When we meet a new person, what thoughts run through our mind right before we meet them?
“I hope this person isn’t strange.“
“I hope I don’t do something stupid.”
“I hope we have something in common.”
And then what happens in the seconds after we meet the person?
“He seems interesting.”
“She’s kinda quiet.”
“I bet he dives a BMW… like a jerk.”
When we meet people, we’re trying to get as much knowledge as possible from as little information as possible. What if I told you that you have less than 90 seconds before someone you just met has formed an impression of you? Well, it’s true.
After an insanely small amount of time, we make up our minds about other people, and after that, we actively try to back up our initial impressions. So, what can we do to make people like us in 90 seconds or less?
Here are the 10 hacks I’ve used over the last 10 years to make 89,400 (mostly good) first impressions:
I have a friend named Josh, and when he talks to you, you feel like the only person in the room (or possibly on Earth). It’s uncanny. He is a phenomenal people person.
I went out with him one night, and when we arrived, it was like a magnetic pulse erupted in the room. People were literally gravitating toward him. In four minutes, he’d already circled the room and introduced himself to five new people. And you could tell they loved meeting him.
Olivia Fox Cabane describes warmth in her book “The Charisma Myth” as “goodwill towards others.” How can you project warmth while you make a great first impression?
It’s easier than you think…
Smiling is one of the most effective ways to project warmth. It almost sounds too obvious; of course we should smile. But, let’s swan dive into this rabbit hole and uncover the impact of smiling.
External: Smiling conveys you’re happy to be in that moment meeting someone new.
Internal: Smiling stimulates the brain’s reward mechanism, the same region that lights up when we get chocolate or money.
Reflexive smiling: Ever notice when you accidentally smile at strangers, they’ll typically smile back reflexively? Research suggests expressions (such as smiling) may have the ability to transfer emotions. When you smile, they smile, and you both feel good.
Also, if you have the dreaded “Urban Scowl” smiling counteracts the “Foe Signal” that you may be unconsciously projecting.
Eye contact is like a see-saw: Too much or too little on either side means no fun for anyone. My rule of thumb? Make enough eye contact that you can describe the color of their eyes. Are they blue with a hint of green, or brown on the verge of amber?
If I ask you this, and you stammer and say, “Uh, they were … eye colored,” then you’re not looking long enough.
Attention is rare and valuable. How many times have you met someone who was distracted and looked like hr or she would rather be anywhere else? Not ideal.
We have our phones on us 17 plus hours a day. For those few precious seconds when you meet someone and attention matters most, slip the phone in your pocket, ignore those vibrations and give that person your full attention. Few people do this, and it will have a huge impact.
How many times have you been at an event, meekly waiting on the edge of the room and fiddling with your phone, while everyone else seems to be having an amazing time? Doesn’t that suck?
When you’re proactive, you make your own luck, you have more fun and you have more chances to connect with people. See those people? Walk up to them. Ask them who they know at the party, how they’re enjoying the conference or how long they’ve worked at the company.
While what you say is important, what your body is doing can tell a completely different story. Calm, fluid gestures are good for showing you’re socially savvy and probably not a psychopath. No aggressive pointing or nervous fidgeting.
Don’t be afraid to take up space. Most people subconsciously use collapsed body language that communicates, “I’m small! Don’t pay attention to me!”
Be big. Use open body language, such as relaxed arms at your sides, a slight smile and upright posture.
Compliments are one of the best ways to spark a conversation, project warmth and build a connection. Think about the last time someone authentically complimented your shoes. How did it make you feel?
Here’s how we give those good vibes to our fellow humans:
Next time you meet someone, observe one thing about something he or she is wearing, and comment on it. “Oh that’s a beautiful watch! What’s the story behind it?”
People love discovering they have something in common with others. This shows they belong to the same tribe.
Sometimes, those connections are obvious (same company, same alma mater or same conference). Sometimes, they’re teased out through conversation. If two people start talking about “Game of Thrones,” then it’s game over. They’re best friends.
If you uncover something in common, call it out. The more shared connections you have with someone, the more likely you’ll hit it off.
Humor is one of the most important people skills you can possibly build. When you laugh, it lights up your brain’s reward center. To others, humor displays many subtle things at once. It shows you don’t take the world too seriously, you’re a fun person to hang out with and you’re socially aware.
Humor even stimulates the same part of the brain targeted by addictive drugs.When you meet someone new, offer up a lighthearted quip. This will break tension and form a connection.
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”
You can choose who you want to be in any situation, and that doesn’t make you inauthentic. You’re simply adjusting to the current situation. Let’s break this down.
We all have different sides of ourselves based on the situation and how we feel that day. You probably act differently around your gamer friends than you do around your grandmother. Does this mean you’re inauthentic around Granny? Nope, you’re simply adapting to the situation.
Next time you go out and you know that you’ll be meeting new people, choose who you want to be. You’ll discover that if you act slightly different than usual, an angry mob with torches and pitchforks won’t form. You’ll be fine.
Keep these steps in mind next time you’re walking into a meeting with new clients, introducing yourself to a group of people at a conference, or simply making a new friend at a party.
I created a free audio guide on effortlessly joining group conversation, complete with word-for-word scripts. Check it out here.
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