Making a Great First Impression - dummies

By Elizabeth Kuhnke

Part of Persuasion & Influence For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Making a powerful first impression helps enormously with persuasion and influence. Follow these recommendations when you want the impression you make to be the best it can possibly be.

  • Establish and maintain eye contact. When you look someone in the eye, you come across as self-assured and like you mean business. Maintain eye contact 85 per cent of the time during a conversation to appear trustworthy and interested in what the other person’s saying. Avoid staring, because that can make you look intimidating and somewhat creepy.

  • Smile. A warm and friendly smile puts others at their ease and makes you look comfortable and relaxed. When you and the person you want to persuade are at ease and comfortable, you find persuading a lot easier than if you both are feeling tense and uptight.

  • Stand tall. Place your weight evenly on both feet – hip width apart, one foot slightly ahead of the other – to make you look and feel grounded and confident. Instead of slumping, lift up from your waist and chest, imagining that your shoulder blades are meeting at your spinal cord and melting down your back, and hold your head horizontally to give the impression of someone who’s in control.

  • Claim your space. Wherever you are, act like you belong there. If you’re feeling nervous or insecure, silently say to yourself, ‘I’m glad to be here and people want to hear what I have to say.’ Giving yourself encouraging messages makes you feel good about yourself and sends out an upbeat impression.

  • Move with purpose. Fiddling fingers, shuffling feet and darting eyes make you look nervous and ill at ease. Make your gestures and expressions clear and meaningful and when you move, do so with focus and energy.

  • Offer a firm handshake. Whenever you shake someone’s hand, put the best of yourself into the gesture. A limp handshake comes across as uncommitted, while a knuckle-cruncher is painful. Meet the other person’s hand in an upright position, palm to palm with the webbed skin between your thumb and index finger – known as the thenar space – meeting hers.

  • Focus on the other person. Engage in a bit of small talk resembling a tennis match, with each person contributing to the conversation in turn. If you monopolise the conversation, you come across as self-involved and uninterested in the other person.

  • Speak with energy. Your voice conveys an impression of who you are, so make it good. Monotones are uninspiring, and a voice that can’t be heard comes across as uncertain. Although people think faster than they speak, if you stick to about 145 words per minute, loud enough to be heard without blasting your listener’s ear drums, you should be able to maintain people’s attention.