– Oscar Wilde
It is said that you influence a person’s opinion and brand yourself within the first seven seconds of meeting someone. Whether it’s a job interview, meeting with a client,a sales pitch to a new prospect, hobnobbing at a networking event or even commenting on someone’s blog or website, the first impression you make goes a long way towards defining their perception of you. A strong first encounter will leave you lingering in one’s mind while a weak one will leave a faint and an unimpressive impression of you.
Look back and think about the last time someone made a bad first impression on you. This bad impression most likely led to bad opinions of the person and poor expectations from them. From then on did everything they did or said and,everything you read or heard about the person somehow seem to reinforce your negative opinion of them? This is because we subconsciously tend to gravitate towards and take in negative information about people we dislike, so as to confirm and reaffirm how we felt earlier. We reassure ourselves that we weren’t wrong in the first critique we made about the other person and take relief in our sense of judgement. First impressions especially negative ones are harboured and it can take multiple meetings to change opinions based on these impressions.
Body language is the first and one of strongest ways we connect to other people, and therefore it is based on this that we make the first assessment of another person.
Here are few tips to breeze through the first 7 seconds of your professional interactions.
Make eye contact
Eye contact is one of the strongest forms of nonverbal communication. Making direct eye contact when you first meet a person indicates confidence and high self-esteem. It also makes you seem trustworthy, and conveys interest in the other person. Try to maintain eye contact for only about 80% of the time even during a conversation. Remember it is important to make eye contact, not only when you talk, but also as you listen.
If you feel uncomfortable with long periods of looking into someone’s eyes, turn your gaze to the bridge of their nose between the eyes as this gives the impression of eye contact
A smile has a powerful effect on people. A warm genuine smile makes you seem approachable, puts people at ease and creates an upbeat, positive impression on your personal brand. But as obvious as this sounds most people tend to wait for the other person to smile and break the ice. If someone is not smiling at you, it’s usually because you are not smiling at him. So instead of waiting, flash the person a small smile as soon as you make eye contact or before starting a conversation with them. But don’t enter a room all smiles and instead wait for the appropriate time to break into one. It should be after the initial eye contact and before the initiation of the conversation.
If you are unable to naturally smile then relax your facial muscles, take a deep huge breath, recall happy memories and begin to smile on exhalation. This is one of the easiest tricks to fake a smile.
Eye contact and a smile are what other people instinctively judge you on. In the next part we will learn on how to use your body language to your advantage in a professional environment.