The only thing worse than making a bad first impression is making a bad first impression because you’re trying not to make a bad first impression.
Maybe it sounds like a joke your uncle told, but it’s not; it’s a problem that I’m going to tell you how to get over.
But first, why are first impressions so important?
The human brain is hardwired to react to things based on the emotional and physical experiences they triggered when first introduced into our lives. Ask anyone who’s afraid of spiders where their fear originated and they’ll probably have a story about one crawling up their leg when they were only four years old.
It’s a programming technique that the mind enacts to help us steer ourselves through the world with as little thought as possible. Your body remembers to avoid fire because it’s burned you before, and so on.
On that same strain, your brain pushes you to veer away from people who were rude, awkward or overbearing when you first met them because their company is, well, awful.
No one wants to fall into land-of-no-return. Here’s how to keep yourself out of the “people to avoid” category of other people’s brains.
1. Learn How To Relax
Saying, “Just relax,” is one of the most useless bits of advice to give someone who’s stressed out. So I won’t just say it—I’ll tell you how to do it.
If you’re entering into a social situation— say, a bar on a busy Saturday night—look your anxiety toward the situation in the eye and give it an old-fashioned head-nod of acknowledgement. Chances are you’re the only one who can detect your discomfort, so let it sit at the pit of your stomach like an unwanted, overly cautious friend.
Next, let it challenge you. Ask you anxiety, what shouldn't I do right now? It’ll probably answer, “You definitely shouldn't go talk to that girl at the bar.”
Then, go talk to the girl at the bar.
2. Take Pride In How You Look
If you've read up on lifestyle enhancement techniques, you’ve probably come across a lot of things like the diet solution reviews, telling you that how you look determines how you feel about yourself.
You've probably also ignored this advice. It’s up to you to listen or not, but I’ll be straight with you—you’re never going to leave a solid first impression without some kick-butt self-esteem.
Exercise. Eat well. Lose weight if you need to. Drink minimally and get your sleep schedule under control.
Being healthy is—go figure!—good for your health, but it’s also good for your ego.
3. Listen More Than You Talk
If meeting new people makes you clam up, then go ahead and clam up. Most people prefer to talk about themselves, anyway, so if you’re nervous about making a bad first impression, just introduce yourself and then shut your mouth. Smile, nod, and build the mystery—without the stress.
4. Use Your Eyes
In order to listen actively, you need to practice positive body language through active eye contact. But did you know that eye contact actually makes people feel more positively connected to you?
By no means should you stare into the eyes of new acquaintances until they’re sure you've stolen their soul, but connecting with someone’s eyes and smiling as they speak triggers trust-building neurons in your brain, which lay out the framework to create a relationship.
Focusing on the eyes of the person you've just met also keeps your attention from straying around the room; or worse, around the person’s body.
There’s no surer way to make a bad first impression than to be caught staring at the wrong thing.
5. Follow Up
A workout program (of all things) sums this up the best. Whether it's working out, or getting another date, Truth About Abs reviews the most important part of success: the perseverance to follow-up.
Believe it or not, but most “bad” first impressions aren't actually so bad. It’s the lack of follow up that leaves people with a sour taste in their mouth.
If you make a connection with someone you’re interested in, make an effort to reach out to them. Whether it’s a romantic interest, a potential new friend, or a business associate, there’s an appropriate way to follow up with the initial impression that will place you in the good graces of anyone.
If you’re too shy, a text or email will suffice; however, reaching out by phone is ideal. “It was nice to meet you,” or the even bolder, “Let’s grab coffee,” are much less painful to say than your super-ego is telling you they are, so take a chance.
About Dr. Mike Tremba
Dr Mike is a writer, publisher, and of course, past (pre-marriage) dater. He can usually be found on the great beaches of Southern Alabama, or somewhere outside getting exercise. Through the failures he's had (as well as the successes), he loves sharing his tips on making life more enjoyable.