6 Ways to Make an Unforgettable First Impression

6 Ways to Make an Unforgettable First Impression

Trust starts to take shape in the first 7 seconds of a conversation. Here are some ways to start off on the right foot.

First impressions count; they are the gate through which you gain admission to the most important relationships you will have in your life, professionally and personally.

Human beings are like heat seeking missiles when it comes to establishing someone’s character, values, and sincerity. We can’t help it we’re wired to connect. So while a true relationship is built on years of trust, the foundation for that trust starts in the first seven seconds of meeting someone, according to clinical psychologist and author of Straight Talk, Linda Blair. It’s taken you about three times as long to read this far.

That’s not much time but it’s what you have. So how can you use it to make the best possible first impression and then how do you build on those first 7 seconds to make it unforgettable? It’s amazingly simple and straightforward. Here are 6 proven ways to make an unforgettable first impression, whether you’re doing it one-on-one, to a small group, or even an audience of thousands.

  • Know Who You’re Talking to.

Well before those 7 seconds do your homework. That might mean a little research or simply observing a person’s surroundings. When I first met Larry Elison, Oracle’s Chairman and co-founder, at his home, a full-scale reproduction of a Japanese fishing village, I began by asking him if the tranquility and beauty of his home provided respite from the many demands on his time. That launched us into a conversation about everything from how he loved to play acoustic guitar on his porch, to his kids, to the modest beginnings of Oracle. Sure, I had done my homework, but that quick connection turned what was supposed to be a 30 minute meeting into a 2.5 hour genuine and authentic connection.

  • Eye Contact

The single most telling behavior that signals sincerity is making and maintaining eye contact. Few things are as unnerving as trying to have a conversation with someone who is periodically glancing at everything going on behind and around you. Our serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins (the feel good chemicals that give us a sense of well being and euphoria) all increase dramatically when we look someone in the eyes, and they look back. Do not lose eye contact during those first seven seconds. However, this is not a staring contest. Also engage through conversation or it just feels contrived and creepy. By the way if you’re doing this with a large audience don’t just stare out at the crowd. Combine looking at all parts of the room withe direct and regular eye contact with individuals. The combination will put you at ease and create a much more intimate setting for the audience.

  • Mirroring

Mirroring is the simple act of paying close attention to the person you’re with and adopting the subtle nuances of their body language, the tone of their voice, even the words they use. This is not mimicry, which is a caricature of a person, but rather the ability to have empathy. Think of it as tuning into their frequency. To hear someone, and to have them hear you, you need to be sensitized to the way they express and absorb knowledge. Simple things like mirroring their body language can signal coherence. Don’t discount this one, it is among the most inherently human ways we connect.

  • Active Listening

Being an active listener means understand the person you are talking to before you try to have yourself understood. The temptation is to define ourselves before we fully understand someone else. Try repeating what they’ve said to make sure you have heard it. It may feel awkward to you but you’ll be amazed at how well people respond when you make the effort to understand them first.

  • Using The Person’s Name

This is a no-brainer and yet so few people do it. When someone calls us by name there is an immediate heightened awareness of that person. Don’t say his or her name in every other sentence, but use it immediately after you meet them, at least once during the conversation, and at the close of a conversation. If you have a hard time with names use the person’s name in context as shortly after the start of the conversation as possible. That will reinforce your own recollection and show an immediate interest in knowing them on a personal level.

  • Being Grateful

Never walk away from a first encounter without doing three things; thank the person(s) by name for their time, sum up the value of the conversation, and add a personal comment that draws on a non-professional aspect of the conversation. Showing that you recognize a person for who they are means you’re interested in them.

Each of these can be misconstrued as techniques to simply charm. But if that is in fact your only goal, then beware of using any of these unless you are extraordinary well versed in the art of acting and theater. Sincerity cannot easily be feigned; it either exists or it does not, and it starts in just seven seconds.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. He is also an adjunct professor at the Boston University Graduate School of Management, an Executive in Residence at Bentley University, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, and a frequent keynote speaker. The late Peter Drucker once said of his writing, that it challenges not only the way you run your business but the way you run yourself. Tom’s latest book is The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping The Future of Business.

This post was originally published on Inc.com.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media