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On Develop Good Habits we’ve covered a number of topics when it comes to forming positive habits, but we rarely talk about how your routines can improve your social life. That’s why today I’ve invited Charlie Houpert of Charisma On Command to provide a list of habits that can help make a positive first impression when meeting people. Let’s get to it…
Ever wonder why some people just seem to be universally adored?
You know the type. They walk into a party and are an instant hit. They sit down for an interview and become the immediate front runner for the job. Even the testy in-laws love them after the first dinner together. They seem blessed with an innate charm and charisma.
The good news for the rest of us who weren’t born social geniuses is that ANYONE can learn to consistently make an amazing impression. You don’t need to be born with some X factor. You just need to practice the following 13 habits.
(Side note: Another positive way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.)
Habit #1: Smile any time you walk into a room or begin a conversation
First impressions are formed in 7 seconds. That’s before you have a chance to say much of anything. So what are people forming those impressions from?
Your attitude. Which is primarily conveyed by your smile (or lack thereof).
Keep in mind, smiling doesn’t mean just baring your teeth. The genuine Duchene smile engages the muscles around the eye. This is the smile you want to mark your first impression.
Smiling also has the added benefit of releasing dopamine into your system. So you will actually feel happier and free you from stress. That virtuous cycle can make all the difference in making an impression.
Habit #2: Open your body language
In unfamiliar situations, you might have a tendency to close off. To cross your arms, lower your chin, and make yourself smaller. You might also feel inclined to grab a drink at a bar or networking event so that you can wield it like a shield, holding it high at your chest even when you aren’t drinking. This closed body language sends the message loud and clear: not available for interaction. This will always make a bad first impression.
Instead, open up. Uncross your arms, lift your chin, and place your feet a bit wider than your shoulders. The physical act of opening your body will actually make you feel more social, much like smiling will make you feel happier. Other people will also pick up on those cues and feel drawn to you.
Habit #3: Don’t wait to be introduced
We’ve all been there. You’re walking down the street or out at an event and the person you’re with bumps into some friends. Then you stand there awkwardly while they catch up for three minutes.
No more! When you’re thrown into close quarters with other people or have a friend in common or are just at the same party, take the initiative to introduce yourself. You immediately make everyone feel more comfortable since you’re all part of the conversation.
Habit #4: Use people’s names
As Dale Carnegie said, “a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Remember people’s names and they’ll immediately like you.
A great way to remember names AND generate goodwill is by make a habit of quickly saying someone’s name back to them. So when you find out a guy is named John you can follow up with, “So what brings you here today, John?” Or “Nice to meet you John!” Saying someone’s name out a loud a few times really makes it stick.
Habit #5: Develop a fascinating way to answer, “Where are you from?”
You’re going to be asked, “Where are you from?” about ten million times over the course of your life. Think it might be a good idea to have an interesting response?
No, I don’t mean to invent some story about how you were born in Antarctica and raised in Monaco. I mean to share something about yourself. Let them know something that evokes emotion. Let them know about your values. That’s what people care about anyway
So instead of answering “Philadelphia,” you might give them a quick insight into why you currently live where you do. So you’d say: “I am from Philadelphia, but I actually moved out here to Cali because I love the laid back style of life. There is nothing I love more than spending a beautiful day outside the beach with friends.”
Habit #6: Develop a fascinating way to answer, “What do you do?”
The same principle applies to “What do you do?” Most people don’t know what a “private equity analyst” or a “corporate trainer” is. Even if you took 5 minutes explained your job, they’d probably remain confused because chances are they don't work in your industry. And who wants to talk about work that long anyway?
Instead of just answering with your job title, get in the habit of sharing WHY you chose your job or what you like about it. So you might say, “I’m a private equity analyst. I like to geek out over numbers and it is really crazy to see how the quantitative work I do on a spreadsheet winds up impacting people’s lives.” An answer like that gives the other person something to relate to instead of just allowing a conversation to stall.
Habit #7: Ask better questions than “Where are you from?” (or “What do you do?”)
When you ask, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” you get a generic answer. “Calgary.” “Stockbroker.” If you’ve never been to Calgary and you don’t know any stockbrokers the conversation dies. Right then and there.
Instead, dig deeper. Not just into the logistical details. Ask people if they like their jobs or hometowns. Find out what fires them up.
We all come from different places and on the surface, our jobs are often completely unrelated to one another’s. But when you get into underlying motivations of why we move cities and why we pick professions, we’re all remarkably similar. This is the level of conversation where you can actually relate and connect with people.
Habit #8: Look people in the eye while YOU speak
Most people find it easy to look at others in the eye when listening. But when it comes to their turn to speak, their eyes go wandering. They look at the floor, the ceiling, anywhere but into the eyes of the person who is listening.
Bill Clinton was renowned for his laser eye contact when he spoke. He would look his listener in the eye. That person would know they had his full attention. They often described feeling like, “they were the only person in the room.” Look people in the eye while you speak and you’ll captivate them.
Habit #9: Don’t scan the room or check your phone while listening
No one likes feeling like you’d rather be somewhere else when you're with them. Yet that is exactly how you make other people feel when you scan a room or check your cell phone while someone is speaking to you.
If you need to get a look around the room, do so in between conversations. At the very least, let the person you’re speaking to know you’re looking for someone. Put your cell phone on silent whenever you want to make a good impression. You won’t be tempted to answer random texts or calls. After all, how often is it that something can’t wait 10 minutes?
Habit #10: Speak louder
Oftentimes when we get around people we’d like to impress, we shrink. In order to avoid making a bad impression, we try to make no impression at all. And the first casualty is the volume of our voice.
Speak like you’re meant to be heard, especially when you’re nervous. Using a strong voice will jolt you out of your nerves and will demonstrate confidence to the people around you. It’s okay to be in over your head. It’s not okay to use that as an excuse for undercutting everything you say by whispering.
Habit #11: Keep your inflection down when making statements
In the same situations where you might be tempted to whisper, you’re also likely to constantly speak like you're asking a question. You’ll say the last word of every sentence in a higher pitch. Almost like you’re asking permission for the right to speak.
While an upward inflection is appropriate for questions, it makes all of your statements sound halfhearted. Like you don’t even believe in them. Take special care to speak in a way that communicates conviction (i.e., downward or neutral inflection at the end of your sentences).
Habit #12: Touch people
Research shows it only takes 1/40th of a second of physical contact for people to feel a bond with one another. So shake hands instead of doing an awkward wave to say hello. Touch people on the forearm or shoulder when making a point. Clap the back of their shoulder when saying goodbye. You don’t need to be overbearing. With just a few small points of contact, people will take an immediate liking to you.
Habit #13: Bring fun
Not every conversation needs to have the formality of an interview. Get in the habit of answering every couple of questions in jest. When someone asks who you know at the party, joke that you heard music and just decided to walk in off the street. Being the first in a conversation to crack a joke makes you the de facto leader. You’ve shown that you don’t always need to appear stuffy and people will adore you for it.
Finally, if you want another positive way to improve your life, then read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.
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Charlie Houpert is co-founder of Charisma On Command. He currently lives in Rio de Janeiro and spends his days writing, coaching, and enjoying life on the beach.
17 thoughts on “13 Habits To Make An Amazing First Impression (Every Time)”
Hi Charlie! : )
This post is packed with some very valid tips. I’d never thought of spicing up the question of ‘Where are you from.’
I most especially related to #11. I have a habit of getting intimidated mid – conversation and losing confidence so when I’m presenting a view or even cold hard facts, I definitely end it in that ‘question’ tone instead of a more confident, definite tone. If I sense a challenging or disagreeing demeanor in facial expression, body shifting or body language…that’s it…my confidence is gone. Do you have any specific tips to help with this?
I have a really BIG interview coming up and these tips came just in time.
Thanks so much.
Glad you found these helpful!
Have you seen Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on body language?
The quick summary is this:
Your feelings are dictated by how you use your body (similar to my second point). So when you feel nervous, it is often because you have assumed nervous body language. Trying to take up less space, crossing arms and legs, chin tilted downward. This defensive posture actually makes you feel more nervous.
Conversely, adopting the opposite body language will make you feel more confident. So in those moments where you start feeling nervous in an interview, make sure to keep your palms, inner elbows, and chest exposed. This sends signals to your brain saying: “Everything must be okay.”
You can take advantage of this beforehand, by focusing on how you use your body as you walk into the building and wait your turn. Maintain that open body language and smile big at everyone you meet. Speak more loudly than you normally would as you greet people. Gesticulate more than you normally might. All of these send signals to your brain that everything is okay. You can’t go into panic mode as long as you have your body in relaxed, comfortable mode.
Hope that helps! Best of luck on the interview!
Thanks so much Charlie.
Awesome tips for keeping my body language open. I totally ‘get’ the subconscious signal thing and I’ve never paid attention to it while I’m in the middle of a conversation. It’s a Skype interview so maybe I can tape my hands to the table palm side up? lol ; ) (not literally)
I’ll listen to that Ted talk this evening.
My nerves are already much better for this interview. Thank you again.
It’s amazing how many people don’t do #1!
I wish I had bracelets or something that just say SMILE or BE HAPPY to give out to frowny folks
I’ve read two of your posts in a row, Charlie. Are you becoming the next Danny Iny?
Anyway, I definitely have problem when trying to ask and answer questions from others. I guess, looking at your advice, it’s better to elaborate more when people ask me questions and try to ask non-trite questions about them. This reminded me of a book I once read – The Art of Small Talk by Debra Fine. It’s a good read and there’s a lot of focus on elaboration and bearing the burden of starting conversations.
Thanks for the post, Charlie.
Haha, had to Google Danny Iny. Seems like a good dude 🙂
I totally agree with “bearing the burden.” So many people are looking to connect, but just don’t know how. When you can lead a conversation down an interesting route, everyone benefits.
One thing I would add is that when you are offering more elaborate answers to people, focus on 2 things 1) Revealing your values, and 2) Leaving open loops.
I’m sure you know the guy that talks and talks and talks and no one cares. People just hope he’ll take a breath. It’s usually because he is talking without purpose. He’s not revealing anything interesting about himself, just stating facts or telling stories without an emotional payoff. Focus instead on telling people what’s important to you, what you love (and ask the same questions of them).
Leaving open loops just means “don’t ramble.” Drop interesting tidbits without going all the way into the details of your answer. Then leave space for them to ask for more information. So something like, “Yeah, I didn’t like what I was doing before, but in my new job, I’m so happy and fulfilled. I get to interact with amazing people every day.” That will probably make them ask:, “What do you do?” which allows you to elaborate. If they don’t ask, at least you haven’t talked their ear off.
I really enjoyed your points and when I look at your list I think ‘ it all makes perfect sense so why don’t I always do it’ and the answer that came to mind was ‘I need to practice more’. So that is what I intend to do and thanks for the reminder. I know from experience that everything you have said really does work and I loved the slideshare – it really helps to push the message home. Thanks
Totally right about the practice. One thing you’ll know from this blog is that you’ll need a trigger, something to remind you to pay attention to this stuff. A few suggestions for potential triggers
1) Any time you walk through a door
2) Any time you shake someones hand
3) Any time you find yourself at a public event and are inclined to go immediately to the bar or bathroom in order to avoid conversation
All those instances are great times to turn this on 🙂
That was neat, real neat. I agree wholeheartedly. My husband was raised in the First Nation culture and so usually looks down to the floor when speaking to someone, because he was brought up to believe it was disrespectful to look someone in the eye.
The slide share illustrations aptly portrayed the points made in the article.
Maybe you’re another Dale Carnegie, Charlie. 🙂
Haha, that may be the most flattering comparison anyone has ever included me in, Clara! I relish the thought – How to Win Friends absolutely changed my life. I’d be thrilled to make a small fraction of the impact Dale has over the years
I too had to train myself to look people in the eye. Not because I was raised that way, but because I was a very shy kid and it became habit. It’s really uncomfortable at first, but has been one of the biggest improvements I’ve made in my ability to connect with people
It’s a great post Charlie. I’ve just finished a book about talking to strangers and I find all your points valid.
He, he, people often get confused when I look them straight in the eyes, laser-focused style. They are not used to it.
I am typically not your shy type, but I seem to feel embarrassed introducing myself…I definitely need to work on that. Gret tips!
Excellent post, Charlie, and I mean one that puts a smile on my face. I love using people’s name on a regular basis. In fact, one of my goals for 2014 is to mention someone by their name every day – be it a barista who wears a name badge or someone I just met. I think remembering names is very important and it sets you apart as a person.
I’m still working on habit #9 and asking a better question than “where are you from?” made me think. Thanks for the great post, Charlie. 🙂
#7 is definitely my favorite. I like to keep the other person at the focus of the conversation, and most of that comes down to asking the right questions. These habits remind of some tips from Leil Lowndes’ book, “How to Talk to Anyone”.
I don’t have a website yet but I just wanted to say that this has been fun although I was in a store last week and was enjoying a conversation with my Goddaughter along with the cashier having a positive conversation (we were all smiling and laughing) and across the room was a, I’m going to guess was a manager? talking to two other employees, I looked up and saw that he was frowning at me, so I gave him a big smile and the more I smiled the angrier he seemed to become, so much so that my Gd; said “Don’t smile at him I think he might come over here and punch you” I guess friendliness doesn’t always work.
. Read your article, however your article has a very fundamental fault that I guess you also missed. And that is “Never try to impress anyone.”. It’s actually a weakness because we are not comfortable with who we are and trying to become like others. It’s good to improve myself because I want to do it for myself. Not to fit in and become likeable. That itself will lead to even more complex.
But buddy, the fact is that why do you want to create an impact on others. Just be yourself and confident of who you are. No need to impress others. That itself is defeating. Have the guts to be proud of who you are..
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