If you’ve ever wondered how to make a great first impression you’re not alone.
Here are a few messages from my readers who want to master first impressions.
It’s okay if you’ve made some cringe worthy first impressions.
Take this gem from my wife: A few years ago she was at her boss’ house for a party.
She was joking around with some of her coworkers, who were on the other side of the room.
She playfully extends her middle finger.
At that PRECISE MOMENT her boss’ father turns around and intercepts the middle finger.
I imagine that space and time slowed down while my wife watched him go through different emotions:
Confusion, disbelief, denial, shock, sadness, and finally disdain.
After the fabric of reality had stabilized, he looked away while saying “How RUDE.”
This story makes me laugh every time.
First impressions are crucial:
Here’s the deal with first impressions: after people make up their mind about you, (Some studies say in as little as 1/10th of a second) they use confirmation bias to only look for evidence to back up their initial impression. I’m not here to sugar coat things. I’m here to supercharge your people skills.
So what can you do to reliably create great first impressions with almost everyone you meet?
It all starts with your mindset because 80% of the work is done before you ever shake hands…
There’s a little known concept called Pronoia that I like to recommend to my private coaching clients.
Simply put, it’s the notion that the world is conspiring to do good things to you.
Most of us, due to the negativity bias, assume the worst possible outcome when it comes to most social situations.
When we’re heading into a “meeting new people” situation, we absolutely want to assume that good things will happen. We tend to find what we look for. All things considered, I’d rather look for the positive, not the negative.
AJ Jacobs, author of Thanks A Thousand said in his recent guest-host episode of the Tim Ferriss show that the best way to overcome the negativity bias is to take a few moments out of your day and be grateful and focus on all the things going RIGHT.
Click here and skip to the 14:19 mark to learn how Jacobs wages war on the negativity bias.
take one minute and note five things you’re currently grateful for. These things could be as simple as: “I’m grateful that my phone loaded up Medium.”
When we take a second to notice the often overlooked many things that are going right in our lives, it subtly nudges our perspective. Jacobs says that there are two halves of himself that he tries to balance: the pessimistic Larry David side, and the optimistic Mr. Rodgers side. Balance is a good thing.
What I do: I take 30 seconds before I go to bed, and I pick three things I’m grateful for.
The negativity bias is strong. When we meet new people, it’s crucial to expect good things.
When we expect good things, it’s easier to make great first impressions.
I can hear you out there. Scoffing and shaking your head.
“Jeff, I don’t want to be fake!”
Good news, I don’t want you to be fake either! Consider this…you might act differently around your old college buddies than you would at a board meeting.
Does this mean you’re inauthentic because you aren’t discussing quarterly goals around your friends and using words like synergy and transparency? Nope.
You’re simply adapting to the current social situation.
When it comes to meeting new people, you can showcase any part of yourself that you want. Be thoughtful and focused. Or be gregarious and funny. While there aren’t any wrong answers, it’s useful to consider the following question:
At a pitch meeting with potential investors, you may need to showcase parts of yourself that communicate. “I can get shit done.”
Meeting someone for a first date? You might want to turn up the “playful and fun-loving” vibe.
It’s also helpful to tune your message to the audience you’re talking to. If you’re talking to a baseball fan, “hitting a home-run” will make sense when you’re talking about a recent win. This quote from Amy Cuddy sums this up well:
“The self can presumably be anything you want it to be. It can even be new, but that doesn’t make it insincere or inauthentic.”
-Amy Cuddy, Presence
Write down the last three settings where you met someone new. Example:
Answer these questions:
I’ve talked in the past about the benefits of being bold, and first impressions are a great place for boldness, even if you’re naturally reserved or shy.
Picture this: you’re at a conference and in between speakers there’s a break.
You see a speaker and a group of people you could walk up to. What do most timid people do?
What does a bold person do?
They walk up and join the group conversation.
They may say something like: “Hey, you guys seem fun, mind if I hang out for a moment? I’m NAME”
Often, being bold doesn’t mean swinging from the chandeliers, it simply means squeezing out that 10% extra that most people assume they don’t have.
You have it.
When we stack being proactive and pronoia together, it becomes a wonderful cocktail of social awesomeness.
That is… If you have the following skills…
What you don’t say says a lot. When we’re meeting someone for the first time, the other person is trying to “thin-slice” a lot of information in a short amount of time:
-Is this person a threat?
-Can they be trusted?
-Do they have a bug collection that they want to tell me about in excruciating detail?
Studies suggest that we have as little as 1/10th of a second before someone makes up their mind about us.
After that, they punch their ticket to confirmation bias town, population: them.
What should your body language be while approaching a new person? Smile! This will make you feel great, and the other person feel great. It will also let people know you’re probably not a murderer.
It’s important to project a vibe that says “I’m happy to be here.” This video will help with this:
Arms, (and by extension) hands should be relaxed and open. I love fidgeting… but during a conversation, the calmer your body language, the better.
If you’re wearing shoes, Try rubbing your toes together instead of fidgeting with your hands.
Olivia Fox, the author of The Charisma Myth says toe-rubbing can make you feel more present in conversations.
Feet should be uncrossed and supportive. No shifting from foot to foot. Avoid collapsed body language, it’s fine to take up space!
Resist the urge to cross your arms and collapse your shoulders.
Here’s a handy picture I made for you, feel free to save it as your iPhone wallpaper:
You’ve made a great first impression so far.
Your job is over now, right? WRONG. Your job now is to not to mess it up! This is where most people fumble on the 1-yard line.
(Maybe it’s because most articles about first impressions stop here) Not this one.
We’re going to talk about how to build rapport rapidly by asking great questions and keeping the spotlight (mostly) on your conversational partner.
Open questions are your friends.
Say you shake someone’s hand, and you notice that they have an interesting watch.
You could ask: “That’s an interesting watch. What’s the story behind it?”
“Oh, this is a Cartier that was passed down to me by my Father…” Now you’re off to the races. You prompted them for a story, now the’ll give you one. Asking open questions is a great strategy because open questions can’t be answered in simple “Yes” or “no”.
Three other mad-libs style examples for you to steal:
“What is your favorite ______________?”
“How did you _________________?”
“What was it like doing ________________?”
Follow up questions are your other best friends.
On my podcast, I’m always trying to dig for better, more thorough answers. Follow up questions are a great way to do that.
Here are five examples of follow up questions you can steal:
“What was that like for you?”
“When did you realize that _____________”
“What was going through your mind at that moment?”
“How did you know that _____________?
Like a good interviewer, you’re digging for deeper emotions and a clearer picture of their experience.
You can use follow up questions in a group, one-on-one, or even as a follow up to a question someone else has asked. They’re engineered to make people think and go beyond auto-pilot responses.
Have you ever asked insightful questions only to watch as your conversational partner’s eyes glaze over and they lustfully eye the open window as an escape hatch?
The issue could be that you’ve fallen into the “interrogation trap”. It’s crucial to balance questions and observations. Here’s what that might look like in practice:
Ted: “This week has been crazy. I worked 42 hours on one project. When I close my eyes, I see spreadsheets!”
You: “Wow! You must be really dedicated to getting stuff done!”
Here, you were able to pay Ted a compliment while making an observation about his statement. With people skills, there are very few hard and fast rules. However, you should try to 50/50 balance questions you ask and observations you give.
This will help you avoid the “interrogation trap”
Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI has a method for keeping people talking that is so subtle that he didn’t even realize that it was being used on him during an employee review.
What is it? Repeat 2–4 words someone says with an upward question-like intonation. Let’s take our example from earlier:
Ted: “This week has been crazy. I worked 42 hours on one project. When I close my eyes, I see spreadsheets!”
You: “On one project?”
Ted: “Yeah, we brought on a big new client and I was in charge of getting everything set up.”
You: “A big new client?”
This method came about because, in a negotiation, typically more information equals more leverage.
A kidnapper probably doesn’t want to share his life story.
By repeating 2–4 words with an upward inflection, the person will (often unknowingly) give you more information.
At this point in your conversation, you should be in rapport with your conversational partner.
But how can you be sure? If only there were some sort of test…
If you’ve ever been talking to someone and thought: “I wonder if this person is enjoying our conversation?”
You have three options:
When we are “in rapport” with someone, we naturally mirror our body language, and even our breathing. The science-y term for this is limbic resonance.
Humans are weird.
How can you use this to tell if you’re connecting with your conversational partner?
When you’re asking those questions and making those observations, take a quick beat and see if you two are mirroring yet. Here are some examples:
If you two aren’t naturally mirroring yet, start the mirroring:
Then, after mirroring them for a bit, notice how they start to mirror you when you drink, lean, or smile.
It’s widely known that we like and trust people who are similar to us, and mirroring body language is a great way to trigger liking and trust.
With these hacks you’ll know how to make a good first impression.
I’ll send you my free 56-minute audio training on how to join and enjoy group conversations.
It even has tasty word-for-word scripts you can use next time your mind goes blank!
Originally published at www.becomemorecompelling.com.
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