“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
First impressions are not about you!
They are about the person you are trying to engage with.
And as to the question ” How to make a great First first impression?” the Best response is “Don’t try to impress.”
Engage the person and get interested in him/her.
Trying to impress will get you the opposite result of what you desire.
When we go to social events we come across some people who appear fake. These people are worried about impressing you rather than being genuinely interested in you. It is a turn-off.
On the other hand, what about people we do like. People whom we like to speak to, to engage with? What is it about these people that we get impressed with?
In my opinion, it has a lot to do with being natural, being comfortable in our own skin. Being genuine.
Broadly the traits that lead us to get impressed can be classified into two categories :
- Non Verbal
These two aspects form the microcosm of our impact on people when we meet them for the first time.
The cornerstones of good Non-Verbal engagement are –
They say Eye contact begets eye contact. Typically people are comfortable in holding our gaze for 2-3 seconds but with mutual consent this gaze gets prolonged. Scientifically it is proven that there is a neurological connect, during good eye contact, ( activation of mirror neurons), which creates a bond. This ability to maintain a good eye contact has a huge impact on how we are perceived by others. Good eye contact paves the way for the next key factor of Non Verbal impact The smile.
The transition from an eye-contact to a smile takes just a few milli-seconds. First the eye contact , followed by a smile then perhaps an imperceptible nod. The smile here refers to a “genuine” smile. A smile that involves all the muscles around the mouth and the eye. Infact scientists even have a name for this smile , it is called the ” Duchenne” smile after the neurologist who goes by the same name.
Both eye contact and the smile do not involve a tactile touch. The next cornerstone of non Verbal engagement involves a physical touch, that is the Handshake.
The rules for a good handshake are simple. A firm clasp, a gentle shake and a confident stance. The duration would not be more than 3-4 seconds. Again it is based on mutual consent. More than 6-7 seconds and things can get weird. Mentioning your name during the handshake leads to better name retention.
These are the fundamentals for good non – verbal engagement and this entire routine (Eye-contact , Smile and Handshake)would take less than 10 seconds. These 10 seconds pave the way for the next stage which is the “Conversation”.
Conversations are the “Building Blocks” of a relationship. Infact they are the life blood of healthy relationships. Business or personal. While the Eye-contact , Smile and the Handshake help in creating the initial “impression” it is the actual conversations that will determine what impression you leave the person with.
Having a good engaging conversation is not about being witty, or in cracking jokes. If it comes naturally to you well and good. Else stay clear. Don’t try to be funny.
Engaging in conversations is as simple as showing genuine interest in what the other person has to say and in response, sharing your thoughts in a positive, non-intrusive manner. It is all about giving the other person the “Gift of your Attention”.
There is a ton of literature online about how to become a good conversationalist. The advice revolves around asking questions, active listening, nodding your head appropriately etc. Perfect advice no doubt. But if it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t do it. People see through the fake stuff. Often we fall into the trap of showing these outward signs of listening to the person, while actually we are thinking about what to say next. We get in to an auto mode. That ultimately kills conversations.
The key to good memorable conversations is to stay true to yourself and be genuinely interested in the other person. It is about how you make the other person feel. Because that is what they are going to remember. Nothing is worse than a person realizing that he was speaking to a wall.
Incase you are not interested in what he/she has to say – politely dis-engage. Move onto the person you find interesting to talk to.
Best way to get better at conversations is to have more of them.
I am reminded of an old story of a wise man named Chidananda.
Chidananda was a great writer and once he was called to speak about writing to a bunch of college students. He went on stage and asked “How many of you really want to be writers”?
All hands went up.
“In that case” he said “ I suggest you all must go home and write”
With that he left.
So, if you want to genuinely engage with people for the first time or the nth time – meet more people and start having more conversations.
I do the same.
Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition Expert based in Bangalore.