Whether you’re looking for a new job, are pushing your career forward, or are just interested in meeting new friends, it pays to know how to make a better first impression. First impressions aren’t everything; if you see a person multiple times, you’ll often have the opportunity to repair any damage the relationship sustained initially, and show off more sides of your character.
However, your words, your actions, and even your appearance the first time you meet someone can have a lasting impact on how they receive you in the future—and whether or not they want to see you again.
Thankfully, there are a few strategies that can help you make a better impression, with nearly anyone.
Dress for the Occasion
First, you need to know how to dress for the occasion. If you’re taken off guard, like if you meet someone important at a grocery store, you won’t have much control over this factor. However, in most scenarios, you’ll have plenty of information and time to prepare; for example, if you’re going to a job interview, you should heed the common advice to “dress for the job you want.”
In formal or business environments, avoid casual clothes, and try to look as polished as possible. In more casual or niche environments, you’ll have more room for creativity. In fact, you might be able to make a better impression with a cool, unusual outfit or accessory, like custom gold teeth.
Pay Close Attention to Your Grooming and Hygiene
No matter how you dress, you’ll need to pay close attention to your grooming and hygiene. First impressions are easily broken by a whiff of body odor, or the sight of dirty fingernails. Make sure you clean up before going out, checking yourself for visual or olfactory offenses that might give someone the wrong impression of you.
Focus on Making Eye Contact and Smiling
When approaching someone for the first time, you’ll want to focus on making eye contact and smiling; these are simple steps that some people unwittingly neglect. Eye contact is the perfect way to show that you’re interested in what the other person is saying, and doubles as a demonstration of confidence, both of which can make you more likable. Smiling exudes confidence and positivity; it also has a contagious effect, encouraging other people to smile at the same time.
Give a Compliment
It’s no secret that compliments make people feel good, but most of us struggle to give compliments effectively—especially to strangers. Still, if you can find a sincere, flattering compliment to give to a new contact, you could immediately win them over. Focus on something they’re wearing, or something they’ve recently done; for example, you could tell them how much you love their shoes, or tell them you really enjoyed their speech.
Be Ready to Tell a Joke
Humor is another way to win people over quickly. If you’re sharp-witted, you can probably use observations and one-liners to joke around while making small talk, but don’t be afraid to memorize a few jokes as well. A clean, unique joke that makes someone laugh (or at least smile) can make them feel more positive when interacting with you—and therefore make them feel better about you.
Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Pay close attention to your body language and nonverbal cues as well. Standing up straight, with your shoulders back and your head up, makes you seem more confident. Pivoting your body to look at the person who’s talking shows interest. Fidgeting, crossing your arms, hunching, looking around the room, and looking at your phone are all negative cues that can make you seem unconfident or uninterested.
Find Something in Common to Talk About
People latch onto others when they have something in common to discuss or share. If you want to make a better impression, it’s important to find something in common with your new contact. If nothing else, you can talk about the venue or event, but try to dig deeper; do you both love fishing? Did you both recently see the same movie? Do you go to the same gym?
Stay Positive (About Everything)
Finally, try to stay positive about everything. Complaining, trash talking other people, or otherwise showing negativity can make you seem like a negative person, even if it’s well-intentioned. Instead, focus on the positive.
You don’t need to be a pinnacle of charm to leave a better first impression on the people you meet; in fact, most people can improve their reception with a handful of elementary tweaks. You’re not going to be perfect, but take comfort in the fact that nobody is. Do your best to leave good impressions and learn what you can work on in the meantime.