Making a great first impression is incredibly important because you only get one shot at it. Research has found that we make snap judgments of people within the first seven seconds of meeting them, after which point our opinion of them will most likely never change.

In rare cases you may be able to change someone’s first impression, but it’s very difficult to do so. The reason for this is that people don’t like to change their minds once they’ve been made. That’s why knowing how to make a good first impression is so crucial.

When you make a good first impression, people will be more inclined to overlook any of your faults that might come up later in order to remain true to their first impression of you. But if you make a bad first impression, people will be more likely to hold it against you — no matter what you do to try to redeem yourself later.

Understanding how to make first impressions work in your favor, rather than against, will ensure that people are judging you accurately and seeing your best side. Whether you’re in a job interview or at a party, any time you meet someone new, you always want to start with your best foot forward.

Even in the classroom, first impressions can make a big difference. This is why I make sure to start every semester off strong by putting extra effort into my first assignments and participating as much as I can the first few weeks of class. A little extra work in the beginning can go a long way later in the semester when you might need to be cut some slack.

Much of what you need to do to make a good impression is common sense, but with a little extra thought and preparation, you can really make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Here are seven ways to make every first impression not just good, but great:

make a great first impression

Remember People’s Names the First Time

Coffee Meeting

Image: Iglu

I don’t think anyone is “good” at remembering names, but most people don’t really make much of an effort. If you make a conscious effort to remember someone’s name the first time you meet them, people will notice and they will appreciate it.

Anytime you meet someone new, say their name back to them when they introduce themselves and then repeat the name in your head until you are sure you have it. Another technique is to make up a rhyme about their name or to make some sort of mental association that incorporates a distinguishing physical feature.

For example, if you meet someone named Olivia and you notice that she has a prominent nose, you might imagine that Olivia has olives stuffed up inside her nostrils. The more absurd the image, the easier it will be to remember.

Make Eye Contact

Maintain constant eye contact when you’re having a conversation with someone. Looking away shows disinterest and a lack of trust. You can usually tell when someone tells a lie if they don’t make eye contact when they say it. An easy way to improve eye contact is to make a point of noticing the eye color of everyone you meet.

Be Aware of Your Body Language

interview posture

Image: ISFnet

Nonverbal cues play a huge role in first impressions. Always be aware of the kind of messages your body language is sending. Pay attention to the way you sit, stand, and walk. The importance of body language could be a post on its own, but here are a few things worth paying particular attention to:

  • Standing straight with your shoulders back conveys confidence and competence, whereas slouching conveys the opposite.
  • Avoid touching your face or neck, as this is a sign of uncertainty.
  • Focus on moving slower. It shows composure and makes others feel more calm and at ease, whereas quick, jerky movements make people nervous and uneasy.
  • Use hand gestures and facial expressions to show that you are enthusiastic about what you’re saying. If you’re not comfortable doing these things, you can start by practicing in front of a mirror.

Don’t Be Monotonous and Speak Clearly

It’s not necessarily what you say that’s important, but how you say it. No one likes listening to someone who speaks monotonously. It’s boring and leaves a negative impression. Don’t be afraid to:

  • Change the pace of your speech.
  • Extend the ends of certain words for emphasis.
  • Pause every now and then to collect your thoughts.

Also, make sure that you’re always speaking clearly and not mumbling off at the end of your sentences. Mumbling connotes a lack of confidence. If people often ask you to repeat yourself, this is a cue that you need to work on your enunciation.

Look Sharp

Looks aren’t everything, but they do matter. Your physical attractiveness is irrelevant. All that really matters is that you are well put together.

This means wearing clothes that fits you well, clipping your nails, and taking care of your skin and hair. Paying attention to these small things will make you more attractive and allow people to see you in a more positive light.

Be Interested and Interesting

the town

Attitude is everything. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet and actually listen to what they have to say. If you approach people with a genuine interest in learning about who they are, they will pick this up instantly and usually return the interest. When you are interested, they become interested.

Practice being an active listener and not only understanding what the speaker is saying, but what they’re feeling. A big part of this comes from being able to read their nonverbal cues. As you become more aware of your own nonverbal cues, you’ll also start to become more aware of others’.

Smile

This is the easiest thing you can do and yet most of us don’t do it enough. This goes hand in hand with attitude, but a warm smile makes you appear much more friendly and approachable. Smiling more also makes you happier, and people like to be around happy people.

Making great first impressions isn’t hard, but it takes practice. Pay attention to the kind of impressions you are making when you meet new people, and remember that words are only a fraction of the message.