“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” You’ve heard that for years, but there is a lot of truth in it. We size up others quickly because it helps us make sense of our world and feel safe in it. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that people judge competence, likeability, trustworthiness, and attractiveness in 250 milliseconds based simply on what they see before them! And good or bad, we tend to cling to our initial judgments of others and view them through that lens for a very long time. So try to always put your best foot forward!
Here’s what not to do:
It’s hard to lose points by overdressing, but you certainly can by underdressing. As Hamlet said, “The apparel oft proclaims the man.” So, what is yours proclaiming today? How you dress tells the world just what you think about yourself and those you’re with. Why not convey intelligence, respect, and confidence? Do your homework, figure out the dress code, then kick it up a half a notch and choose accordingly. You can always lose the jacket, tie, or extra accessories once you scope out the room, but it’s hard to make those things materialize out of thin air.
Focus on Your Phone
You can only have one quality conversation at a time, so if you want to make a positive first impression, you’re going to have to put the phone away. On silent. Or better yet, off. You never want people to think that anything is more important than the conversation you’re having with them right here and right now. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself and move away to talk in private. Then return and hope they haven’t moved on to someone more present and personable.
Use Negative Body Language
Our body language is another element that conveys how interested we are in others. Eyes that constantly dart around or focus on the floor, slumped postures, crossed arms, and grim expressions tell others you’re probably bored, angry, depressed, or all of the above. Face people heart-to-heart, make attentive eye contact, smile occasionally, and others will find you fascinating because you found them interesting.
Shake Hands Like a Limp Fish
…or a wet noodle or a bonecrusher or fingers-only princess style. Yikes! Your handshake sets the tone for whatever follows. Don’t gross them out with a handshake that creates questions instead of confidence. Offer your entire hand, move in until web meets web, grasp firmly, shake lightly (no pumping!), then release. Add to that a smile and eye contact, along with something pleasant like, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.”
Having Nothing to Offer
Here’s another reason to do some homework ahead of time. Research the people you’ll be meeting as well as their companies, industries, and current issues. Prep some questions and insights you could share that would demonstrate your interest in them and knowledge of what’s going on in their worlds. But you can’t be all business either. Prep for lighter conversations, too. Books, movies, sports, theater, food, museums, and travel are all fun topics for small talk, so be ready to share your experiences and recommendations.
Need feedback on the impressions you’re making on others? We have training and coaching programs that can help! www.theedgeexecutivecoaching.com
© 2017 Jill Bremer
Feeling a little invisible at work? Looking for ways to stand out and distinguish yourself from the crowd? It’s difficult to create a strong executive presence if no one knows who you are or what you do. Here are some strategies for building your visibility:
Nurture your network by making one non-required contact each day. Make a call or send a note.
For the required meetings you go to, ask what you can bring or how you can help, like taking the meeting minutes.
Find out if there are other meetings you can attend outside of your department. You’ll benefit from other perspectives and can build your business acumen and value to the organization.
Attend events in your industry both large and small. You can reap different rewards from each.
Volunteer for your professional organizations and be more than a good volunteer, be great. Consider volunteering first for the membership committee. You get to know everyone and can serve as the master connector.
Search out the associations your clients belong to and go to those meetings, too, to stay current on happenings in their industry.
Arrive early to any meeting, if you can. It’s a prime opportunity to introduce yourself to the board members and speaker. Volunteer to help them with setting up or with the registration table.
Get your name in print. Write for trade publications, op-ed pieces, client newsletters.
Consider attending an event outside your industry. Be the only one there who does what you do!
Attend at least one conference in your field. Conferences provide valuable relationship-building opportunities and can bring you national and international visibility.
Do a presentation or panel discussion at the conference. Opportunities abound for those who can deliver a solid presentation.
Additional Ideas –
Volunteer for a special project or task force.
Chair a committee (and chair it well!)
Develop a diverse network of people, including people from all areas within your organization. Be the person who knows where to go to get answers.
Adapted from “It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work,” by Cyndi Maxey and Jill Bremer.
In her new book, “Presence”, Harvard Business School professor (and creator of “power posing”) Amy Cuddy shares that in first impression situations, people instantly answer two questions about each other:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
Cuddy says that trust equates to warmth and respect to competence. Ideally, we want to be perceived as having both, but we can lose out if we think competence is the most important factor on which to be evaluated. The goal-to be seen first as warm and approachable. Others will respond more favorably when they sense first that you’re trustworthy. It’s only when trust has been established that competence will be evaluated.
The takeaway? Trying too hard at the beginning to convey you’re smart, accomplished, and competent can send a vibe that you’re unapproachable and maybe even manipulative. Brush up on your social skills, ask questions, be a little transparent, and show interest in others. Cuddy says, “A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”
© Jill Bremer 2016
Well, maybe not smarter, but they do change the way your brain works! According to a recent study conducted by California State University Northridge, they found that putting on a suit doesn’t just change how you look, it can change the way you perceive the world and makes you think more broadly. “Putting on formal clothes makes us feel more powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,” says lead researcher, psychologist Abraham Rutchick. Wearing suits encourage us to think about the big picture rather than getting hung up on the details, what psychologists call “abstract processing” rather than “concrete processing”. Abstract processing is the kind needed in leadership, while concrete processing focuses more on details. When you look good, you feel more in control and think more broadly and creatively. Shopping, anyone?
5. UPDATED EYEGLASSES
Accessories can update your image instantly and, often, cost-effectively. Instead of investing big money into trendy suits, coats, and jackets, add a touch of trend with less expensive ties, jewelry, scarves, sunglasses, belts, and bags. Yes, you can and should spend-till-it-hurts on those items when buying classic styles, but if you want to look trendy, don’t spend a lot. Trends will be gone in a season or two and you won’t feel sad when you give or toss those items away.
Eyeglasses are an important accessory as they draw people into your face. It’s true – they aren’t cheap, so keep an eye out for sales and special promotions. You’ll want to select a new, updated frame every few years as an outdated style can age you and convey that you’re out-of-step with the times. You never want to look like you’re caught in a time warp!
Don’t rush the selection process. Shop around, try on lots of pairs, and trust the optician who takes your coloring, face shape, hairstyle and likes/dislikes into consideration. They’ll help you find a pair you love and look great wearing. Some of the national chain eyewear stores have face shape information on their websites. Once you determine your shape, their site will make specific eyewear recommendations for you. In the meantime, here are some guidelines from the Vision Council of America.
The Oval Face is considered to be the most versatile with frames because of its balanced proportions. Frame options: wide as or wider than the broadest part of the face. Try almond or oval shapes.
The Base-Down Triangle Face has a narrow forehead and widens at the cheek and chin areas. Frame options: ones that draw attention upwards. Try bold frames or cat-eye shapes.
The Base-Up Triangle Face (heart-shaped) is widest at the forehead and narrowest at the chin. Frame options: ones that draw attention downwards, such as rimless styles, very thin metals or plastics.
The Square Face is characterized by a strong jaw line and broad forehead. Width and length are in the same proportions. Frame options: rounder, narrower styles that soften facial angles, such as narrow ovals.
The Round Face has curved lines, with width and length in the same proportions. Frame options: frames that are wider than they are deep. Try angular, narrow frames.
The Oblong Face is longer that it is wide and is characterized by a long, straight cheekline and, sometimes, a longer nose. Frame options: frames with top-to-bottom depth or decorative temples (frame arms) to add width.
The Diamond Face is narrowest at the browline and jawline. Cheekbones are frequently high and dramatic. Frame options: frames detailing or distinctive browlines, like cat-eyes or ovals.
Eyes are considered by many to be the most important feature on a person, the “windows to the soul”. So let the world see the how young you feel inside!
4. STYLISH HAIRSTYLE
An updated hairstyle can be a great way to convey youthfulness. When was the last time you changed your hairdo? If you look the same as you did in your high school yearbook, it’s time for an update!
While it’s important to determine and wear the best style for your face shape, lifestyle, and hairstyling abilities, it’s also important to tweak it occasionally to reflect the current trends. I also believe that job changes, promotions, and life milestones should be accompanied by a new “look”. So at least once per year, have a conversation with your stylist or barber to get their recommendations for changes that could be made – longer or shorter sideburns, bangs/no bangs, straight vs. layered, etc. And then decide what, if anything, you want to do. But at least promise yourself that you’ll have the conversation annually.
Consider coloring your hair, too, especially if you have warm undertones to your skin and eyes. I realize the unfairness of it all – silver can make a man look distinguished, but make a woman look old. To color or not color is a personal decision – and it certainly requires a commitment in both time and money – but if the goal is to look more youthful, covering the grey is definitely something to consider.