I always worry about meeting new people. I'm afraid I'll stumble over my words as I explain that I'm a communication coach. The fear is real because, of course, I've done exactly that. The reality is most of us believe we don't make a good first impression. We're concerned that we may be coming across as awkward, dull, or worse, unlikeable.
Is there a way to move forward even when we feel we've just blown our chance of being the perfect person we want everyone to see and notice?
Research has shown that people form their impression of you in only seven seconds. Talk about snap judgments! But, if we're being honest, we do take in a lot of information about someone new fairly quickly. Are they smiling as they approach us? Are they dressed nicely? Do they extend their hand while making eye contact? We're always looking for signs that tell us if the person is a friend or foe. We're subconsciously trying to decide if we'll be comfortable with a new acquaintance or a little suspect.
Unless we're walking down a dark alley late at night, I think it's safe to say the people we're going to meet are not going to do us harm. Still, our objective is to have a pleasant experience with the people we're introducing ourselves to. Even if we feel we got off to a rocky start because we ran late for our appointment or called our new friend Harry instead of Larry, we can salvage our image with a sincere apology. If we find ourselves speaking too fast, remember to breathe and slow down. Keep in mind the best way to show someone we're interested in is to give that person the space and time to talk about themselves. Listen to what their interests are and how they align with yours.
As much as we want people to like us, we can't control their perception of us, just like they can't control ours. We're all hoping to increase our network of friends, but only some people we meet will be a good fit. We have to remember not to take it too personally when a connection doesn't pan out. Some associations were not meant to be, and we can't beat ourselves up over it. Trust me; I also believe that everyone I meet should immediately love me.
The funny thing is that most of us imagine we bombed our new encounter experience just to find out later that the other person thought we were amazing. We tend to underestimate our appeal and witty banter, after all. The important lesson here is that the majority of us give each other the benefit of the doubt. We understand that meeting new people and finding common ground to work from can be a little nerve-wracking. We all stumble and mumble at times, but the more we put ourselves out there, the greater our chances of building solid relationships. All I can tell you is to embrace the process and enjoy the journey.