If you have an important appointment or interview coming up, it can make all the difference if the impression you make on the person you're meeting is a positive one.
Some studies suggest another person forms an opinion about you within four minutes of meeting you, while other experts claim it happens much more quickly, even within the first few seconds. Either way, it doesn't leave you with much time to persuade someone you're an engaging and interesting individual.
What you say and the language you use will obviously play a part in making a good first impression. But the way you behave, your body language, mannerisms and appearance are important too.
So the next time you need to make someone warm to you when you first meet them, try these practical tips:
If you're meeting someone at a specific time - for a job interview, perhaps - always try to arrive a few minutes early to avoid being late. If you keep them waiting, even when you have an understandable excuse, it won't do you any favours in terms of their immediate impression. And remember, while you may think you know exactly how long you need to get to where the meeting is being held, you should still allow extra time for unexpected delays, such as transport problems or traffic jams. Being half an hour early gives a much better impression than being five or ten minutes late.
Appearing confident and positive will make the person you're meeting think that's exactly what you are - even if, deep down, you're not feeling very sure of yourself. Here's how to do it. Stand or sit up straight, keeping a good, positive posture, and put the other person at ease by smiling (though don't smile too much, or you may look insincere). Make and keep good eye contact with them, and greet them with a firm - but not too powerful - handshake. Try to look calm and comfortable, and don't fiddle with your hair, clothes or jewellery, as fidgeting can make you look nervous.
Whoever you want to impress, always do your homework first. When going to job interviews, research the company and the role you're applying for beforehand. For more advice on making a good impression in a job interview, read our Top ten interview tips. The same goes for social situations. If you know in advance who you'll be meeting, find out about the kind of things they're interested in and prepare a few questions that will keep the conversation going. If you're not a natural when it comes to small talk, make a note of one or two subjects you can talk about, particularly anything the person or people you're meeting with might be interested in.
It may feel calculated at first, but it's a great way of avoiding those awkward gaps in the conversation that often happen when you meet someone for the first time.
The clothes you wear say so much about you, especially to those who don't know you, so make sure your appearance also makes the right impression. It doesn't mean you have to wear expensive designer outfits, just make sure you're dressed appropriately for the occasion.
If you're not sure what appropriate is, try to imagine what the person you're meeting is likely to be wearing, and use that as inspiration for what you should be wearing too.
Don't forget to make sure you're well groomed. Have a haircut beforehand, if necessary and make sure your nails are neat. Also if you're a woman, don't go overboard with jewellery, make-up and perfume (unless it's appropriate to do so).
Making the person you're meeting for the first time believe you're genuinely interested in them can go a long way towards creating a great impression. Really listen to what they're saying, and show you empathise with them by nodding, smiling or agreeing with them, where appropriate.
If your eyes and your attention start to wander, you will appear disinterested and create a negative impression. Instead, give the person you're meeting your full attention – and above all, remember to switch off your mobile phone to avoid interruptions.
Does the thought of meeting new people fill you with dread? For extra advice about how to appear more confident, read our Guide to building self-confidence.
© CABA 2014