5 Easy Ways to Make a Great First Impression

By Pete Leibman

Today's Question:

"Dear Pete: How can I make a great first impression when I meet someone new?"


What you say is usually not nearly as important as how you say it. Most people underestimate the importance of making a positive first impression, while they overestimate their present ability to do so.

When you meet someone for the first time in any setting, your initial goal should be to appear trustworthy, likable, confident, and professional. Don't be intimidated by this objective, which is actually really easy to achieve if you follow the following five steps.

1. Smile First and Often
Yes, this sounds incredibly obvious, but most people don't smile nearly enough. A genuine smile is inviting and contagious. Always be the first person to smile. If someone is not smiling at you, it's usually because you are not smiling at him or her. A genuine smile conveys friendliness, removes barriers, and encourages others to want to get to know you. A warm smile immediately makes you more likable.

2. Give a Strong (Not Suffocating) Handshake
A strong handshake conveys confidence and integrity, while a weak handshake makes you look like someone without any backbone. Having said that, do not try to devour the other person's hand. Just make a nice, firm shake with two to three pumps up and down.

3. Maintain Consistent (Not Creepy) Eye Contact
Eye contact also indicates confidence, trust, and interest in the other person, which also makes you more likable. While shaking hands and smiling at someone, look him or her right in the eye, then be sure to maintain eye contact for the majority of any conversation. (Warning: Like a bone-crushing handshake, eye contact can also be taken too far.)

4. Stand Up, Sit Up
You should not try to look like a statue, but standing up straight (or sitting up straight, when seated) makes you look more confident.

5. Remove Meaningless Movements
Fidgeting, tapping your leg, covering your face with your hands or fingers, and other purposeless, nervous body language will make you look weak, and it will make the people around you feel awkward. If you feel uncomfortable and need to release some energy through your body, just focus on moving your toes around inside your shoe (without tapping your feet). 

About the Author

Pete Leibman is the founder of Dream Job Academy and the author of I Got My Dream Job and So Can You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Ideal Career After College. His work has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he's a popular keynote speaker at career events for students and at conferences for people who work with students.

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