Being social animals, we care a lot about how others perceive us. It is in our nature that we crave for being accepted, recognized, and to be loved or at least liked. Of course, how much we want all this depends a lot on our personality and on the circumstances. However, most of us wish to make a good impression on people we spend time with – and it doesn’t come easily to everybody. Working as a coach I’ve heard from my clients several times that social gatherings can cause them a great deal of stress and the feeling of defeat. Especially when they have to meet new people.
Though several books could be (and actually are) written on human interactions, my attempt with this post is to summarize the things that can help to make a killer first impression – and have fun at the same time.
It’s important to know that others don’t react to what we are like – since, except for those few who are really close to us, most people have no idea what we are really like – but to what is in our head. Or even more, they react to how we feel ourselves to be at the moment.
You must know what it’s like when you leave home in a good mood and somehow all your interactions go really well: you get appreciative glances on the street, the shop assistant is friendly in the grocery store and you have a great chat with one of your co-workers with whom you usually just say ‘Hi’ to each other. What happens on days like this is simply that others instinctively give a positive reaction to your uplifted feelings.
There are several ways to boost your mood in a few minutes: you can dance to your favorite song, or watch funny videos, or meditate, or eat some chocolate – only you know what makes you joyful and energetic. Whatever that is, do it! If you are conscious about your state of mind and boost your mood before you go to meet new people you
can be sure that they will be more than happy to talk to you.
2. Body language
Many studies underline the fact that what we say during a conversation provides only 7% of what we actually communicate to others. The rest of the 93% comes from our non-verbal channels: mainly from our body language and partly from the tone of our voice. People decide within a few seconds, basically unconsciously whether they like someone or not.
If you want to learn more about non-verbal communication there are several great books on the subject (my long time favorite is Body Language by Allan Pease) that provide a lot of exciting information on how our posture, facial expressions, etc. affects others. Generally speaking, it’s useful if you straighten up; if you look others in the eyes while you talk; if you smile (but only if you can do it naturally, a forced smile can look kind of creepy); and if you avoid the typical signs of closing up such as folded arms and crossed legs (except if you sit on a barstool wearing a mini skirt – then probably it’s better if you do cross your legs).
One of the best things you can offer to another person is your genuine attention. Everybody loves to feel that they and what they are saying is interesting and exciting for others. Therefore, the best strategy at social gatherings is to ask questions and to listen attentively to the answers.
Of course do not act like an interrogator: if you sense that the person you are talking to is not willing to talk about some topic (or any topic) do not force it.
Reciprocity is also important especially if you end up into talking about deeper, or more personal topics. So, if they ask about you, answer. But try not talk to much about yourself, do not go into loooong stories. And never ever praise yourself even if there are several things you can be proud of. Let others discover it for themselves what great skills, qualities and personality you have – a process that requires more than one encounter of course. But the chance for those next encounters evaporates if you scare them off with your bragging.
4. Know that others are insecure too
We all tend to view ourselves under a magnifying glass, particularly our imperfections. Everybody becomes uncertain every now and then about their looks, their comments and on how others might see them. This is true even of those people who seem to be totally confident.
Next time you go to a social gathering and the little voice in your head starts to telling you things like ‘they must think I’m stupid’ or ‘I shouldn’t wear this shirt’ or ‘their job is so much better than mine, and they know it’ be aware that the person or people you are talking to probably have a very similar inner dialogue in their head about some of their shortcomings that you didn’t even notice.
We are all human with plenty of flaws and everybody is much more concerned about their imperfections than yours. When you meet people try to relax and instead of focusing on what others might think of you, be present and enjoy the conversation.
5. Let it go
There are people with whom you are not on the same wavelength. It’s important to understand that it’s not your (or their) fault – it’s just that you and them don’t share the same interests, have very different personalities or simply don’t fit.
If you bump into someone who you don’t feel good around just move on (without being rude of course) and find someone else to talk to. Luckily there are more than enough people on the planet to talk to, so the chances are pretty good that sooner or later you will find someone with whom you can talk to for 3 hours and feel like it was only 15 minutes.
Have fun talking to people and making new friends!