better to ask open-ended questions with plenty of space for nuances—they can talk about their personal interests, travel or gigs they have planned to attend.
Try the new fist bump.
The post-Covid world has replaced firm handshakes with fist bumps. Even the political leaders are following this trend and fist-bumping their way into policy making.
Fist bumping confidently with the other hand kept on your stomach or by your side is the easiest way to make a first good impression. It’s a lucid combination of power and sportsmanship that makes this gesture universal.
A word of caution— Don’t overuse fist bumps. Some occasions call for a good-ol’ handshakes, and you should stick to them at times.
Keep constant eye contact.
Breaking eye contact often makes the other feel undervalued. Try to maintain expressive eye contact. This posits you as a keen listener interested in the other’s life.
Humans open up when they start trusting the other person. Eyes, with their broad range of emotions, have an inherent ability to make the other feel comfortable. We even suggest going for light make-up to make your eyes talk!
Be aware of the current affairs.
For a fruitful conversation, it’s essential to hold an extended discussion sounding reliable and well-acquainted. The more you read, watch videos or listen to podcasts, the more comprehensive your knowledge base becomes.
You don’t need to become an expert in all areas, although specific interactions might require you to be a quasi-expert in a particular area. In general, having an idea of the political, economic and socio-cultural areas leaves a lasting impression on others.
If you are time-crunched, grab a high-quality newspaper or magazine, and skim through the content to remember the telling points. Be mindful of introducing your knowledge organically without sounding boastful.
Dress for the occasion
We are visual creatures, meaning we take visual cues to process important information. Showing up at an event cleaned up nicely will help you feel welcomed into conversations.
Smart casuals or graphic t-shirts are the go-to outfits for the millennials. Others might opt for something more formal. In an arts-related event, you can experiment more and go bold with fun prints and colours.
It’s a world of images, and it doesn’t harm selling interesting ones. What would be better than making others compliment you on your impeccable dressing style!
Align your body language with your words
Your words and your body language should mirror each other. Depending on the person you are interacting with, you can get loud or subtle with your body language to show that you are enjoying the conversation.
It’s recommended not to fidget or be still when exchanging words. Take space and open up your body to look powerful in your demeanour. Make sure that you aren’t tip-toeing into looking over-confident which might adversely impact people’s behaviour around you.
Perfect alignment between your verbal message and body language makes others trust you more. In-sync behaviour between them is highly desirable and should be pursued in every conversation to make a great first impression.
Find a balance between talking and pauses.
Please wait for the other person to complete their chain of thoughts. Speak up at length when it’s your turn. Pace yourself down, and don’t bite into your own words.
Say things of value and take pauses in between. If you find yourself repeating the same point, ask a question to realign your thoughts.
The idea is to make meaningful, relevant conversations and finding a balance between words and pauses does the trick.
Talk about food
“Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only be aware to stop and savor it.” –Chef Gusteau, Ratatouille
If there is one thing that books and movies have taught us, it’s the delectable bonding over food and its memories. Nothing is a better icebreaker than conversations surrounding food.
Talk about a new restaurant that you have tried out, what legendary dish your mother is known for in your neighbourhood or even better, how you are giving competition to a Michelin-star chef by whole-heartedly experimenting in your kitchen.
Since food engages all our sensory organs and has significant cultural value, countless food enthusiasts need a mere mention of food to get interested in you. Who knows, you might be invited to an after-event dinner party looking at your interest in the area!
Leave the conversation with a smile on your face.
Do it smoothly when you have engaged enough with a set of people and would like to move to another group or individual for networking. In such a case, don’t leave the conversation abruptly. Think of a concise closing and leave the conversation with a big smile.
It’s advised to connect later with receptive individuals on professional social media mediums like— Twitter and LinkedIn. Include a personalized message mentioning where you had met them and what you talked about in a brief statement.
This helps increase your visibility and potentially opens up opportunities for you in the future.
None of us gets a second chance to impress someone in the first meeting. Be polite, confident and positive to be memorable in your first meetings.