If you’ve heard of the saying “a picture speaks a thousand words”, you’ll know that the same holds true for the image that you present of yourself to others. Nice words don’t mean anything if they aren’t backed up with consistent body language.
Put your best face forward by learning these five simple – but extremely effective – body language tricks. You only get one shot at making a good first impression, so make it count.
Make a good impression before you even introduce yourself to a person, without a single word. Sound impossible? Nope, just use your eyes. Maintaining consistent eye contact shows the other person that you’re interested in them and are engaged in what they have to say. Just make sure you tone down on the intensity – you don’t want to appear like you’re glaring!
This may seem obvious, but smiling is a vital component of making a good first impression. Appearing positive and open is a great way to get people to warm up to you quick, since people are naturally more trusting towards others who make them feel at ease. Do try to make it genuine: a fake smile is easy to discern, and may earn you less favour than if you didn’t smile at all.
In any first impression, you’ll want to come off as confident and assured, so a limp and sweaty handshake is one of the fastest ways to kill that image. Start with a firm grip and three brief ‘shakes’ – but be careful you don’t overdo it and end up giving the other person a bruise! If you know that your palms tend to sweat when you’re nervous, it’s always a good idea to subtly swipe them on the side of your pants to dry them off.
Many tend to overlook the importance that body language can have, especially in a high-context situation like a first meeting. As a general rule of thumb, keep your posture “open” – that is, keep your arms and legs uncrossed, facing the other person straight on, and keeping your expressions relaxed.
Photo: Flickr user 55Laney69
The idea is simple: just mirror whatever action your partner is doing. If they take a sip of water, take it as your cue to pick up your glass. If they prop their left arm on the table, do the same with your right. According to Tonya Reiman’s The Power of Body Language, when you mirror a person’s “actions and emotions” back at them, you are basically affirming them. In turn, this steadily builds rapport between the two of you.
Do take note not to make your actions too exaggerated: it’s easy to look like you’re mocking the other person.