How to Make a Good First Impression

We can present ourselves in a way that improves our chances of leaving positive, lasting impressions on others.

Jul 30, 2019

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A good first impression proves a crucial first step in building new relationships in all areas of life, whether it comes to a great first date, nailing an interview, or making new friends. As the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a good impression.” We seem to put a lot of emphasis on those first moments encountering a stranger. But what’s really going on here? And what can we do to make sure that a first impression is a good one? 

Let’s Face it...

First impressions influence who we hire and fire, who we date, and even who we vote for. Researchers say that it takes a matter of seconds for people to form an opinion when meeting someone new.

Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov conducted a study in which people viewed a microsecond of video of a political candidate. The results found that participants could predict with 70 percent accuracy who would win the election just from that microsecond of footage. Like it or not, people base much of their judgments on how someone looks.

Although facial appearance plays a big role in first impressions, that’s not to say you should run to the plastic surgeon. Many other factors contribute to leaving a strong first impression. Optimizing things like facial expression, body language, and appearance will help show your best side during a first encounter.

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Give Good Face

In general, studies show that people who smile more often are perceived as more likable and attractive than those who don’t. In pro-smiling cultures, like the United States, a genuine smile provides an easy way to appear more approachable and help open positive communication with others. Smiling too much may come off as inappropriate or strange in other cultures like Japan or Russia, so it’s good to consider your audience.

The right amount of eye contact also impacts first impressions and makes you more memorable. You want to practice giving the right amount of eye contact. Staring too hard at someone can come off as intense and creepy. Avoid this by occasionally breaking your gaze and leaning in with your ear toward the person speaking to maintain a comfortable amount of eye contact.

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Dress to Impress

What we wear communicates volumes in a matter of seconds. Try to wear clothing appropriate for the situation that still reflects personality and style. Even small changes, like avoiding wrinkles or stains, can make a big impact on first impressions.

Dressing well doesn’t mean wearing expensive brands, either. Fashion might be expensive, but personal style isn’t. Wearing clothing that makes you feel good and comfortable will help to project positivity and ultimately leave a better impression on others. Just make sure to wear appropriate clothing for the occasion (you won’t wear the same thing to the office as you would the beach).

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Perfect the Handshake

For centuries, people across cultures have used the handshake as a sign of friendship. Some historians say it originated from showing that a person didn’t carry a weapon. The common custom can leave a good impression when meeting someone new or sealing a business deal, that is when done right. A successful handshake should be firm, without crushing someone’s hand. At the same time, make sure to look the person in the eye and smile. This will help leave a positive first impression


Put Your Best Foot Forward

Your stance says a lot about you to others when meeting. A relaxed, open stance communicates confidence according to a study and interest in the person you’re speaking to. Pay attention to these focal points to make sure you come across in a good way:

  • Toes should point toward the person to show that you are listening.
  • Keep hands visible while speaking to create a sense of ease.
  • Keep arms relaxed to demonstrate confidence.
  • Shoulders should also be relaxed and facing the person you’re speaking to.
  • Keep chin neutral. Avoid looking up or sneering down at someone.

By putting our best foot forward with a few simple tricks, we present ourselves in a way that improves our chances of leaving positive, lasting impressions on others.

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Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.