"Don't judge a book by its cover." is an old saying and one that I always respected. The truth is we do make snap judgments when meeting people for the first time. We quickly take in what they're wearing, their body language, and their reaction to meeting us. We base our opinions on our new acquaintances from our past experiences. Our perception may be skewed, but an open mind will allow us to give a person time to reveal themselves.
It never occurred to me to ask people what their first impression of me was. It doesn't stop them from telling me anyway. A couple of people remarked that they thought I asked too many questions when they first met me. Really? Why did they believe that? What did they think my intention was? Was I asking personal questions? Did I come across as an interrogator? Why would anyone think that? Oh, wait. I hear it now.
People say they don't like to be labeled, and yet we label each other all the time. I don't think it's a bad thing because it gives us a starting point.
I'm sure my dentist has a whole life that doesn't revolve around dentistry. All I know of him, though, is that he's my dentist. It's what he does, and I depend on him to keep my pearly whites healthy. It would be weird to ask him to give me an eye test because I didn't want him to feel labeled.
Don't worry about giving your resume to people you're meeting for the first time. To make a good impression depends on more than your title. You want to come across as confident, pleasant, and relaxed. Here's a quick checklist to help you put your best foot forward.
- Expensive designer clothes are unnecessary, but whatever you're wearing should make you feel good about yourself. Ditch the sweat pants and wear a well-fitted, ironed dress or pants and shirt. Looking sloppy gives the impression of not caring about yourself or others. Taking the time to look great will make you feel fabulous.
- Our body language is a reflection of how we feel on the inside. Feel self-assured by pulling your shoulders back, lift your head, and smile. Excellent posture creates presence and gets you noticed. When you meet someone, smile while making eye contact, this lets the other person know you're focused on him. Give feedback by nodding and showing you're engaged.
- When you ask a question, try not to ask too many; apparently, people don't like it. Listen to the answer and pay attention to how they phrased it. If they use a word to describe something, use the same word or phrase when you answer a question. For example, your new friend says, "I love the smell of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning." At some point, when you're speaking, you can say, "I agree, fresh-brewed coffee is the best way to start my day."
- Remember the person's name you're talking to. If you forget, simply say, "I apologize, but I'm not sure I heard your name correctly." When they tell you their name again, repeat it to make sure you're pronouncing it right. People like hearing their name, and it keeps their attention on you. Don't overuse their name, but say it a couple of times during the conversation. When you leave, say their name as part of your good-bye.
We're many things to various people. Our relationships reflect the multitude of personalities that reside within us. No one will ever know the real you; only you will. We should keep an open mind as we meet new people as we hope they will give us the same opportunity. First impressions are significant, but that shouldn't be the only impression.
People can surprise you. As you get to know someone, your idea of her may change as well. Maybe she does ask a lot of questions at first, but, little by little, she ends up being your best friend. You then get to tell her, "Wow, I thought you'd never stop asking me questions."