Imagine this: You’re going out with an old friend to meet their friend group, who you have never met before. You’re on your way to the event and you’re thinking, I’m going to nail this! These people are going to like me! Yet on your way home, you’re left feeling as if you could have done a far better job at leaving a positive first impression. Why does this happen? How can you keep this from happening again?
Whether you’re meeting new friends or interviewing for that job you really want, you’re probably aware of how important first impressions are. You also probably know some of the basics when it comes to making a good impression on someone. The key things most people know include smiling, making eye contact, and asking questions. These are all good starting points, but there is so much more you can do to ensure you’re making a lasting, positive first impression on everyone you meet.
With the help of internationally acclaimed speaker and founder of Science of People, Vanessa Van Edwards, we’ve put together this list of 10 vital tips you can use to make a great first impression and increase your likability with everyone you meet. Don’t worry, if you’re still a work-from-home employee who primarily interacts with people over video calls, these tips can still apply to you!
Who Is Vanessa Van Edwards?
Vanessa is Lead Investigator and founder of Science of People as well as the best-selling author of both Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People and Cues: Master the Secret Language of Charismatic Communication. Vanessa offers practical techniques for enhancing leadership and interpersonal communication as well as her expertise in human behavior. She has created a framework for understanding various personalities based on science in order to boost our EQ (or emotional intelligence) and facilitate better communication with coworkers, clients, and consumers.
Her techniques for translating “soft skills” into manageable, attainable frameworks that can be used in daily life have attracted millions of visitors to her website each month. Her communication classes on Udemy, CreativeLive, LinkedIn, and her signature program People School have been taken by hundreds of thousands of students.
Vanessa is famous for imparting people skills that are supported by science to audiences at conferences like SXSW, MIT, and CES. Her innovative workshops and courses show participants how to excel in life and business by comprehending the subtle dynamics of others. She frequently addresses forward-thinking corporations including Google, Facebook, Comcast, MillerCoors, Microsoft, Amazon, and Univision. She has served as a spokeswoman for Symantec, American Express, Dove, and Clean & Clear. Vanessa has even been featured on The School of Greatness where she enlightened listeners with wisdom on the art and science of body language and charisma.
Where to Start with Making a Good Impression
Sure, you might know the basics of making a decent first impression, but what you may not know is that your greatest tool for making a great first impression is merely thinking they will like you.
1. Anticipated Acceptance
Research has shown that study participants who expected to be accepted were perceived as more likable. Humans naturally are inclined to like people who are warm and friendly, so when you go into a first impression anticipating that the other individuals will like you, you act more natural and come across as friendlier.
This sounds great in practice, but what if you’re naturally shy or insecure? Research also shows that negative self-talk is likely to decrease your likability When you’re in a new or uncomfortable setting, it’s much easier to assume other people won’t like you rather than the opposite. The trick is believing that other people will like you. Affirmations are a great way to cultivate self-care and self-love, but you’re going to have to put the rest of the tips in this article to use to accompany your anticipated acceptance in order to make the best first impression possible.
No, we’re not talking about pre-packaged turkey meat in the deli aisle, we’re talking about the inherent human trait of judging a new person in a split second based on what we see. Thin-slicing is when, in less than a second, we can judge someone’s skill, confidence, and likeability based on just a mental snapshot of them. Researchers believe that this is a survival strategy we have developed to make snap judgments about who is a friend or foe.
People have their own biases, and sometimes it can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle to make a good first impression no matter how hard you try, but this is no excuse to give up or get lazy. Regardless of people’s inherent biases, by using certain techniques, you can change people’s perception of you and gain an upper hand when people make snap judgments of you.
In order to increase your own likability, you first need to turn your attention inward. Ask yourself, what do other people think when they first meet me? How do I come across? If you had to describe your first impression in one word, what would it be? Would it be positive or negative? Now ask yourself what your ideal first impression would look like. If there is a large gap between the two answers, it’s time to get introspective and work toward your goal of attaining the mindset you want.
4. The Eyebrow Flash
The eyebrow flash is a commonly-used greeting gesture to show that you recognize someone. In fact, it’s universally recognized even in isolated tribes, with a 1989 study suggesting it’s an ingrained evolutionary trait as it has been observed in monkey populations. However, you can also use this gesture when meeting new people. Since the gesture is typically used when seeing someone you know, flashing your eyebrows when meeting someone new gives them a feeling of familiarity and closeness.
When you meet a new person that you want to make a great first impression with, make eye contact and immediately raise both your eyebrows. Be sure to make it a quick up and down gesture and not to hold it for too long as you risk looking like a scared animal. By incorporating the eyebrow flash into your first impression, you create a feeling of familiarity and warmth that is sure to increase your likability.
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5. The Duchenne Smile
If you had a side-by-side comparison of two smiles — one fake and one real — do you think you could tell the difference? Most people can, and that’s because of the Duchenne markers. When someone smiles genuinely, the smile reaches all the way up to the eyes and shows the “crow’s feet” wrinkles on the sides of both eyes. These are called Duchenne markers and can actually be faked. That’s right, you can fake a real smile and increase your likability.
Be careful here though – if someone senses you’re putting on a fake smile, they’ll likely interpret it as you being cold or artificial. While you may be trying to produce a warm and endearing smile, most people can discern a real one from a fake one, and your efforts are bound to go in vain. If this is difficult for you, don’t be afraid to get in front of a mirror and practice. Think of something funny, and bring that smile higher until your eye muscles are crinkled.
6. Launch Position: Perfect Your Stance
You’re likely aware of the importance of posture when making a first impression — shoulders back, chin up, etc. These are things many people hear from their parents growing up, and though they are important in improving people’s snap judgments of you based on your appearance, it goes even further than simply standing up straight.
Vanessa Van Edwards has perfected what she calls the launch stance, which has five focal points. First, make sure your toes are pointed in the direction of the person you want to make a good impression on. When your toes are pointed toward someone, it indicates that you are interested in what they have to say. Even when you’re sitting down, make sure you point your toes in the direction of the person speaking to show you’re listening and interested.
Biologically, humans are ingrained to feel fear when someone’s hands are concealed. Your hands should always be open and visible when you speak to ensure you’re appearing friendly and approachable.
It’s best to keep your chin level and neutral when speaking to someone so as not to appear like you are looking up or sneering down at someone. However, some body language experts have noted that women who lowered their chin while looking up at men appeared smaller, and thus more feminine. They also noted that men who angled their chin upward when talking to women appeared taller, increasing their attraction.
7. Repeat Their Name
Science shows that when people hear their own name, unique parts of the brain are activated. In contrast, these parts of the brain do not activate when hearing anyone else’s name. You can use this to your advantage by slipping in a person’s name when meeting them for the first time. You can sprinkle their name throughout the conversation by saying something like, “That’s a great point, Allen.” When you’re introduced to someone, it’s great to immediately repeat their name by saying something like, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Veronica.” This will cause dopamine releases in their brain and increase your likability.
8. Make Jokes
Did you know laughing actually releases endorphins into the body similar to the endorphins released through drugs like morphine? Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “happy people rarely get sick,” and this is because endorphins actually build up your immune system and act as tranquilizers in the body.
If people have endorphins flowing through their bodies, they’re much more likely to like you. Don’t be afraid to crack a few jokes when meeting someone for the first time, but just remember to keep those jokes friendly and harmless. If making jokes or being funny isn’t a particular strong suit of yours, get online and find some funny jokes to tell!
Much like fake and genuine smiles, the key to giving compliments is to remain genuine. People can sense a fake compliment from a mile away, so avoid repeating standard compliments that carry no meaning to the individual you’re talking to. Take a moment and find a few things you actually like about the person, and compliment them. Maybe it’s the shoes they have on, or maybe it’s their smile. You could even simply compliment someone on the energy they give off by saying something like, “You have such gravitational energy — being around you is a joy!” No matter what it is, as long as it’s coming from a sincere place, it’s likely to help you make a great first impression.
10. Know Your Bad Days
Let’s face it, everyone has bad days. No matter how social of a person you are, there’s still going to be a day once in a while where you just aren’t having a good time. Some people think that in order to improve their day, they need to get out and socialize. However, people who go out to cocktail parties after having a bad day usually continue to have a bad day. If you’re feeling down or anxious, other people are likely to pick up on your body language and facial expressions, so it’s best to take a day at home to feel better. You may unknowingly leave a negative first impression on someone just because you weren’t feeling well.
Create Your Own Charisma
Some people fall into the trap of thinking, I’m just not a charismatic person — I’ll never make a good first impression because I’m so shy and introverted. Spoiler alert: no one is simply born a charismatic person. Sure, some people are naturally more extroverted or introverted, but that isn’t the same thing as charisma. Charisma is something you have to build yourself, and by practicing the tips outlined by Vanessa Van Edwards, you’re miles ahead of your peers. Smile, engage, and be genuine — you’ll be leaving lasting, positive first impressions in no time!