Most women in business know the importance of making a good first impression. But how do we really know what kind of impression we’re making? Are we truly seen as the gorgeous, impressive, confident women we are – or are we coming across as disinterested, self-absorbed, or downright rude?
In First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You, NY-based consultants Ann Demarais, PhD and Valerie White, PhD, the founders of First Impressions Consulting, offer some tips to help you make sure the first impression you make is the one you want to make. Not only do they go into the psychology behind first impressions, and why they’re so hard to break, but they get into the nuts and bolts of what makes a good (and a bad) first impression. They also offer some tools to help you figure out the areas you need some help in and fix them.
Some of the key takeaways for me:
- A good first impression is all about social generosity. It’s not just about how you feel about yourself, it’s also about how the other person feels about themselves. If you can manage to make the other person feel good about themselves during the course of the conversation – by asking them questions about themselves, appreciating what they have to offer, and finding commonalities with them – you’re likely to make a good first impression.
- While it’s important to draw people out and get them to talk about themselves, it’s also important to be willing to share something of yourself. Being unwilling to share, or letting other people do all the talking, comes across as cold or withdrawn, and may make others suspicious.
- When having a conversation with someone, it’s important to find a pace and amount of talking that’s complementary to the other person. That said, if, like me, you tend to talk a bit too much when others aren’t talking, you might come across as self-absorbed or, worse, overwhelming. If the other person isn’t talking much, it’s better to ask a couple of questions to draw them out.
- While it is important to share something of yourself in a first conversation with someone, it’s important to leave the negative or heavy stuff at home. This means (ack!) no politics, no family drama, and no complaining about the umpteen annoying things that happened to you today, even if they just happened. That stuff is fine once you get to know someone, but it’s instant death in a first impression.
- While you should absolutely pinpoint key qualifications/reasons that you’re awesome in a first conversation, especially in a networking context, it’s equally important to keep it brief, and figure out what’s awesome about the other person. Telling them a specific thing about themselves is awesome is also a bonus – as long as it’s genuine.
What I liked about this book, aside from the fact that it was a fairly quick read, was that it’s extremely practical and easy to follow – and it makes sense of a topic that often doesn’t feel like it makes sense. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to make a good impression – whether you have a job interview this week or you have to hit another networking event.