You’re already an impressive person. By definition, you “impress” yourself into the memory of anyone you meet. But in this article I’ll show you how to make a good first impression on a guy, girl, parent – whoever. The imprint you’ll learn to leave on people will have them fossilize the memory.
Whether you’re the girl at the bar yelling to her friends “Oh my I have to pee SO BAD!” or the guy whose voice cracks over his first words, it’s hard to erase a first impression from someone’s brain. As said in my Big Talk course, however, where there’s a whole chapter on making a great first impression, “A first impression isn’t a last impression; it’s an influential impression.”
A good impression at first sight is what I call “the lazy man’s way to make people like you”. Princeton University research shows our snap judgments remain consistent over time. If someone judges you as “attractive”, “friendly”, and “open” within 100 milliseconds, they’re likely to think you’re all that by the end of the conversation. The study did find one thing changes as the conversation continues: a person’s confidence in the accuracy of their first impression.
Knowing the value of body language and unspoken social dynamics in a good first impression encourages you to focus on it. You’ll be more concerned with smiling, speaking louder and clearer, and appearing calm, which will impress others more than a great conversation starter.
2. Open your body language. Open body language invites and impresses while closed body language shows ignorance and insolence. Here’s a snippet of a table from the Big Talk course explaining the difference between the two types of body language:
Imagine two people. You’re one of them. The weirdo has all the traits of closed body language while you or me – each an amazingly cool person – has all the traits of open body language. You get the vibe the other person is a creep while we’re charming.
3. Social proof yourself. Social proof is a principle of social psychology that says we look to others during obscure social situations to determine how we should behave. There are hundreds of unknown people in public social events so we observe how people treat each other to measure how we should treat someone.
If you see everyone looking towards a guy, you’ll look towards him to calculate what’s going on. If a guy seated alone for an hour approaches you for conversation, you’ll dislike him before he opens his mouth. You’ll look for information to validate why he is alone and unpopular.
Everyone knows you can manipulate your words and tell a verbal lie, but we believe what we see so use social proof to make a good first impression. Make friends before you enter a venue. Be seen chatting with the bouncer or waiter or a group of friends you just met. If every time someone spots you laughing with a group of new people, you’ve made a better first impression than anything else possible with cool body language or witty first words.
4. Put yourself at ease. Did you know if you’re tense talking with someone, the mirror neurons in another person’s brain forces them to become tense? Their body literally duplicates your tension. The strain or message that relates to it, like you’re an uptight angry jerk, is then stored in the person’s hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. Not a good way to make friends.
If you’re like most ToP readers, your body is tense right now. Heck, even I just realized I’m tense writing about tension! To see your tension and remove it, relax your forehead. Loosen your jaw. Let your face droop downwards as the tension dissipates. You can tighten a muscle for three seconds then release it to enter relaxation. Do this throughout your body whenever you think of it. Tension is unconscious, but relaxation conscious.
5. Get into shape. Light travels faster than sound, so your physical appearance is noticed before your voice or introductory comment is heard. Looks aren’t everything, but they’re important and quickly noticed.
Get your physical game together whatever that maybe. Exercise to stay in shape. Drop that greasy packet of chips in the bin. Everyone notices a guy with biceps bulging out of his sleeves or a woman with a tremendous curvy figure. We’re impressed by people with good physiques.
6. Dress stylish within the decade. I understand if your bright green neon stilettos appear “timeless” to you. However, nobody else does. When in doubt, wear black or gray. These colors are timeless and even if a dress or tie was purchased 10 years ago, it’ll come across as stylish because it’s not a shocking, bright, or ridiculous color.
Dress nice and stylish, but comfortable. You want to look your best, yet many times we tend to think dressing sharp, stylish, and sexy is more important than being comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable and constantly tugging or pulling at your shirt or dress, you’ll feel distracted and probably self-conscious. Don’t compromise comfort for style. Feel good in what you’re wearing.
This is no fashion school, yet I must say one last thing on this topic. Not only is it important to dress for comfort, it’s important to dress for your body type as well. Ladies, don’t squeeze into a revealing, slinky dress because you hear it’s the latest style, even though your chest is popping out and you can see your underwear lines through it. Men, don’t wear a fitted Slipknot t-shirt if your gut sticks out beneath it. You need tip number five if that’s the case!
7. Think positive before going in. Imagine the positive mark you’ll make on people instead of visualizing how that attractive lady will laugh at you when you approach her asking, “Did the sun come up or did you just smile at me?” (I wouldn’t blame you if you’re thinking negatively using that pick-up line). See the interaction going incredibly awesome. Believe the person you’re about to talk to is friendly. You’ll go in looking like a happier, more impressionable person.
If you’re a pessimist so you never get disappointed, read my review of Mind-Lines, a great book on reframing to think in healthy ways. The difference between a good impression and bad one may just be how you interpret it.
8. Get into a positive state. Make people’s mirror neurons work for your benefit. Put yourself into a positive state so a person’s brain makes them emotionally high in your presence.
I believe it’s unhealthy to always seek happiness and “positive emotions” because you block yourself from authenticity and a full experience of life, but there are lessons in Big Talk you can follow to boost your mood and impress people:
- Firstly, know that energy is a choice. You can make yourself feel good at will.
- You may get in a good mood by psyching yourself up or down. Figure out what works for you.
- Talk with anyone or anything. If you feel great and can have a smooth conversation with your cat, I like your odds at impressing people in a conversation.
- Take a practice dive socializing. Dive in and allow yourself to belly flop. E-motion is energy in emotion. To feel alive, action is necessary.
9. Be present. The distinguishing factor between anxious, lonely persons and those with charisma is their energetic focus. Loners are drawn into themselves. They think about past mistakes or anticipate how others may respond. I use to think of how I froze up in past conversations or I’d think about what others would think if I said something. Yeah, it’s messy.
People know when you’re not fully in the moment and are repulsed by it. Children hate when a parent pretends to listen when all they’re doing is hearing.
Just before you approach someone or at anytime during a conversation, take your mind out of the past or future and focus on the now. The best way I’ve found to do this is by taking deep and slow belly-breathes for 30 seconds. You can also observe a person’s body language. These techniques will make you more present and people will be impressed.
10. Impress the right person. Would you leave your hand print on a rock or in clay? Some people are easier to impress than others while some are worth impressing more than others.
If you have a hard-time impressing people, start picking low hanging fruit. Talk to the person alone or listen to the person looking sad. The social proof and emotional momentum will help you impress those higher up the tree.
11. Approach people from a 45 degree angle. It’s alarming to have someone approach you head on. In the caves thousands of years ago we’d kill anything aggressively nearing us. Having said that, don’t sneak up on someone like they’re your best friend. It’s not cute. In the caves thousands of years ago we’d kill anything that tried to surprise us from behind (okay, maybe your ancestors didn’t give you my schizophrenic genes, but you get the point.)
What’s the right way to walk up to people? Approach from a 45 degree angle. You can keep your geometry set in your school bag. Just use the principle as a reminder that we’re comfortable being approached by strangers at a visible indirect angle.
12. Make eye contact. The eyes give your interactions emotional meaning. If you look at any object or person as if you had ADHD, you’ll appear anxious or disinterested. Certainly you’ve heard this a million times, but giving someone a good look in the eyes right as you meet them shows you’re interested in them. Your pupils dilate and they instinctively catch on, causing automatic attraction.
13. Cast an illuminating smile. A cold turkey smile switches on in an instant. An illuminating smile turns on gradually. Make eye contact with someone then go from a blank face to a full warm smile in two seconds. Read my article “How to Be Interesting Without Saying a Word” for more help with this technique and a couple of extra tricks to impress people through your body language.
14. Don’t stare and smile like a hungry wolf. Or a hungry vampire. Eye contact is one thing, looking like someone staring at their bait is another.
Temporarily break eye contact by shifting your eyes downwards for two seconds. It’s a sign of friendliness and safety probably experienced by cave men who killed beasts that glared in their eyes (again, that’s probably my schizophrenic genes). Sharing your eye contact with the floor makes you safe and likable in the eyes of those you chat with giving them a good impression of you.
15. Remember your acquaintances name and use it. You don’t have to use their name after each sentence you say to them, but a “nice to meet you, Sarah” or “Me too Bob, I totally get that” shows you’re interested in speaking to them and are having more than just an empty conversation. If you have the memory of a goldfish, check out a post of mine for social skills resources to help remember names.
16. Shake hands well. There’s more to a handshake than a firm one. Lean forward at the hips to show interest. Ensure your hand and theirs go web-to-web. Yes, grip firmly. A strong, firm handshake shows confidence in anyone. Same for you, ladies. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to stick out your fingers like a delicate tulip. My last tip for a good handshake is to give two up-and-down shakes. Do these and you may just impress people with your hand skills.
17. It’s the way you say it. I’ve mentioned body language for a good impression, but the voice is another part of nonverbal communication that can impress people. A squelching voice will leave your listeners with plugs in their ears while a soothing, clear voice will have people hang on to your every word.
There’s many diverse problems in vocalics from talking too loud, fast, soft, raspy, high, indecisively, breathy, and the list goes on. To cure all these problems and improve your voice, I recommend you learn from Carol Fleming, creator of The Sound of Your Voice audio program, and her new book It’s the Way You Say It. Her book is the best resource I’ve come across to improve your voice and nonverbal communication.
18. Make the conversation about others. We think we need to impress others by drawing attention to ourselves. The opposite is true. I once saw a man wearing a shirt that said, “Oh yea, that reminds me of something that allows me to talk about myself.” For many people, this couldn’t be more true. The last person you want to be is the one who starts telling a story about themselves as soon as they hear someone mention something related. You’ll make friends easily when the conversation is on their passions, their problems, their perceptions.
19. Show interest in what they have to say. If someone talks about the awesome day they had or the recent achievement they accomplished at work, it’s worth the recognition and respect that comes along with you intently listening. Did he land a new job? Shut up about your 10 million dollar deal and be happy for him. Lean forward, ask questions, have your mouth slightly open, and be in awe.
20. Talk about yourself. Yeah, that will impress people when done right. You see, fans of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People are so adamant on making the conversation about others and being interested in people. This makes a good impression on people – without it, you’re sure to be the person everyone wishes would be gagged for silence. However, if you really want to impress a guy or girl and make them into a friend, you need to talk about yourself.
We feel close to those we understand. Without that understanding of someone’s identity, we have our shields up. If someone talks about their hot air balloon experience, ask them questions, listen to them gas, then share how you’ve never done it before and would love to do it. They may just invite you to fly away some day after you impress them.
21. Show how great you are rather than telling. If you’re awesome and you want someone to know it, don’t tell them. Your actions, mannerisms, and attention must show you’re a killer person. A guy who talks about his Lamborghini before you go on a drive is an idiot, while a guy who takes you into his Lamborghini without a mention of it is impressive. You’ll amaze people when they discover cool things about you on their own.
22. Throw them a genuine compliment. Showering someone with compliments is not okay. It’s sucking up. If you absolutely love someone’s hairstyle or outfit, make a point to tell them. You’ll impress by complimenting a person on something they put effort into and hoped someone would notice.
23. Accept compliments with grace. The whining comes in here as well. Many people find it difficult to accept a compliment. A good response to “I like your outfit” is a simple “Thank you” rather than “Ugh, the color makes me look pale.” It’s okay to be praised and admired. Don’t feel guilty about it.
24. Make them feel great. I’ve given a couple tips on what to say to impress people because a great impression is about the feelings you create in other people. “They may forget what you said,” said Frederick Buechner, author of over 20 books on deep humanity, “but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
You get in a positive mood, dress stylishly, smile, shake hands well, make eye contact, and compliment – not for your own ego – but for the positive feelings you create in other people. I want you to go from asking, “Am I impressing the person?” to “How am I making the person feel?” Do what you can to make people feel great and you’ll leave a long-lasting emotional imprint.
25. Cut out negativity. You can also leave a bad emotional imprint with drama, depression, gossip, complaints, and criticism. If you’re complaining about your uncomfortable outfit, your bad hair day, or “how faaaaat you look,” you’ll come across as a negative person. If you go on and on about a health problem, you’ll create in them a mental problem of a bad impression.
26. Respect social rules. You don’t have to stand out or risk breaking social rules. If you say something really off the wall or perverted, it will be remembered. The first time you meet someone, don’t mention your bladder leak on an airplane. There’s no excuse for that.
If you’re completely douched in cologne or perfume, it will be remembered. Subtle scents are fine and often attractive to others. But if you’re the guy that smells like an Old Spice commercial halfway across the bar, you won’t have women wooing you for attention.
27. Be cautious about your alcohol consumption. If there is booze around, you’ll probably want to have a drink or two to loosen up and get in the mood. Drinking to the point of being belligerently drunk and annihilated will screw your chances of being impressionable in a positive way.
28. Understand the rules of etiquette. Every behavior says something about yourself. If you have a potty mouth that unleashes foul language, you’ll be seen as raw, rough, and rude. On the other hand, if you follow the rules of etiquette, you’ll impress people with your punctuality and politeness.
Some basic rules of etiquette follow. Abstain from swearing. Open doors for others and keep them open. Arrive and leave events at the right time. Write thank you notes. If you’re eating or chewing gum, don’t chew like a cow. Feed your stomach with a closed mouth. Emily Post’s Etiquette is a good guide for more rules and tips on etiquette.
29. Get touchy. Socially acceptable touching is the most underused form of nonverbal communication. Appropriate touching connects people faster than words. Tap your target on the elbow during your approach to get their attention then shake hands. Touch people to emphasize a point in a story. Everyone loves a celebratory high-five.
30. Get in sync. This means you nonverbally match someone you’re talking with. Alter your voice, posture, stance, gestures, and movements to mirror theirs. If they’re standing and moving around the room, stand then walk with them (that’s assuming it’s not obvious you’re copying them otherwise the technique will backfire.) Once you’re in sync, they’ll feel you’re a typical friend just like them, which is impressive.
31. Pull everyone into the conversation. You can impress more than one person by baiting uninvolved group members into the conversation. A loudmouth guy may hog the spotlight, leaving others in the dark. You should talk to the whole group. Shift the attention onto the dormant conversationalists by asking questions like, “What’s your experience with that?” “What’s your opinion on this?” and “What do you think?” If you’re asked a question like “How do you spend your time during the day?”, turn the same question onto them. People will be impressed with your social intelligence.
32. You can be wrong. It’s okay to not have someone admit you’re right even when you know the truth. Righteously blind people irritate. If you can’t prove to a nut head the Earth is not the center of the universe, others in the group will admire your need to not prove you’re right and wonder how your verbal combatant’s genes survived this long.
33. Be unique. If you feel there’s nothing special about you, create something. Rarity is memorable and valued everywhere. We remember Elvis created a unique style of music. FedEx became known for the “overnight delivery” then hurt itself by competing with DHL for “worldwide”. When all mouth wash companies tried to make their product pleasurable in the mouth, Listerine came in and went the opposite way.
Find something unique about you that can receive more attention. That one thing will stick in people’s mind. You will become the “pink hair girl”, “the funny coffee man”, or “the tall guy”.
34. Show your sense of humor. If you’re witty, sarcastic, or dark with humor, it’s a part of your personality and you’ll want to show it. However, if you find yourself wanting to joke like, “A blonde walks into a bar. Ouch!” reconsider sharing it. Whatever you do, don’t try to start off with a funny opening line such as “So Helen Keller walks into a bar…” Talk to someone for a few minutes before determining whether or not your humor will be appreciated. Conversational humor develops throughout the interaction anyway.
35. Let little troubles float by you. This is a lesson from my Communication Secrets of Powerful People program. People with little power pick on little things. A couple walks down the street when one of them stumbles to which the other replies, “Oh, watch your step.” A group of mates have a beer when one tips over his drink to which a mate replies, “That was smart.” A boyfriend tries to empathize with his girlfriend when she sneezes by saying, “Oh, that was a nasty one.” Pointing out the obvious does not impress people. It makes them think you’re insensitive.
Famed painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso said, “The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.” Powerful people with prestige impress others by ignoring unimportant noise. They don’t point out the obvious because it’s emotionally unintelligent. They continue whatever they were doing. If they talk about a family problem at a restaurant when a waiter gives them a wrong order, they solve the hiccup and move on, instead of getting snared in drama. Poise and composure gives people safety and certainty, both attractive qualities to create.
36. Give people a second-chance. Every tip so far is about you impressing people – and so is this tip. Based on the Princeton University research mentioned earlier, you know our first impressions tend to be our impression of the person throughout the conversation – what changes is our increased confidence that our quick judgments were spot on. People will give you a bad first impression. You’ll think a new co-worker is a cow, a guy at a party should jump off the balcony, or a girl is a drama queen. Give people another chance to impress you and you’ll be more friendly, impressing people.
If you had a mind-blank at the start of a conversation with a stranger, you’d feel they’re pretty amazing if they came up to you later on and said, “Never mind about our ‘conversation’ before. I do that all the time. What’s your name?” What a caring and impressive person!
37. Stop over-thinking. “My hair looks bad.” “I forgot to iron this shirt.” “What if everyone hates me?” “What if I have a zit?” Stop it. Insecurities are the greatest turn off according to author Robert Greene in The Art of Seduction.
You’d worry less about what people thought of you if you knew how little they do. Nobody’s going home saying, “Ugh, did you see his hair? It was combed slightly too far to the left.”
38. Remain calm. Don’t freak out if things go unplanned. Since you’re already thinking positive thoughts, don’t mess your pants should things go haywire. If you trip, if you choke on your food, if you just don’t get along with someone you thought you’d click with, don’t worry about it. People’s actions do not matter; your reactions do.
39. Make a good last impression. From the Princeton University study, we learned that people look for information to validate their first impression of someone. Though this article is about a good first impression, leaving a conversation on a positive note gives people further proof their initial judgment is right – that you’re a great person.
Masters like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods know how to finish strong. Become a conversation master by skipping the Houdini stunt of vanishing from the conversation. Use the “high returns” technique from Big Talk:
Appreciate something specific about the person by reflecting one thing the person talked about. Examples include: “I need to go now, but it has been great to receive your expertise on…” “Thank you for the great time together.” “I’m off to hunt down a friend, but it has been a pleasure to hear about your overseas journeys.” The person will leave the conversation on a high and love you for it.
40. Snare the chance to repair. What do you do if someone kindly approaches you and you give them the cold shoulder because you just lost your job? You can kick yourself for screwing up an impression or you can work with what’s happened by repairing your dirty ditch. Get the person aside then correctly apologize by admitting your mistake. Show your guilt, let the person respond, then move on. Use the other tips to make a better impression: put yourself at ease, let the trouble float by you, and make the conversation about them.
If all 40 tips overwhelm and make you anxious, they’re having a counterproductive effect. Cut down over-thinking and take a few deep breathes. Let the tips fall back into your mind. You’ll unconsciously act out what you’ve learned. When the day is over, you’ll be impressed by the people you’ve impressed.
About the Author
Joshua Uebergang, aka "Tower of Power", teaches social skills to help shy persons build friends and influence people. Visit his blog and sign-up free to get communication techniques, relationship-boosting strategies, and life-building tips by email, along with blog updates, and more! Go now to http://www.towerofpower.com.au/free/
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