Most of us are drawn to positive, friendly people who make us feel at ease, so an easy way to connect with those around you is to portray a positive attitude through your conversation and body language. Greeting new people with a genuine smile is important. Also, try to keep the conversation on positive or, at the very least, neutral topics. While we all love a good moan from time to time, the first few hours or minutes of meeting someone are probably not an appropriate time to nab them as your personal agony aunt or sounding board for all your grievances and problems.
Research suggests that 80 per cent of our communication is done through body language, meaning that people will get a certain impression of you before you even open your mouth. To make sure it’s a good one, try to maintain “open” body language – such as uncrossing your arms and legs and angling your body towards the other person – which will make you seem more approachable, relaxed and open to conversation.
It may sound obvious, but an important step for making a good impression is to make sure you seem engaged and interested in what the other person is saying to you. Rather than reeling off a list of questions or conversation topics you have prepared in advance, make sure you listen to what the other person has to say and tailor your responses accordingly. While there is no need to gather enough information to be able to write their Wikipedia page, recalling things that they have spoken of and using their name in the conversation will show that you are interested and paying attention.
If you want to make a good first impression, it can help to try to stand out from the crowd and give others something to remember you for. Rather than sticking to mundane topics of conversation such as the weather or how busy the traffic was, try to reveal something about yourself that is a bit unique or memorable. If you have an interesting hobby, anecdote or question, throw it into the conversation. You can even prepare an interesting story to tell in advance, so long as it comes across natural and unrehearsed!
Nerves can make us act in strange ways. Some people clam up entirely when meeting new people, while for others it can trigger nervous chatter. If you’re feeling anxious about meeting someone new or making a good impression, you can alleviate these problems and stop your nervous ramblings from dominating the conversation by preparing some questions to ask. Most people like to talk about themselves so will be won over by your thoughtfulness and good listening skills, while you will have some time to gather your thoughts. Ask open-ended question to help keep the conversation flowing.
Make eye contact
It can be difficult to maintain eye contact if you’re feeling nervous, but if your eyes are darting around the room whilst being spoken to it can seem as though you aren’t engaged in the conversation or are looking for an opportunity to get away. However, locking eyes for a prolonged period of time can also be a little bit intense with someone you don’t know. To maintain natural eye contact without looking like you are having a staring contest, try the triangle method of glancing from one eye to the other, then to the mouth, and back again.
Show your sense of humor
People are drawn to those who can make them laugh and who also see the humor in situations. Even if you are not a natural comedian, try to keep the conversation light and laugh and smile where appropriate. If you do feel compelled to crack a joke, this can be a good ice breaker. However, try to steer away from dark humour, as this can definitely scare the other person away.
Find common ground
While you are not going to hit it off with everyone you meet in life, it can help to look for the common ground when meeting someone new. Whether it is a common interest, a similar sense of humor or a mutual acquaintance, finding something you have in common can help you to connect with those around you and keep the conversation flowing more easily. However, while it is important to show interest for other people’s passions and hobbies, try not to feign common interests to bond with others as you are likely to be found out.
Do your homework
If you are attending a job interview or business meeting, it is important to do a bit of research on the company beforehand so that you are fully prepared for your meeting and what is expected of you. Not only will this give you an idea of how formal your meeting will be (which is something you should reflect in your dress code, language and conversation) but it will give you more things to discuss in your meeting. Coming armed with prior knowledge is also likely to win you major brownie points and help you to make a great first impression.
Don’t overthink it
While it can help to make an effort with your behavior and to prepare yourself as much as you can for an important first meeting, thinking too much about how you are coming across to others could actually work against you. Concentrating too much on the impression you are making can make you seem nervous and inattentive. Also, it can distract you from what others are saying. Spend a little time thinking about the impression you want to make then try to switch your focus to what is going on around you. Also, remember that no one will be analyzing your behavior as much as you are!